I may sound like a spoiled brat when I say this, but the fact neither Carnage or Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy were part of this morning’s Toronto Film Festival announcement sort of bums me out. However, there are other films that were added that do make my ears perk up, none more so than the addition of Whit Stillman’s Damsels in Distress as well as a couple of films I didn’t expect and some I had never heard of.
To begin, the closing night film which I guess will serves as something of a Tinker, Tailor replacement, David Hare’s (screenwriter of The Hours and The Reader) Page Eight starring Bill Nighy, Rachel Weisz, Michael Gambon, Ralph Fiennes and Judy Davis. The film tells the story of Johnny Worricker (Nighy), an MI5 agent who has learned to keep his observational skills perpetually operational. However, a top secret document containing unsavory revelations about compromises made by Britainâ€™s government will push Johnny’s professional abilities, as well as his integrity, to their limits.
Another exciting entry to the Special Presentations section is Precious screenwriter, Geoffrey Fletcher’s directorial debut Violet & Daisy which stars Saoirse Ronan and Alexis Bledel as a pair of teenage assassins who believe they’ve landed a straightforward assignment but soon find themselves thrown off their game when their latest target isn’t who they expected. The film co-stars James Gandolfini, Marianne Jean-Baptiste and Danny Trejo.
I’m also quite curious to see Nick Murphy’s The Awakening which stars Rebecca Hall, Dominic West and Imelda Staunton and is described as “a sophisticated psychological/supernatural thriller in the tradition of The Others and The Orphanage, but with its own unique and thrilling twist.” Sign me up for that.
I was also happy to see Yorgos Lanthimos’s follow-up to Dogtooth, ALPS, in the line-up. The film will be premiering in Venice and I was hoping it would also find its way to Toronto. The same goes for Stillman’s Damsels in Distress and another one of today’s new entry’s, Andrea Arnold’s take on Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights.
Featured below are the new additions to the Galas and Special Presentations line-ups bringing the final number of Galas to 20, and the final number of Special Presentations to 67. These films are in addition to the films I listed previously, which you can check out right here.
I’ve also included the selection from the Visions programme, which is described as “films from around the world by filmmakers who challenge audiences’ notions of
Page Eight [dir. David Hare] (Closing Night Film)
Johnny Worricker (Bill Nighy) is a long-serving M15 officer. His boss and best friend Benedict Baron (Michael Gambon) dies suddenly, leaving behind him an inexplicable file, threatening the stability of the organization. Meanwhile, a seemingly chance encounter with Johnny’s striking next-door neighbour and political activist Nancy Pierpan (Rachel Weisz) seems too good to be true. Set in London and Cambridge, Page Eight is a contemporary spy film which addresses intelligence issues and moral dilemmas peculiar to the new century. Also stars Ralph Fiennes and Judy Davis.
The Awakening [dir. Nick Murphy]
Haunted by the death of her fiance, Florence Cathcart is on a mission to expose all seances as exploitative shams. However, when she is called to a boys’ boarding school to investigate a case of the uncanny, she is gradually forced to confront her skepticism in the most terrifying way, shaking her scientific convictions and her sense of self to the very core. Haunting and moving in equal measure, The Awakening is a sophisticated psychological/supernatural thriller in the tradition of The Others and The Orphanage, but with its own unique and thrilling twist. Starring Rebecca Hall, Dominic West and Imelda Staunton.
Beloved [dir. Christophe Honore]
From Paris in the 1960s to London’s modern days, Madeleine and her daughter Vera waltz in and out of the lives of the men they love. But love can be light and painful, cheerful and bitter. An elegy to femininity and passion with musical outbursts. Starring Chiara Mastroianni and Catherine Deneuve.
Hysteria [dir. Tanya Wexler]
A romantic comedy based on the surprising truth of how Mortimer Granville came up with the world’s first electro-mechanical vibrator in the name of medical science. Academy AwardÂ®-nominee Maggie Gyllenhaal and Hugh Dancy headline in this untold tale of a young Victorian doctor’s quest to figure out the key to women’s happiness. Also starring Jonathan Pryce, Rupert Everett and Felicity Jones.
Killer Elite [dir. Gary McKendry]
Based on a true story, Killer Elite races across the globe from Australia to Paris, London and the Middle East in the action-packed account of an ex-special ops agent (Jason Statham) who is lured out of retirement to rescue his mentor (Robert De Niro). To make the rescue, he must complete a near-impossible mission of killing three tough-as-nails assassins with a cunning leader (Clive Owen).
Machine Gun Preacher [dir. Marc Forster]
Machine Gun Preacher is an inspirational true story, about Sam Childers, a former drug-dealing criminal who undergoes an astonishing transformation and finds an unexpected calling as the saviour of hundreds of kidnapped and orphaned children. Gerard Butler (300) delivers a searing performance as Childers in Golden GlobeÂ®-nominated director Marc Forster’s (Monster’s Ball, Finding Neverland) moving story of violence and redemption. Machine Gun Preacher was previously announced as a Special Presentation.
