The festival unveiled on Tuesday the first batch of films heading for Toronto cinemas this September, specifically in TIFF’s galas and special presentations lineups.
Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier’s Tragically Hip documentary Long Time Running, which tracks the band’s Man Machine Poem tour after frontman Gord Downie’s brain cancer diagnosis, is the lone Canadian film scheduled for a gala opening so far.
“It is a document of one of the great cultural moments of our time,” TIFF artistic director Cameron Bailey told CBC News, adding that the band is fully supportive of the film, which followed the quintet when “they weren’t even sure they were gonna be able to perform” through to the tour’s triumphant final concert in Kingston, Ont., last summer.
“It is so moving to watch what the Tragically Hip did to unite Canada and it’s so rare to see one band and their songs and the stories they tell and the poetry of that music connect so many people from coast to coast to coast.”
Otherwise, American and British films currently dominate the glitzy, high-profile galas showcase, which will include:
- Breathe, directed by Andy Serkis (United Kingdom).
- The Catcher Was A Spy, directed by Ben Lewin (US).
- Darkest Hour, directed by Joe Wright (United Kingdom).
- Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, directed by Paul McGuigan (United Kingdom).
- Kings, directed by Deniz Gamze Ergüven (France/Belgium).
- Long Time Running, directed by Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier (Canada).
- Mary Shelley, directed by Haifaa Al Mansour (Ireland/United Kingdom/Luxembourg/US).
- The Mountain Between Us, directed by Hany Abu-Assad (US).
- Mudbound, directed by Dee Rees (US).
- Stronger, directed by David Gordon Green (US).
- The Wife, directed by Bjorn Runge (United Kingdom/Sweden).
- Woman Walks Ahead, directed by Susanna White (US).
The Saoirse Ronan-led dramedy Lady Bird — actress Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut — will open the special presentations program, which will close with Amr Salama’s Sheikh Jackson, about a young imam rocked by the death of the King of Pop.
The lineup also include new movies from notable international filmmakers Guillermo del Toro, Wim Wenders, Angelina Jolie and Stephen Frears; buzzy titles from earlier festivals like Cannes and Sundance; along with anticipated projects, including a star-studded horror thriller from Darren Aronofsky and biographical dramas about former ice skater Tonya Harding and William Marston, the creator of Wonder Woman.
- Battle of the Sexes, directed by Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton (US).
- BPM (Beats Per Minute), directed by Robin Campillo (France).
- The Brawler, directed by Anurag Kashyap (India).
- The Breadwinner, directed by Nora Twomey (Canada/Ireland/Luxembourg).
- Call Me By Your Name, directed by Luca Guadagnino (Italy/France).
- Catch the Wind, directed by Gael Morel (France).
- The Children Act, directed by Richard Eyre (United Kingdom).
- Disobedience, directed by Sebastian Lelio (United Kingdom).
- Downsizing, directed by Alexander Payne (US).
- A Fantastic Woman, directed by Sebastian Lelio (Chile).
- First They Killed My Father, directed by Angelina Jolie (Cambodia).
- The Guardians, directed by Xavier Beauvois (France).
- Hostiles, directed by Scott Cooper (US).
- The Hungry, directed by Bornila Chatterjee (India).
- I, Tonya, directed by Craig Gillespie (US).
- mother!, directed by Darren Aronofsky (US).
- Novitiate, directed by Maggie Betts (US).
- Omerta, directed by Hansal Mehta (India).
- Plonger, directed by Mélanie Laurent (France).
- The Price of Success, directed by Teddy Lussi-Modeste (France).
- Professor Marston & the Wonder Women, directed by Angela Robinson (US).
- The Rider, directed by Chloé Zhao (US).
- A Season in France, directed by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun (France).
- The Shape of Water, directed by Guillermo del Toro (US).
- Sheikh Jackson, directed by Amr Salama (Egypt).
- The Square, directed by Ruben Östlund (Sweden).
- Submergence, directed by Wim Wenders (France/Germany/Spain).
- Suburbicon, directed by George Clooney (US).
- Thelma, directed by Joachim Trier (Norway/Sweden/France/Denmark).
- Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (directed by Martin McDonagh (US).
- Victoria and Abdul, directed by Stephen Frears (United Kingdom).
Approximately one-third of the titles TIFF announced today are directed by women and festival organizers are starting to see more films revolving around and created by both women and people of colour.
“It looks like the film industry has woken up and realized that half of the world’s stories aren’t being told. So finally we’re beginning to see more of those,” Bailey noted, singling out directors like Haifaa Al Mansour, Angela Robinson and Gerwig.
C’est la vie!, which goes behind-the-scenes at a mishap-filled wedding and is directed by French filmmaking duo Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano, will be the festival’s closing night movie.
TIFF in transition
Earlier this year, the festival pledged to trim the number of films in the overall by 20 per cent in order to offer “a more tightly curated” program. The Vanguard and City to City programs were also cut from the festival.
Still, offering a wide range at the world’s biggest public film festival is important, according to Bailey.
“What’s always important to remember is that the festival is not for any one person. No one person can see every film that’s in the festival. No one person has the taste that’s quite that broad,” he said after Tuesday’s announcement, noting that this year’s lineup will be leaner by about 60 titles.
“We’ll still have the range, we’ll still have the choice for our public audience. We think we’ve kind of walked that fine line.”
TIFF is known for successfully launching high-calibre films to international acclaim, including Academy Awards. Moonlight, which won the Oscar for best picture in February, screened at last year’s festival, as did the runner-up, La La Land. But having a reduced offering means that festival programmers are under even more pressure to pick gems.
“The margin of error is smaller when you’re programming a tighter festival. It means we have to get it right when we’re looking at films and we’re deciding yes or no. We have to really think hard about ‘Have we made the right decisions? Is this a film that is really gonna work?'” Bailey said.
“We think we’ve gotten it right far more times than we’ve ever not.”
The 2017 Toronto International Film Festival runs Sept. 7-17.