The 2013 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is set to kick off this coming Thursday with the Opening Night film being Bill Condon’s The Fifth Estate, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and it’s looking like it’s going to be an even more exciting year for Canada’s premiere film festival than past years for a number of reasons.
What makes TIFF different from Sundance, Cannes and other festivals is that there a lot more movies that already have distribution in place with a lot of movies premiering there that will be getting released in the coming months, so you don’t have to wait nearly as long between reading about them to actually seeing them. Of course, there are other notable movies premiering at TIFF looking for distribution–some of those may live up to expectations while others will likely fall by the wayside–and every once in a while, there are a few surprises.
Diversity is a key factor in why the festival has been so successful for the past few decades, since they literally have everything from big studio movies to tiny independent movies, documentaries and cinema from all over the world. A lot of Canadian filmmakers will hold their movies to debut at Toronto, returning to the festival with each successive offering and this year is no exception.
As with many festivals, the first weekend of TIFF tends to be so full of choices in terms of movies it’s become difficult for many attendees to decide on what to see, but we’ve selected roughly 25 movies premiering at the festival that struck our interest. Granted, it’s a bit of a mixed bag between future Oscar contenders and films that may not get much attention, but hopefully this can give you some idea of the diversity offered at TIFF every year.
12 Years a Slave (Fox Searchlight – Oct. 18)
Chiwetel Ejiofor takes on the role of Solomon Northrup, a free black man who is tricked, kidnapped and sold into slavery for 12 years at the hands of a merciless slave owner, played by Michael Fassbender, who appears in his third movie by director Steve McQueen (Hunger, Shame). The movie, which also stars Brad Pitt, has already been getting Oscar buzz out of Telluride this past weekend.
The Armstrong Lie (Sony Pictures Classics – Nov. 8)
We don’t normally cover docs at film festivals, but one of the ones definitely on our radar is the latest from Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side) which covers the last four years in the life of controversial cyclist Lance Armstrong as he tries to make a comeback after retirement, only to get caught in an FBI investigation into doping.
August: Osage County (The Weinstein Company – Dec. 25)
Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer and Tony Award-winning play comes to the screen at the hands of John Wells (Company Men) with an all-star cast that includes Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Margo Martindale and Julianne Nicholson, all of whom clash at a dysfunctional family reunion.
Belle (Fox Searchlight – May 2, 2014)
Gugu Mbatha-Raw from “Undercovers” and “Touch” plays the breakout role of Dido Elizabeth Belle, a mixed race woman sent to live with her wealthy great-uncle and his wife, played by Tom Wilkinson and Emily Watson, in one of this year’s TIFF many period drama offerings.
Blood Ties (Roadside Attractions)
Guillame Canet (Tell No One) returns to TIFF with his first English language film, a New York-based period crime thriller co-written by James Gray (The Yards) that stars Clive Owen as a man released from a jail after a gangland killing in hopes of making amends with his police brother Frank (Billy Crudup) and his ex-wife (Marion Cotillard). It also stars Mila Kunis, Zoe Saldana and James Caan.
Can a Song Save Your Life? (Exclusive Media)
John Carney, writer/director of Once (the movie), makes his first appearance at TIFF with another music-related movie, this one starring Keira Knightley as a woman who moves to New York with her boyfriend (Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine) trying to pursue her love of music, but when he dumps her, she finds a new supporter in a record producer, played by Mark Ruffalo.
Dallas Buyers Club (Focus Features – Nov. 1)
Matthew McConaughey plays Ron Woodroof, a Texas cowboy who was given 30 days to live after being diagnosed HIV-positive, so he took matters into his own hands to find drugs and medicine that could help keep him alive. This is one of many films at TIFF by Canadian filmmakers, in this case Quebec’s Jean-Marc Vallée, and it co-stars Jared Leto and Jennifer Garner.
Another Canadian TIFF mainstay is Toronto’s own Atom Egoyan who tackles one aspect of the “West Memphis Three” case that sent three teenagers to jail for the murder of three younger boys, only to be released 18 years later. The first drama based on the story covered in the “Paradise Lost” series, this one stars Colin Firth (who is everywhere at this year’s TIFF) as the private investigator on the case while Reese Witherspoon plays Pam Hobbs, the mother of one of the victims. It’s based on Mara Leveritt’s 2003 book and doesn’t have the stamp of approval of Damien Echols even though it’s exec. produced by his other two indicted friends.
James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain star in Ned Benson’s two-part he-said-she-said drama that explores a New York couple’s relationship during a difficult point in their marriageone full-length movie from his perspective and another from hersboth playing together at TIFF.
Dom Hemingway (Fox Searchlight)
Richard Shepard’s first movie The Matador was at Toronto way back in 2005 and his third film stars Jude Law, another TIFF vet, as the title character, a safecracker with a loose fuse who tries to collect the money owed to him alongside his partner (Richard E. Grant) once he’s released from jail.
Denis Villeneuve’s second movie at TIFF also stars Jake Gyllenhaal but was shot before Prisoners. He plays a history teacher who spots an actor in a movie who looks a lot like him five years earlier, so he decides to look for his double. If you like Jake Gyllenhaal, you can probably expect to see two of him in this movie alone!
The Fifth Estate (DreamWorks – Oct. 18)
In the festival’s Opening Night Gala Premiere, directed by Bill Condon (The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn), Benedict Cumberbatch plays WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange while German actor Daniel Brühl plays his colleague Daniel Domscheit-Berg in the first movie about Assange, who created controversy when they got their hands on confidential intelligence documents and released them to the public.
Gravity (Warner Bros. – Oct. 4)
Alfonso Cuaron’s long-in-the-works outer space thriller starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as two astronauts stranded in space while on a mission already premiered at Venice and Telluride this past weekend to rave reviews, but we’re excited enough to see it that we’ll wait until its TIFF premiere.