The Toronto International Film Festival has unveiled its documentary, discovery, cinemathque, midnight madness programs.
Beginning with the Midnight Madness lineup, announced the 10 eclectic films that will make up this year’s offering. In the official release, TIFF officials stated that this year’s programme ushers in a new generation of formidable genre filmmakers amidst veteran Midnight mavericks, who collectively push the envelope with both experimental and quintessential genre thrills that are guaranteed to keep the loyal late-night audience rapt and wired.
“This year’s selections challenge the traditional parameters of genre and shock cinema, but — most excitingly — half of the lineup’s wicked provocations are courtesy of filmmakers making their feature-film debut,” said Peter Kuplowsky, Lead Programmer for Midnight Madness. “I’m delighted to welcome midnight movie institutions like Takashi Miike and Richard Stanley back to the section, and even more ecstatic to have the privilege to introduce so many transgressive, innovative, and galvanizing new voices. The tide is high, and be it a Mi’gmaq reserve, a Hassidic neighborhood, or a Ugandan village, more communities are getting opportunities to shar
Midnight Madness welcomes new genre filmmakers with remarkable debuts, including Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia’s dystopian sci-fi film The Platform ; Rose Glass’s unnerving psychological thriller Saint Maud,starring Morfydd Clark ( Love & Friendship ) and Jennifer Ehle ( Zero Dark Thirty ); Andrew Patterson’s paranormal period piece The Vast of Night , which won the audience award for Best Narrative Feature at Slamdance and features breakout performances by Jake Horowitz and Sierra McCormick; and Keith Thomas’s supernatural horror film The Vigil.
Other highlights from this year’s selection include Richard Stanley’s H.P. Lovecraft adaptation Color Out of Space , which stars Nicolas Cage and signals the director’s return to the Midnight Madness lineup after 29 years; Joko Anwar’s Gundala , based on the Indonesian superhero comic books by Harya “Hasmi” Suraminata; and Takashi Miike’s Japanese action-comedy First Love . The programme will close with the World Premiere of the international version of Isaac Nabwana’s gonzo action flick Crazy World , a celebration of the Ugandan film movement Wakaliwood.
Previously announced Midnight Madness films include Jeff Barnaby’s Blood Quantum, Matthew Rankin’s The Twentieth Century.
Moving onto the full documentary lineup, TIFF selected 25 non-fiction works, including 18 World Premieres with representation from 18 countries. The films cover many high-profile figures, both famous and infamous — including Truman Capote, Merce Cunningham, Ron Howard, Bikram Choudhury, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and Imelda Marcos — and a broad range of themes, including artistic achievement, the power of journalism, immigration, global politics, and resistance against corrupt leaders. Three films use sports as a framework to look at environmentalism, capitalism, and racism.
“This year’s programme captures characters you’ll never forget: lovers, fighters, dancers, athletes, despots, rebels, hustlers, and heroes,” said Thom Powers, serving his 14th year as TIFF Docs programmer this Festival. “We’ll be talking about these films for a long time to come.”
The section will open with the World Premiere of The Cave from Oscar-nominated director Feras Fayyad, about an underground hospital led by a female doctor in war-torn Syria. Other World Premieres from renowned directors include Alan Berliner’s Letter to the Editor, a personal reflection on photojournalism; Barbara Kopple’s Desert One, chronicling a perilous mission to rescue hostages in Iran; Thomas Balmès’ Sing Me A Song, following a young monk in Bhutan who forms a long-distance relationship via his smartphone; And We Go Green, about racers in the Formula E competition for electric cars, directed by Fisher Stevens and Malcolm Venville and produced by Leonardo DiCaprio; and Eva Orner’s Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator, about the controversial yoga teacher who had multiple lawsuits filed against him for sexual misconduct.
First-time documentarians present films on prominent figures: Bryce Dallas Howard’s Dads explores fatherhood with leading comedians and her own father, Ron Howard; Alla Kovgan’s Cunningham, shot in 3D, captures the artistry of dancer Merce Cunningham; and Ebs Burnough, who previously served in the Obama administration, makes his debut with The Capote Tapes, a biography of American writer Truman Capote.
The everyday lives of refugees and migrants are brought to centre stage in Eva Mulvad’s Love Child , following a couple at risk of execution for their love affair; Ready for War, directed by Andrew Renzi and executive produced by Drake, Future, and David Ayer, which tells the story of immigrants who served in the US military only to be deported; Hind Meddeb’s Paris Stalingrad which follows migrants from Africa and Afghanistan living on the streets in the city of lights; and My English Cousin, Karim Sayad’s portrait of the director’s real-life Algerian cousin who discovers the challenges of returning home.
