Film

What You Shouldn’t Miss at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival

This year, the world’s biggest film festival is bringing a new documentary on Merce Cunningham, an adaptation of the art heist novel The Goldfinch, Agnès Varda’s final movie, and so much more.

From Bacurau (courtesy Toronto International Film Festival)

We’re on the eve of the Toronto International Film Festival, one of the biggest cinematic events of the year. Hundreds of thousands of movie lovers from around the world will descend on Toronto to watch hundreds of films, which range from imminent Oscar contenders to the latest works from arthouse masters to obscure indie titles. While the festivals in Telluride and Venice were warm-ups, TIFF is the true kick-off to the fall movie season, a showcase both for films that have gathered acclaim on the festival circuit over the course of the year and for numerous world premieres. With so many movies to sort through, here are a few to keep an eye out for, whether you’re attending TIFF or eagerly anticipating a time when these films hit a theater near you.

International Films

From Atlantics (courtesy Toronto International Film Festival)

This year’s lineup includes Bong Joon-ho’s Parasitewinner of the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes (the first Korean film to do so), a thriller/satire on class issues about a complex home invasion scheme. There’s also the winner of Cannes’ Grand Prix, French director Mati Diop’s debut feature Atlantics (the first film by a Black woman to play in competition for the Palme), described as a “ghost love story.” Ken Loach, a veteran British filmmaker with a longtime interest in labor issues, follows a family trying to hold everything together despite taking on punishing full-time work in Sorry We Missed You. Hyperallergic readers may take particular interest in the French film Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Céline Sciamma), a romantic drama set against the backdrop of 18th-century Brittany, in which a female artist falls in love with the woman whose portrait she’s been commissioned to paint. And one of the most buzzed-about films in this year’s program is Brazil’s Bacurau, a strident roman à clef against the Bolsonaro government, which is already waging a legal battle against co-director Kleber Mendonça Filho.

Prestige Pictures

From The Goldfinch (courtesy Toronto International Film Festival)

When the Academy Award nominations are announced next year, you’re guaranteed to have first heard about some of the honorees from TIFF buzz. Likely the year’s most anticipated biopic is Marielle Heller’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, about children’s television icon Fred Rogers (played by Tom Hanks). In close contention for that title is Harriet, featuring Cynthia Erivo as Harriet Tubman, which marks the welcome return of director Kasi Lemmons to the spotlight. Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver play a couple undergoing a divorce in Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story, which recently premiered in Venice to wide acclaim. And the bestselling novel The Goldfinchwhich centers around the fictional theft of the famous painting of the same name, now has a big-screen adaptation starring Nicole Kidman.

Indie and Arthouse Titles

From Varda by Agnès (courtesy Toronto International Film Festival)

One smaller film not to miss at the fest is Kazik Radwanski’s Anne at 13,000 ft, a harrowingly intimate look at a woman (Deragh Campbell) struggling to deal with life and work under increasing psychological pressure. In Honey Boy, director Alma Har’el and writer/star Shia LaBeouf fictionalize LaBeouf’s life as a child star (and he plays a character based on his father). Maya Da-Rin’s The Fever contrasts the natural and industrial environments of Brazil through the eyes of a widower who embarks on a big move to provide for his daughter. Un Film Dramatique, a fiction/nonfiction hybrid from artist/director Éric Baudelaire, is a long-term study of a group of kids coming of age at a new Paris school. And then there’s Varda by Agnès, the final film from revered French filmmaker Agnès Varda, who passed away earlier this year. Based on a series of lectures from Varda, it explores her life and art in her signature playful style.

Documentaries

From Cunningham (courtesy Toronto International Film Festival)

In the year of the 100th anniversary of his birth, influential choreographer Merce Cunningham gets a tribute in Alla Kovgan’s Cunningham, which stages some of his most memorable pieces in stunning 3D. Another influential cultural figure is brought back in The Capote Tapes, made around newly unearthed audio recordings from writer Truman Capote. Hyperallergic previously covered Chilean director Patricio Guzmán’s The Cordillera of Dreams out of Cannes, with writer Jesse Cumming praising its depiction of national historical amnesia. Multiple docs at the fest tackle different facets of immigration in Europe, with Love Child featuring an Iranian family seeking asylum, Paris Stalingrad surveying refugees living in Paris, and My English Cousin following a longtime resident of England considering a return to his native Algeria. But the biggest nonfiction title at the festival is Women Make Film, a 14-hour multi-part survey of female filmmakers surveying the entire history of cinema. With the series itself directed by a man (Mark Cousins, who made the similarly expansive The Story of Film), it will be interesting to see how well it addresses the subject.

The Toronto International Film Festival runs 9/5-9/15 at various venues in Toronto.

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