It is with mixed emotions that I announce the first signs of Fall: the Toronto International Film Festival is days away. It’s always sad to say goodbye to summer, but TIFF is my favorite season in Toronto. The city is buzzing with excitement, Torontonians are forced to be friendly due to the infiltration of visitors who want to talk about all of the incredible films they are trying to digest, and the chaos of summer shows signs of slowing down. It’s all good.
TIFF 2013 runs this year from September 5th – 15th. If you haven’t purchased a package of tickets, then you should know that the public on sale date is Sunday, September 1st at 9:00 a.m. As always, I suggest when you make a list of films you’d like to see and that you double check availability on Saturday so not to waste precious time trying to get tickets to a sold out movie.
Last year TIFF introduced a revamped website which has made getting tickets a whole lot less painful and the TIFF smartphone app now allows you to see the schedule, watch trailers and buy single tickets (this is HUGE!). One major change I’ve noticed is that Cineplex Cinema at Yonge & Dundas is no longer being used a venue, rather all 18 theatres in Scotiabank will be screening TIFF films. This will make it faster to shuffle between theatres and screening times (the main venues are now Scotiabank at RIchmond & John and the TIFF Bell Lightbox at King W. & John).
Once again I warn you that my choice of films lean towards dark and I tend to avoid the major gala screenings with all their red carpets and glam. I find the smaller screenings to be more intimate and usually feature a question and answer period with the visiting filmmakers, which is my favorite part. I’ve scoured the hype that has come from the recent major film festivals (Cannes, Sundance, Berlinale, etc) to come up with a shortlist of films that is sure to excite you, entertain you, challenge you and hopefully help you see life through a new lens.
Enemy (Canadian Director Denis Villeneuve (Incendies, a TIFF favorite of mine) returns with an adaptation of the novel The Double from Nobel Prize-winning author Jose Saramago about a glum history professor in search of his doppelganger. Shot in Toronto and starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Mélanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds) and Sarah Gadon (Cosmopolis).)
Gloria (Paulina García won the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival for her performance as a vivacious, middle-aged divorcée who finds what may be her last chance for love while grooving on the dance floor of the local singles club.)
Bobo (Part of the festival’s Discovery programme. In Lisbon, two women from different worlds — a privileged architectural illustrator and a cheerful housekeeper from the city’s Guinean community — join together to save a young Guinean girl from ritual genital mutilation, in this sensitive and intimate second feature from Portuguese director Inês Oliveira.)
McCanick (A hothead cop (David Morse) learns a young man (Cory Monteith, in one of his final film roles) he helped put away seven years ago is back out on the streets — and carries with him an uncomfortable secret.)
Paradise (Mexican director Mariana Chenillo’s second feature explores the difficulty of change and our modern obsession with body-type through the story of an overweight couple trying to slim down together.)
Omar (Academy Award-nominated Palestinian director Hany Abu Assad (Paradise Now) won the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival for this noir-ish psychological thriller set in the occupied West Bank.)
Tom at the Farm (Canadian Director Xavier Dolan has earned prizes and accolades at TIFF and Cannes for 2012’s J’ai tué ma mere. In this psychological thriller, Dolan follows a grief-stricken young ad copywriter who visits his dead lover’s parents only to get drawn into a savage game rooted in the rural family’s dark past.)
Finding Vivian Maier (A documentary shuttling between New York, France, and Chicago as it traces the life story of the late Vivian Maier, a career nanny whose previously unknown cache of 100,000 photographs has earned her a posthumous reputation as one of America’s most accomplished and insightful street photographers.)
Bends (Set in Hong Kong, a humble chauffeur and the spoiled wife of his wealthy employer are linked together by very different kinds of dilemmas, in this quietly heart-rending double-character study.)
Child’s Pose (Romanian director Calin Peter Netzer won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival for this sardonic tale about a wealthy, aging Bucharest matriarch who greases more palms than she can shake as she tries to buy her son’s way out of a hit-and-run conviction.)
Our Sunhi (Korean auteur Hong Sang-soo’s latest follows an aspiring young filmmaker who becomes the object of desire for three very different men, in this smart, resonant, coming-of-age comedy.)
Hotell (In this Swedish film, Alicia Vikander (A Royal Affair) stars in this comedy-drama as a recovering control freak who finds support and a new lease on life when she enters group therapy.)
Manakamana (The makers of last year’s Festival hit Leviathan served as producers on a cable car up and down one of the vast, awe-inspiring Trisuli valleys in Nepal, where the world-famous Manakamana Temple attracts pilgrims and tourists from the world over.)
Young & Beautiful (Festival favourite François Ozon (In the House, 8 Women, Under the Sand) directs this coming-of-age chronicle of a young French girl that takes place over four seasons and four songs.)
An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker (Acclaimed director Danis Tanovic won the Grand Jury Prize at the Berlin Film Festival for this unflinching exposé of the prejudices faced by Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Roma minority, starring the real-life couple whose harrowing ordeal became a national scandal.)
Blue is the Warmest Colour / La vie d’Adele chapitre 1 & 2 (Winner of best film (Palme d’Or) at this year’s Cannes Film Fesival. Abdellatif Kechiche’s bold, passionate and controversial love story is about the tempestuous relationship between a sensitive high-schooler (Adèle Exarchopoulos) and an assertive art student (Léa Seydoux)l.)
Qissa (Set amidst the ethnic cleansing and general chaos that accompanied India’s partition in 1947, this sweeping drama stars Irfan Khan as a Sikh attempting to forge a new life for his family while keeping their true identities a secret from their community.)
Therese (This bold adaptation of Émile Zola’s sordid novel of adultery and murder in 19th-century Paris places the talented Elizabeth Olsen in the title role,)
Friends from France (Set in Odessa in 1979, this political thriller recreates the deep-freeze of the Soviet Union at the crest of the Cold War while following a pair of French cousins in their clandestine effort to reach out to the so-called refuseniks — Jews repressed by the Brezhnev regime. Michael Ignatieff, an internationally renowned writer, journalist, former politician, and expert on foreign affairs will speak in an extended Q&A session following the screening.)
Like Father, Like Son (Third place for Best Film at this year’s Cannes Festival. Two families — one rich, one poor — discover that their sons were switched at birth, in the poignant new drama from Japan’s Hirokazu Kore-Eda (Still Walking, Nobody Knows, After Life).
The Past (Academy Award winning Director Ashar Farhadi returns after winning TIFF’s 2011 award for Best Foreign Film A Separation. Travelling to Paris from Tehran to finalize his divorce, an Iranian man finds himself suddenly and tragically drawn back into the lives of his ex (Bérénice Bejo, The Artist) and her daughter.)