More Gala, Visionary & World Cinema Films Announced for TIFF 2011
by Alex Billington
August 16, 2011
Something for everyone as love stories, psychological chillers, political thrillers, comedies and more join the festival's line-up. The Toronto International Film Festival has announced another huge batch of titles for TIFF 2011 this year, putting their total well over 100. While there was plenty in the original line-ups announced, there's even more in these selections of films that I'm very excited to see this year, including Nacho Vigalondo's new sci-fi film Extraterrestrial, which we've teased before (though I'm surprised it's not a Midnight Madness film). You can check out a full list of the latest TIFF films announced just below.
For more information and a closer look at the schedule and line-up, visit the official TIFF website: tiff.net
Page Eight (Closing Night Film)
(dir. David Hare, United Kingdom)
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.
(dir. Nick Murphy, United Kingdom)
Haunted by the death of her fiancé, Florence Cathcart is on a mission to expose all séances 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.
(dir. Christophe Honoré, France)
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.
(dir. Tanya Wexler, USA/United Kingdom)
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 Award®-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.
(dir. Gary McKendry, USA/Australia)
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, USA)
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 Globe®-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.
(dir. Joel Schumacher, USA)
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.
(dir. Darrell J. Roodt, South Africa /Canada)
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.
New Special Presentation:
The Cardboard Village
(dir. Ermanno Olmi, Italy)
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, USA)
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, Germany/Ireland) 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, France/Algeria/Italy) 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.
(dir. Agnieszka Holland, Canada/Germany/Poland)
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 Wieçkiewicz and Benno Fürmann.
(dir. Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, Spain)
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, Hong Kong)
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.
(dir. Nicolas Klotz, Elisabeth Perceval, France)
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, India)
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, France/Belgium)
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.
(dir. Mathieu Kassovitz, France)
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.
(dir. Julia Leigh, Australia)
“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.
(dir. Emanuele Crialese, Italy)
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.
(dir. Philippe Garrel, France/Italy/Switzerland)
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, USA)
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, Taiwan)
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.
(dir. Andrea Arnold, United Kingdom)
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.
(dir. Yorgos Lanthimos, Greece/France)
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, The Philippines)
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.
(dir. Amir Naderi, Japan)
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 Hochhäusler , Germany)
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., The Philippines)
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, France)
The dawn of the 20th 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.
(dir. Shinya Tsukamoto, Japan)
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, Mexico/The Netherlands)
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, USA/Germany)
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.
(dir. Toshiaki Toyoda, Japan)
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.
(dir. Ghassan Salhab, Lebanon/Qatar)
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.
(dir. Vimukthi Jayasundara, India/France)
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.
(dir. Ruben Östlund, Sweden/France/Denmark)
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.
(dir. Alejandro Landes, Colombia/Spain/Uruguay/Argentina/France)
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.
(dir. Debbie Tucker Green, United Kingdom)
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, Germany)
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.
(dir. Helvecio Marins Jr. and Clarissa Campolina, Brazil)
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 São Romão, in the arid region of Brazil's north.
This Side of Resurrection
(dir. Joaquim Sapinho, Portugal)
Questions of religious belief do not concern young Inês, 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, Inês tries to connect with him. Exquisitely shot, Joaquim Sapinho delicately approaches themes of family, sibling love and faith in his latest feature film.
Contemporary World Cinema:
(dir. Ridha Béhi, Tunisia)
After meeting Anis Raache, a young Tunisian actor who bears a stunning resemblance to young Marlon Brando, Tunisian master Ridha Béhi decided to write a film casting the two. Marlon Brando was interested, the two met and reworked the script. Brando died before shooting started. Always Brando chronicles Béhi's saga with Marlon Brando and meditates on the lure and cruelty of the art, system and its industry.
(dir. Suseendran, India)
In a small Tamil village, a ceremonial wooden-horse statue goes missing. With a crucial holy symbol suddenly gone, the village falls into recriminations and comic chaos. At the same time, Azhagarsamy, a young man who earns his livelihood by ferrying loads on his horse, puts his marriage on hold when his horse also disappears.
(dir. Oliver Hermanus, South Africa/France)
François, a white, Afrikaans-speaking 40-year-old family man, no longer cares about his happiness. Convinced of his ill-fated existence, he is wholly unprepared when a chance encounter unravels his controlled life.
Blood of My Blood
(dir. João Canijo, Portugal)
Set in inner city Lisbon, this family saga about unconditional love – a mother's love for her daughter and an aunt's love for her nephew – chronicles the sacrifices these two women are willing to make to save their family.
