Nancy Utley Stephen

Source: Screen International

Stephen Gilula and Nancy Utley

An industry talk with former Searchlight Pictures co-heads Nancy Utley and Steve Gilula and the first look at Ava DuVernay’s Primetime selection and Netflix series on NFL player and activist Colin Kaepernick are among latest additions to Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) programming.

The five-day TIFF Industry Conference running September 9-13 includes panel discussions presented by Screen on toxic behaviour on set and the African film business, as well as a session on Telefilm Canada’s Talent to Watch programme.

Programmers have two films to Official Selection: John Michael McDonagh’s UK drama The Forgiven starring Jessica Chastain and Ralph Fiennes as a Gala Presentation, and Julia Child documentary Julia (US) from RBG directors Julie Cohen and Betsy West in TIFF Docs.

TIFF also unveiled the Canadian satellite screenings set to take place across the country on September 13.


International TV selections are:

Colin In Black And White (US), dirs. Ava DuVernay, Colin Kaepernick
World premiere

Hellbound (SK), dir. Yeon Sang-ho
World premiere

The Panthers (NZ), dirs. Tom Hern, Halaifonua Finau
International premiere

Sort Of (Can), dirs. Bilal Baig, Fab Filippo
North American premiere.

TIFF Industry Conference

The Conference will be available on TIFF’s talks platform TIFF Bell Digital Talks to all accredited industry professionals from around the world. “TIFF is proud of the 2021 Industry Conference offerings. We are excited by the impactful line-up of conversations that our Conference will spark this year amongst the local and international film community,” said Geoff Macnaughton, senior director, industry and theatrical. “As the industry grapples with a lack of inclusivity and a healthy way forward, these subjects and speakers deserve a global stage and audience.”

Edited synopses provided by TIFF.


The Writers’ Room

Krysty Wilson-Cairns (1917, Last Night In Soho) and Sterlin Harjo (Reservation Dogs) join Franklin Leonard from The Black List to discuss the evolution of their creative voices, the art of collaboration, and the ups and downs of translating a vision to the screen.

The creators behind three new comedies — Mae Martin (Feel Good), Sierra Teller Ornelas (Rutherford Falls), and Fab Filippo and Bilal Baig (Sort Of) — speak about developing shows that explore characters and stories not often reflected on screen, the process of getting their projects greenlit, and running a writers’ room.

Telling Family Stories
Presented by Showtime Documentary Films
Two young directors make their TIFF debuts with looks at family history. Rebeca Huntt’s Beba explores her Afro-Latinx background and the tensions of growing up in a one-bedroom New York City apartment with a family of five. Gian Cassini’s Comala investigates the legacy of his father, a hitman in Tijuana.

Inside The Rescue
Presented by Showtime Documentary Films
E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin (Free Solo, Meru) explore the human side of an epic feat in their new film The Rescue. The filmmakers discuss how they gained a fresh perspective on the story of the 12 football team players trapped by monsoon floods in a Thai cave by fostering local partnerships and obtaining previously unseen footage.


Nancy Utley and Steve Gilula
Over more than 20 years former Searchlight Pictures co-heads Steve Gilula and Nancy Utley built the studio’s reputation as the gold standard in spotlighting singular stories and fostering the creative vision of filmmakers. TIFF artistic director and co-head Cameron Bailey leads a conversation with Gilula and Utley about successes, challenges, and lessons learned along the way.

More Visionaries speakers will be announced shortly.


Writing in the Margins: The Need for New Voices and New Platforms in Film Criticism
Representation and lack of diversity in film criticism within prominent outlets is an ongoing issue plaguing the film industry. Three distinguished voices in film criticism — Carlos Aguilar, Jourdain Searles, and Caden Mark Gardner — discuss its future, how established systems need to change, and the new spaces and opportunities being forged by diverse writers.

Narrative Sovereignty: Pathways to Partnerships and Collaborations for Indigenous Productions
Building on the Narrative Sovereignty session from last year’s Conference, this panel explores how institutions are supporting Indigenous films through partnerships and cross-organisational collaboration. This vital conversation features Angela Bates (Screen Australia), Anne Lajla Utsi (International Sámi Film Institute), Jesse Wente (Indigenous Screen Office), and Karen Te O Kahurangi Waaka (New Zealand Film Commission) and is moderated by Bird Runningwater, director of the indigenous program at Sundance Institute.

Toxic Behaviours On Set and in the Industry
A Share Her Journey Initiative generously supported by Betty-Ann Heggie
A conversation between filmmakers who are making change by pushing for safer spaces in production and prompting best practices in the industry. Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers (The Body Remembers When The World Broke Open) joins Isabel Sandoval (Lingua Franca), Nisha Ganatra (Late Night), and Andria Wilson Mirza, producer and director of ReFrame.

Filmmakers On Africa’s Cinema Industries: From Development to Distribution
Supported by Anne-Marie Canning
Africa’s list of TIFF Official Selections this year spans the Platform, Midnight Madness, Special Presentations, and Wavelengths. Filmmakers Amil Shivji (Tug Of War), Jenna Bass, Babalwa Baartman (Good Madam), Khadar Ayderus Ahmed (The Gravedigger’s Wife), and TIFF programmer Nataleah Hunter-Young explore western preconceptions that guard pathways to industry, bind creative autonomy and neglect African audiences.