Trespass [dir. Joel Schumacher]
What happens when a man with everything — a beautiful wife, a teenage daughter and a wealthy estate — is confronted with the reality of losing it all? That is what Kyle Miller must come to terms with as he and his family become the victims of a vicious home invasion. Starring Nicolas Cage and Nicole Kidman.
Winnie [dir. Darrell J. Roodt]
This film reveals the enigma that is Winnie Mandela. A sensitive depiction, Winnie portrays her life’s journey amidst the unwavering love between her and Nelson Mandela, and their unfaltering commitment to the struggle for democracy in South Africa. Winnie takes the audience on an epic voyage of understanding — painting a vivid portrait of one of the world’s most remarkable women. Starring Jennifer Hudson, Terrence Howard, Elias Koteas and Wendy Crewson.
The Cardboard Village [dir. Ermanno Olmi]
An old priest and his church are about to be demolished. A group of clandestine immigrants seeking protection find refuge in that church. In a circumstance of crisis and discouragement, together these people will be able to find the real meaning of the word “solidarity” and realize that the church is much more than a place for liturgical ceremonies and golden altars. Starring Michael Lonsdale and Rutger Hauer.
Damsels in Distress [dir. Whit Stillman]
Damsels in Distress is a comedy about a trio of beautiful girls as they set out to revolutionize life at a grungy American university — the dynamic leader Violet Wister (Greta Gerwig), principled Rose (Megalyn Echikunwoke) and sexy Heather (Carrie MacLemore). They welcome transfer student Lily (Analeigh Tipton) into their group, which seeks to help severely depressed students with a program of good hygiene and musical dance numbers. The girls become romantically entangled with a series of men — including smooth Charlie (Adam Brody), dreamboat Xavier (Hugo Becker), the mad frat-pack of Frank (Ryan Metcalf) and Thor (Billy Magnussen) — who threaten the girls’ friendship and sanity.
Death of a Superhero [dir. Ian FitzGibbon]
Donald is 15 and dreams of girls, sex and crazy adventures. In his fantasy world, he creates an immortal superhero who fights against all evil. And in reality? Donald is falling in love with the school rebel while fighting against a terminal illness. Starring Andy Serkis, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Aisling Loftus, Michael McElhatton, Sharon Horgan and Jessica Schwarz
The First Man [dir. Gianni Amelio]
An adaptation of Albert Camus’ autobiographical last novel. Part childhood memoir, part epic narrative of Camus’ beloved Algeria and its struggle for independence from France, The First Man was left unfinished by the Nobel Prize-winner who died at age 46.
In Darkness [dir. Agnieszka Holland]
In Darkness tells the true story of Leopold Socha, a sewer worker and petty thief in Nazi-occupied Lvov, Poland. Stumbling upon a group of Jews in the sewers, he agrees to hide them for a price. What starts out as a straightforward business arrangement becomes something unexpected, as they all try to outwit certain death during 14 months of intense danger. Starring Robert Wieckiewicz and Benno Furmann.
Intruders [dir. Juan Carlos Fresnadillo]
Juan and Mia, two children who live in different countries, are visited every night by a faceless intruder — a terrifying being that wants to get hold of them. These presences become more powerful and start ruling their lives as well as their families’. Anxiety and tension increase when their parents also witness these apparitions. Starring Clive Owen.
Life Without Principle [dir. Johnnie To]
What do a bank teller, a small-time thug and a police inspector have in common? Nothing. Not until a bag of stolen money worth $10 million crosses their paths and forces them to make soul-searching decisions about right and wrong and everything in between on the morality scale.
Low Life [dirs. Nicolas Klotz and Elisabeth Perceval]
After making love, the youngsters slipped happily into dreamland… but when they opened their eyes the world appeared joyless, and stomach-wrenchingly old. And so they quickly sank back into their happy world, where all sleepers are equal. This is the place they called Low Life.
Mausam (Seasons of Love) [dir. Pankaj Kapur]
Mausam is a story of timeless love in the face of political hostilities and religious conflict, between a proud Punjabi air force officer and an innocent Kashmiri refugee. Set against a landscape that transcends decades and spans continents, Mausam is a classic journey that transports one into a world of indestructible bonds of love enveloped by the roulette of destiny. Starring Shahid Kapur, Sonam A Kapoor and Anupam Kher.
My Worst Nightmare [dir. Anne Fontaine]
Agathe doesn’t realize to what extent her life is going to be turned upside down when she takes in Tony, the best friend of her son Adrien. Tony’s father, Patrick, leads Agathe down a merry path of existential chaos, which just may deliver her from herself. Starring Isabelle Huppert.