(dir. Cristián Jiménez, Chile/France/Argentina/Portugal)
Jiménez' debut celebrates love, literature and botany in this portrayal of a struggling writer, Julio, who finds himself writing a book about his very first experience with love in order to keep up a lie that he has told his current lover. In need of a plot, Julio turns to the romance he had eight years earlier with Emilia when both were studying literature in Valdivia.
Colour of the Ocean
(dir. Maggie Peren, Germany)
A Spanish border patrolman of Grand Canary Island, José, decides the fate of hundreds of African boat people. When Nathalie, a German tourist, gets involved, the refugee crisis threatens to spin out of control. It's up to José to decide what to do, but he must learn to free himself first before he can help free others.
Death for Sale
(dir. Faouzi Bensaidi, Belgium/France/Morocco)
In Tetouan, at the northern edge of Morocco, three young men decide to rob a jewellery store. The heist goes awry, and their destinies part drastically. In Death for Sale, Faouzi Bensaidi draws a captivating noir portrait of a city abandoned to corrupt officials, smugglers and extremists.
(dir. Andrey Zvyagintsev, Russia)
Vladmir, an affluent man, drives his second wife Elena to desperation after he patches things up with his estranged daughter and decides to leave her all his money in the event of his death. Elena's son is unemployed, unable to support his own family and is constantly asking Elena for money. Elena's hope to financially rescue her son suddenly vanishes. The shy and submissive housewife then comes up with a plan to give her son and grandchildren a real chance in life.
(dir. Nacho Vigalondo, Spain)
Julio and Julia don't know each other, but they wake up in the same bed horribly hungover and with no memory of the night before. He falls in love with her almost immediately – she does not. The last thing they expect to discover is that an alien invasion has taken place. Vigalondo melds science fiction, romance and black comedy in his latest feature about the darkly fascinating aspects of the human psyche.
(dir. Joseph Cedar, Israel)
This story chronicles the outcome of a great rivalry between a father and son, both professors in the Talmud department of Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
The Forgiveness of Blood
(dir. Joshua Marston, USA/Albania/Denmark/Italy)
The lives of a teenage boy and his younger sister are thrown into turmoil when a fatal dispute over land pulls their northern-Albanian family into a bloody feud.
(dir. Ismaël Ferroukhi, France)
Set in German-occupied Paris in 1942, Younes, an Algerian black marketer, is arrested by the police and agrees to spy on a Parisian mosque suspected of helping resistance fighters and Jews. Witnessing the horrors of the Nazi regime, Younes stops collaborating to become a freedom fighter.
From Up on Poppy Hill
(dir. Goro Miyazaki, Japan)
Anime director Goro Miyazaki follows a group of Yokohama teens in their quest against a wrecking ball that threatens to destroy their school's clubhouse in preparation for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
A Funny Man
(dir. Martin P. Zandvliet, Denmark)
Opening in the seductive style of the 1960s, A Funny Man uncovers the perennial loneliness that comedian Dirch Passer (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) has found himself in after a fast-track rise to fame, despite being surrounded by a mélange of wealth, women, alcohol and infamy.
Future Lasts Forever
(dir. Ozcan Alper, Turkey/France/Germany)
A young ethnomusicologist leaves Istanbul and heads to the southeast of Turkey to work on her masters thesis, gathering a collection of Anatolian elegies and stories. During her stay in Diyarbakir, she finds herself having to confront an agony from her own past in the middle of the ongoing "unnamed war.'
(dir. Mohammad Rasoulof, Iran)
This is a story of a young lawyer in Tehran and her pursuit of a visa to leave the country.
Goodbye First Love
(dir. Mia Hansen-Løve, France/Germany)
It's Spring 1999 and Camille, 15, and Sullivan, 19, love each other passionately. Following the progression of this young, first love, the affair evolves from initial rapture to heartbreak as Sullivan decides he wants to travel the world before settling down. Driven to despair, Camille suffers deep emotional turmoil and must learn to deal with his absence.
(dir. Vincent Garenq, France)
This true story documents the Outreau case. In 2011, Alain Marécaux and his wife were arrested, along with twelve other people, for horrible acts of paedophilia they never committed.
(dir. Martin Šulík, Slovakia)
Gypsy tells the story of Adam, a 14-year-old Roma boy, who is forced into a life of crime following his father's mysterious death. He encounters racial, social and cultural prejudices and comes into conflict with the unwritten laws of his own community.