Russian politics and the rise of capitalism are examined in Gabe Polsky’s Red Penguins, recounting a comic tale of American hustlers bringing NHL-style hockey to Moscow, and Alex Gibney’s Citizen K, profiling the oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who turned against Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Rounding out the section are stories from around the globe, including Garin Hovannisian’s I Am Not Alone, about a peaceful resistance movement in Armenia; and Mark Cousins’ Women Make Film: A New Road Movie Through Cinema, a recently completed 14-hour exploration of female directors around the world. The first four hours of Women Make Film , which was executive produced by Tilda Swinton, were previewed at last year’s Festival. Alexander Nanau’s Collective follows crusading Romanian journalists who uncover a scandal; Daniel Gordon’s The Australian Dream , executive produced by Ben Simmons, tells the story of football legend Adam Goodes, who battled racism in the AFL; and Lina Al Abed’s Ibrahim: A Fate to Define centres on the mysterious disappearance of a Palestinian secret agent. Also featured are Patricio Guzmán’s The Cordillera of Dreams, completing the director’s trilogy about the Chilean landscape, and Lauren Greenfield’s The Kingmaker, a profile of Imelda Marcos.
The revamped Discovery section features a robust lineup of 37 films from emerging filmmakers representing 35 countries, including 33 World Premieres and four films making international debuts.
“This year’s Discovery builds on our track record of identifying major new filmmakers early,” said Cameron Bailey, TIFF’s Co-Head and Artistic Director.
“This is where you want to look for the next decades’ masters, and it’s great to see longtime TIFF programming associate Dorota Lech shaping the section as Discovery’s Lead Programmer.” I’m thrilled to be curating the Discovery programme, a showcase of films that — regardless of form — expand, embolden, or even challenge notions of storytelling beyond what is established or expected. TIFF has long held a space for first- and second-time directors, acting as a springboard for launching the international careers of cinematic giants such as Yorgos Lanthimos, Maren Ade, Christopher Nolan, Alfonso Cuarón, Lav Diaz, Kim Seung-woo, Barry Jenkins, Jean-Marc Vallée, Dee Rees, and Jafar Panahi. Expect the programme to push cinematic boundaries, pointing us in unexpected directions. As in previous years, it is a place to find work that could be poetic, bold, or challenging, but that is always passionate.”
Discovery continues to celebrate and reflect TIFF’s unwavering commitment to championing women’s directorial voices, with 54% of its selection directed by women. This year’s programme opens with Chiara Malta’s Simple Women, in which a director serendipitously meets Elina Löwensohn, an actor she idolized in her youth, prompting her to question her filmmaking process. Malta was inspired by her own encounter with Löwensohn in this tender, playful, and multi-layered fiction debut.
Women’s journeys are also explored as central themes in Antoneta Kastrati’s ZANA , Filippo Meneghetti’s Two of Us, Hinde Boujemaa’s Noura’s Dream, Hisham Saqr’s Certified Mail , Ina Weisse’s The Audition , Jorunn Myklebust Syversen’s Disco , Kim Seung-woo’s Bring Me Home , Klaudia Reynicke’s Love Me Tender, Mahnaz Mohammadi’s Son-Mother, María Paz González’s Lina from Lima, Maria Sødahl’s Hope , Neasa Hardiman’s Sea Fever , and Tamar Shavgulidze’s Comets .
Previously announced Discovery films include Nicole Dorsey’s Black Conflux , Sanja Zivkovic’s Easy Land, Myriam Verreault’s Kuessipan, Heather Young’s Murmur, Harry Cepka’s Raf , and Aisling Chin-Yee’s The Rest of Us .
Last but not least, in a nod to its commitment to film preservation, TIFF announced today that the 2019 TIFF Cinematheque programme at the festival will feature select screenings in 35mm, with two prints coming from the TIFF Film Reference Library Screening Collection, the organization’s own film library. The narrative titles selected will be preceded by guest introductions from Festival filmmakers
past and present.
“We’re fortunate to have such a wealth of resources to choose film prints from for this Festival programme,” said Brad Deane, Director of TIFF Cinematheque. “These five features are so different from each other but they all convey the possibilities and value of the medium. We know each choice will add depth to conversations happening around new titles at the Festival and that they’ll also showcase the important work TIFF and other organizations do year-round to restore and preserve film. It’ll be a treat to share them with Festival audiences.”
From a 30th-anniversary presentation of a title that premiered at the Festival (Euzhan Palcy’s A Dry White Season ) to an acclaimed drama by a director with a new film in the Special Presentations category (Pablo Larraín’s No), this year’s Cinematheque programme has strong TIFF ties. Palcy and Larraín will be on hand to discuss their films.
The slate will also pair feature classics with filmmakers they’ve inspired: director Angela Schanelec will present Robert Bresson’s Pickpocket and director Rian Johnson will introduce Herbert Ross’ The Last of Sheila. Rounding out the lineup is Martin Scorsese’s The Last Waltz , to be introduced by the director along with Canadian musician Robbie Robertson — the subject of the TIFF 2019 Opening Night Gala film Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band, which Scorsese executive produced. Palcy and Scorsese will both be receiving retrospectives at TIFF Bell Lightbox later this year.
The festival runs Sept. 5 to Sept. 15.