Rebellion [dir. Mathieu Kassovitz]
April 1988, Ouvea island, New Caledonia, a French colony. Thirty policemen are kidnapped by locals fighting for their independence. Three hundred members of the French army special forces unit are immediately sent on a mission to fix the situation. An encounter of two cultures: Philippe Legorjus, head of the unit, versus Alphonse Dianou, head of the rebels. Together, they’ll fight to resolve the situation through mutual trust and dialogue over violence. Except that they’re at the heart of the most-tense presidential elections in French history — when issues at stake are purely political, rules of law and order are not exactly moral.
Sleeping Beauty [dir. Julia Leigh]
“You will go to sleep: you will wake up. It will be as if those hours never existed.” Death-haunted, quietly reckless, Lucy is a young university student who takes a job as a Sleeping Beauty. In the Sleeping Beauty Chamber, old men seek an erotic experience that requires Lucy’s absolute submission. This unsettling task starts to bleed into Lucy’s daily life and she develops an increasing need to know what happens to her when she is asleep. Starring Emily Browning and Rachael Blake.
Terraferma [dir. Emanuele Crialese]
Terraferma is the story of an uncontaminated Sicilian island inhabited by fisherman. Still barely touched by tourism, the islanders have begun to alter their mentality and behaviour as they realize the economic potential of this new industry. At the same time, they deal with illegal aliens flooding the island and a new law requiring them to turn back undocumented peoples seeking aid.
That Summer [dir. Philippe Garrel]
A couple living together in Paris — he’s a painter, she’s a film actress — befriends a couple of film extras who fall in love with each other. All four go to Rome where their relationships undergo profound changes as emotions shift and change.
Violet & Daisy [dir. Geoffrey Fletcher]
Violet & Daisy, the whimsical story of a teenager’s surreal and violent journey through New York City, follows Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan (Hanna, Atonement, The Lovely Bones) as Daisy. With her volatile partner-in-crime Violet, played by Alexis Bledel (Sin City, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, The Gilmore Girls), the two young assassins face a series of opponents, including one unusually mysterious man (James Gandolfini), in a life-altering encounter. The film, written and directed by Oscar-winning screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher (Precious), also stars Oscar nominee Marianne Jean-Baptiste and Danny Trejo.
Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale [dir. Wei Te-Sheng]
Wei Te-Sheng’s epic film Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale reclaims an extraordinary episode from 20th-century history which is little-known even in Taiwan. It’s a story of the encounter between a people who believe in rainbows and a nation which believes in the sun. It takes the form of a heroic battle in defence of faith and dignity.
Wuthering Heights [dir. Andrea Arnold]
A Yorkshire hill farmer on a visit to Liverpool finds a homeless boy on the streets. He takes him home to live as part of his family on the isolated Yorkshire moors where the boy forges an obsessive relationship with the farmer’s daughter. Starring James Howson and Kaya Scodelario.
ALPS [dir. Yorgos Lanthimos]
A nurse, a paramedic, a gymnast, and her coach have formed a secret, illegal company. The service they provide is to act as stand-ins for the recently deceased, for the benefit of grieving relatives and friends. The company is called “ALPS” and the ALPS members, taking inspiration from the life of the deceased, adopt their behaviours and habits, memorizing favourite songs, actors, foods, familiar expressions. Although the members of ALPS operate under a disciplined regime demanded by the paramedic, their leader, the nurse doesn’t.
Century of Birthing [dir. Lav Diaz]
A grand meditation on the roles of the artist, Filipino director Lav Diaz’s Century of Birthing tells two seemingly unrelated tales: one focusing on a filmmaker who has spent years working on his latest opus; the other about a Christian cult leader in a rural region.
Cut [dir. Amir Naderi]
An obsessive young filmmaker becomes a human punching bag to pay off the yakuza loans that financed his films. A love poem to cinema classics from the acclaimed director of The Runner, Vegas: Based on a True Story, and A,B,C… Manhattan.
Dreileben (Three Lives) [dir. Christian Petzold, Dominik Graf and Christoph HochhÃ¤usler]
A thrilling trio of interlocking films, Dreileben explores the story of an escaped murderer from three different angles, in three different styles, by three of Germany’s leading filmmakers.
Fable of the Fish [dir. Adolfo Borinaga Alix Jr.]
A couple, Lina and Miguel, move into a dumpsite in Catmon, Malabon. As they adjust to their new abode and surroundings, Lina’s longing to have a child intensifies. One day, Lina learns that she is pregnant. She gives birth in the middle of a storm, and those who witness the birth are shocked — her son is a fish. While Miguel cannot accept it, Lina embraces what has happened and treats the fish as her son. What unfolds is a fable that questions the needs and compromises of a real family.