(dir. José Henrique Fonseca, Brazil)
This film is a non-chronological and in-depth account of the life of Heleno de Freitas (1920 to 1959), a controversial and mythological Brazilian football player. Also known as "Gilda" due to his wild temper with teammates and referees, Heleno was the prince of the 1940s golden age in Rio de Janeiro when the city was a dream setting, steeped in glamour and promise. Handsome and charming, Heleno had no doubt he was going to be the biggest Brazilian footballer of all time, but the war, syphilis and a turbulent life would steer him from that destiny, down a road of glory and tragedy.
(dir. Sion Sono, Japan)
The story is about a teenager who aspires to be "ordinary' within a world of chaos. Following an incident that can never be erased from his life, his wish becomes something impossible to achieve, turning him into a person obsessed to sanction evil people in society.
(dir. Kaat Beels, Belgium)
Six lives, 24 hours, and a hotel in the middle of a heat wave. Anna and Hendrik have it all: a great son, a good job, a lovely house – but the wedding they witness in the hotel forces them to reflect on the choices they have made. Violette wants to reconcile with her daughter Vicky before she dies, but Vicky struggles to let go of a hurtful past. Meanwhile, a young African refugee hides out in the hotel from the police. The lives of all these people become irrevocably intertwined until the heat breaks and the rain offers some relief.
(dir. Stefano Chiantini, Italy)
This story takes shape under the roof of a parsonage on the Tremiti islands. An eastern European bricklayer looking for work is befriended by a young woman who has retreated into silence and lives with a middle-aged priest. The priest is at war with his sister, the young woman is running from her past and the bricklayer is simply trying to survive. As their lives intermingle, emotions bubble to the surface.
Juan of the Dead
(dir. Alejandro Brugués, Spain/Cuba)
The zombie world has yet to witness one last stand – Cuba. An outbreak hits the island on the anniversary of the revolution, so Juan and his friends set out to conquer the undead who, according to government reports, are unruly Americans continuing their quest of undermining the regime.
Land of Oblivion
(dir. Michale Boganim, France/Germany/Poland/Ukraine)
April 26, 1986: Anya and Piotr are celebrating their marriage when an accident occurs at the Chernobyl power station. As a fireman, Piotr leaves to extinguish the flames – but he never returns. Ten years later, after Chernobyl has become a no man's land and a tourist attraction, Anya is still there, working as a guide. Split between two lovers, she tries to accept the hope of a new life.
Last Days in Jerusalem
(dir. Tawfik Abu Wael, France/Israel/Palestine/Germany)
A lens into the emotional upheaval of a Palestinian couple's last moments before leaving their native city, Jerusalem, to forge a brighter future in Paris. Iyad is a surgeon at the top of his game; Nour is a young actress with an intellectual bourgeois background – attractive, independent and whimsical. On the way to the airport, a news report of a terrible accident means Iyad must return to work, delaying their departure. Abandoned by her husband once again, Nour starts to question the move and their marriage.
(dir. John Shank, Belgium/France)
Somewhere on an isolated mountainous plain, Johann has taken over his father's farm, devoting all his time and energy to his work. Surrounded by a struggling community and a natural landscape that has taught him all he knows, his heritage is his entire life. As autumn goes and winter comes, a barn burns to the ground and jeopardizes the fragile balance of the farm's survival. This is a story of a man trying to love the world he belongs to one last time, as hard as he can, before it sinks into darkness.
(dir. Christophe Van Rompaey, The Netherlands/Belgium)
Seventeen-year-old Lena is overweight, shy and allows others to take advantage of her. She puts up with an overbearing mother, an egotistical best friend and belittling mates. When she meets Daan, a charming, good-looking young lad, it could either be too good to be true or the well-deserved beginning of a happier life. To find out, she must find the inner strength and beauty she didn't know she had.
(dir. Jonathan Sagall, Israel/United Kingdom)
Lara is a Palestinian woman who came to London to begin a new life. She got married and now lives a comfortable, but somewhat loveless, life with her husband and 7-year-old son James. One morning, Inam, her childhood friend from Ramallah, shows up on her doorstep. Triggered by her sudden appearance, Lara's orderly life begins to crack.
(dir. Avie Luthra, South Africa/United Kingdom)
Lucky, an AIDS orphan, is forced to leave his native village to live with his uncle in Durban. He learns about life the hard way, but forges an unlikely bond with an elderly Indian neighbour in spite of racial prejudice and language barriers. Together they go on a journey to find him a new life and family.