Complementing this event will be a digital networking event for African and diaspora filmmakers from Official Selection and alumni of TIFF Industry Talent Development.


Sessions for emerging to mid-career filmmakers to interact with experts and gain practical knowledge to move their projects and understanding of the industry forward. Moderated by recent TIFF Industry talent alumni.

Intimacy on set with Ita O’Brien
O’Brien, who worked on I May Destroy You, It’s A Sin, and Master Of None, discusses The how an intimacy coordinator ensures a safe environment for actors and production teams.

DIY Networking Groups
Diana Mendez (writer and co-founder of Latina TV Writers Brunch Group) and Kadon Douglas (executive director of BIPOC TV and film) discuss how diverse creators can successfully organise to build inclusive spaces, foster collaboration, and promote professional opportunities.

Diversity Funds with ARRAY
Tilane Jones, president of Ava DuVernay’s distribution, arts, and advocacy collective ARRAY, talks about how emerging creators from underrepresented backgrounds can access ARRAY’s new fund in partnership with Google, as well as other programmes the company offers.

Working with CBC Films
Mehernaz Lentin, senior director at CBC Films, discusses the various ways filmmakers can work with the national public broadcaster through funding, pre-buys, acquisitions, and the TIFF–CBC Films Screenwriter Award. CBC Films funding supports the production of feature films led by female, LGBTQ, Indigenous, and diverse filmmakers.

Working With Netflix
Presented by Netflix

Ian Bricke, vice-president, original independent film at Netflix, oversees the development and production of specialised and genre films. He discusses Netflix’s overall strategy for original independent film and how they are building relationships with emerging, diverse creators and acquiring new content.

Creating Authentic and Inclusive Content with the Black Screen Office
Joan Jenkinson, the executive director of the Black Screen Office, will share insights from the organisation’s national study with under-represented groups, Being Seen: A Directive For Creating Authentic And Inclusive Content.

Telefilm’s Talent to Watch
Presented by Telefilm Canada

Telefilm Canada will present its newly updated guidelines for the Talent to Watch programme, and will shed light on the production, digital distribution, and promotion of a first feature-length film or other format of narrative-based audiovisual content made specifically for online distribution.

Connections moderators include Cory Bowles, Tamara Mariam Dawit, Sasha Leigh Henry, Lisa Jackson, Jasmin Mozaffari and Madeleine Sims-Fewer.


Curated and partner-programmed discussions highlight new technologies and ways of doing business. This year’s sessions will include: Accessibility & Inclusivity: Changing the Narrative for Talent with Disabilities (presented by Telefilm Canada), Building a Greener Industry: How can we create a more sustainable future? (presented by Telefilm Canada), The Future of Shared Experiences: How Hopin Can Help (presented by Hopin), From a Moment to a Movement (presented by Breaking Through the Lens), Documenting Celebrities (presented by Showtime Documentary Films), Documenting History (presented by Showtime Documentary Films), The ABCs of Co-Productions: A Case Study on The Middle Man (Presented by Ontario Creates), and The Reel Truth (presented by WIFT-T).

Confirmed guest speakers are Alison Klayman (Jagged), Penny Lane (Listening To Kenny G), Stanley Nelson (Attica), Stefan Forbes (Hold Your Fire), Bent Hamer (The Middle Man), Simone Urdl (producer of The Middle Man), Dina Amer (Cain And Abel), Nihaarika Negi (Feral), Tricia Lee (Idol), Celine Cotran (Layla In Dreamland), Farida Zahran (The Leftover Ladies), Tamika R. Guishard (Rhythm In Blues), Sontenish Myers (Stampede), Isla Ure (The Tides), Anita Doron (The Truth About Monsters) and Fisayo Olajide (Untitled Underground Railroad Ride).


Opportunities for industry partners to highlight talent, incentives, opportunities, and pitches from around the globe. This year’s confirmed sessions will be presented by: We are UK Film, Caribbean Tales, Embassy of Canada in Ukraine, Confederation of Indian Industry, German Films, Telefilm Canada, and Portugal Film Commission.

Canadian Satellite Screenings

Film Circuit, TIFF’s film-outreach programme since 1995, will host in-cinema screenings across the country for one evening in each location, to help exhibition across Canada and audiences’ return to cinemas. Screenings will take place simultaneously on September 13 at 7pm local time.

Charlotte – Galaxy Cinemas Moose Jaw, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan

The Electrical Life Of Louis Wain – Cineplex Cinemas Summerside, Summerside, Prince Edward Island

I’m Your Man (Ich bin dein Mensch) – Cineplex Cinemas Markham and VIP, Markham, Ontario

Night Raiders – Cineplex Cinemas Saint John - Saint John, New Brunswick; Galaxy Cinemas Collingwood - Collingwood, Ontario

Official Competition (Competencia Oficial)Famous Players Prince Rupert Cinemas - Prince Rupert, British Columbia.

TIFF runs September 9-18