House of Tolerance [dir. Bertrand Bonello]
The dawn of the XXth century: A brothel in Paris is living its last days. The women live in a state of collective intimacy and fear, baited and beloved by the nightly visits of intimate strangers, and bathed in the light of French Romantic and Impressionist painting.
KOTOKO [dir. Shinya Tsukamoto]
The story of a single mother who suffers from double vision; caring for her baby is a nerve-wrecking task that eventually leads her to a nervous breakdown. She is suspected of being a child abuser when things get out of control and her baby is taken away.
The Last Christeros [dir. Matias Meyer]
At the end of the 1930s, in the arid mountains of Mexico, a Christero colonel and his last men resist surrender. The men are peasants, poor but proud people. They require their government’s support and need ammunition in order to fight. The support does not arrive and life in the sierra turns more difficult every day; the war is almost over. The men, in their suffering, illness and solitude, begin to feel abandoned. They are almost the last ones.
The Loneliest Planet [dir. Julia Loktev]
Alex and Nica are a young couple backpacking in the Caucasus Mountains in Georgia. They hire a local guide to lead them on a camping trek, and the three set off into a stunning wilderness. Walking for hours, they trade anecdotes and play games to pass the time. And then, a momentary misstep threatens to undo everything the couple believed about each other and about themselves. The film is a tale about betrayal, both accidental and deliberate, about love, commitment and the ambiguities of forgiveness.
Monsters Club [dir. Toshiaki Toyoda]
Having abandoned modern civilization, Ryoichi lives an isolated, self-sufficient life on a snow-covered mountain and passes the time by sending mail bombs to corporate CEOs. But one day, a mysterious creature appears before him.
The Mountain [dir. Ghassan Salhab]
As night falls over Beirut, Fadi, a 40-year-old man, packs his bags and sets out for the airport with a friend. Although he has said that he will be leaving the country for a month, when he arrives at the airport, he rents a car, gets on the highway and takes the mountainous route north .
Mushrooms [dir. Vimukthi Jayasundara]
Rahul, a Bengali architect who had gone off to build a career in Dubai, returns to Kolkata to launch a huge construction site. He is reunited with his girlfriend, Paoli, who had long awaited his homecoming. Together, they try to find Rahul’s brother, who is said to have gone mad, living in the forest and sleeping in the trees. Despite appearances, the two brothers might have a lot in common.
Play [dir. Ruben Ostlund]
Play is an astute observation based on real cases of bullying. In central Gothenburg, Sweden, a group of boys, aged 12-14, robbed other children on about 40 occasions between 2006 and 2008. The thieves used an elaborate manipulation scheme called the “brother trick," involving advanced role-play and gang rhetoric rather than physical violence.
Porfirio [dir. Alejandro Landes]
A man disabled by a stray police bullet lives in a world that stretches only from bed to wheelchair in a faraway city on the outskirts of the Colombian Amazon. There, he sells call time on his cellular phone to get by as he waits in vain for a government cheque and takes calls that are never for him. Determined to make himself heard, he hatches a desperately violent plan to take back the reins of his life — only to find himself back where he began.
Random [dir. Debbie Tucker Green]
Set over the course of one day in London, Random tells the story of an ordinary family on an ordinary day whose lives are shattered by the impact of one random event. It is a lively and beautifully observed portrait of family dynamics which draws us into a moving story.
The River Used to be A Man [dir. Jan Zabeil]
A young German man travels through an African country. He meets an old fisherman who takes him deep into the wilderness. The next morning, he finds himself alone in the middle of an endless delta. His continuous loss of control leads him into a world far beyond his own comprehension.
Swirl Helvecio [dir. Marins Jr. and Clarissa Campolina]
At 81, Bastu still loves a good party and dancing until dawn with her friends. When her husband dies, she is suddenly forced to rethink her life and her routine. She spends time telling stories to her grandchildren and reminiscing with friends. Magical and moving, this delicate debut is a wonderful depiction of life in the small village of Sao Romao, in the arid region of Brazil’s north.
This Side of Resurrection [dir. Joaquim Sapinho]
Questions of religious belief do not concern young InÃªs, who is more interested in surfing and boyfriends than in God. When her brother Rafael returns, she discovers that he had never left Portugal for Australia as she had originally thought, but had been living nearby in a monastery. As Rafael wrestles with his faith and future, InÃªs tries to connect with him. Exquisitely shot, Joaquim Sapinho delicately approaches themes of family, sibling love and faith in his latest feature film.
I will be in Toronto from September 8-15 to cover the festival and bring you as many reviews as possible and with today’s announcement I think my list of must see films has grown to something like 30 titles, which means something is going to be missed. You can keep up-to-date on all of my coverage from the festival right here and stay tuned because there is much more to come before my September departure.