Man on Ground
(dir. Akin Omotoso, South Africa)
This portrayal of rising xenophobia in South Africa tells the story of a young Nigerian man living in the African refugee tenements of Johannesburg, who disappears against the background of animosity against immigrants flaring into violent rioting. In the span of a single night, his brother, on a short visit from London, tries to uncover the mystery.
(dir. Ribhu Dasgupta, India)
Michael, an ex-cop, lives with his 11-year-old son and works in a theatre as a projectionist pirating DVDs for a living. When he starts receiving death threats for his son from someone in his past, he gets caught up in a complex web of his own impending blindness comprised of his insecurities. First-time director Ribhu Dasgupta teams up with India's guru of independent cinema, producer Anurag Kashyap, and veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah for this character-driven, psychological drama.
(dir. Markus Schleinzer, Austria)
A mousy insurance salesman keeps an under-aged boy locked in his basement, while doing his best to appear ordinary to the outside world.
(dir. Gerardo Naranjo, Mexico)
Laura, a young aspiring beauty queen, finds her dream turned against her when she unwillingly gets involved with a criminal group at war. This film explores the many extremes of modern Mexican society when the world of beauty pageants and current drug war collide.
(dir. Han Jie, China)
Shu (Wang Baoqiang) – whose name translates to “tree” in Mandarin – is a clownish mechanic who resides in a small mining village in Northern China. Shu has a reputation as a slacker, a drunk and a danger to himself and others. He is haunted by dreams and hallucinations, yet when one of his visions manifests as real, his fellow villagers come to regard him as a prophet. Set against the backdrop of sweeping social changes, the film is a subtle commentary on rampant urbanization in China and the relocation of entire villages. Produced by master filmmaker Jia Zhang-ke.
Omar Killed Me
(dir. Roschdy Zem, France)
February 2, 1994: Omar Raddad, a Moroccan gardener, is sentenced to 18 years for the murder of a wealthy widow in Marseille, France. Convinced of Raddad's innocence, a journalist sets out to defend his case.
(dir. Yossi Madmony, Israel) Yaakov Fidelman (Sasson Gabai, The Band's Visit) hangs on with all his might to the antique restoration workshop that has been his life's work. After his partner passes away, Fidelman rejects his son's idea to close the business and build on the site. Will he understand that his only hope for redemption is to learn to let go?
(dir.Wojciech Smarzowski, Poland)
Summertime 1945: the end of the war brings continued chaos and violence for Polish inhabitants of the former East Prussia. Rose is Polish and her German husband has been killed in the war, leaving her alone on their farm. A Polish army officer tries to conceal his identity as he helps protect her from suspicious Soviet soldiers and foraging people circling the farm.
(dir. Mohamed Asli, Morocco)
Mustafa is an illiterate hairdresser who lives with his blind mother. He runs an underground trade as a middleman facilitating favours in exchange for money – among them is Zakia who wants to immigrate to Spain. Unable to realize her Spanish dream, she remains in her country and marries Mustafa.
(dir. Asghar Farhadi, Iran)
When Simin's husband Nader refuses to grant her a divorce, she returns to her parents' home. Nader hires a young woman to assist in his wife's absence, hoping his life will return to normal. However, after discovering that the new maid has been lying, he realizes there is more on the line than just his marriage.
The Silver Cliff
(dir. Karim Aïnouz, Brazil)
A phone message from her husband propels Violeta into the streets of Rio until sunrise. Telling their teenage son that a last minute trip has come up, she sets out to find her husband. Rio at night is her sole companion as she struggles to face his abrupt and sudden change of heart, but the beach also provides renewal, unexpected meetings and a window to a whole other world.
Sons of Norway
(dir. Jens Lien, Norway)
Nikolaj moves to Rykkin where his father has helped design the new satellite town. His father is a playful, self-declared free spirit, who firmly believes that a new community soul will flourish the Norwegian town. Nikolaj tries to make sense of life under the thumb of his optimistic and energetic father. They're a happy little alternative family – until his mother is suddenly killed in a traffic accident.
(dir. Ole Christian Madsen, Denmark)
Christian (Anders W. Berthelsen) owns a wine store approaching bankruptcy – and he is just as unsuccessful in about every other aspect of life. His wife Anna (Paprika Steen) leaves him and finds work as a successful football agent in Buenos Aires, living a life of luxury with Juan Diaz, a star football player. One day, Christian arrives under the false pretence of finalizing divorce papers, but his real motives involve winning his wife back.
Think of Me
(dir. Bryan Wizemann, USA)
Angela, a single mother, struggles to make ends meet for her daughter. Beneath the Las Vegas neon glow, her life hits a breaking point, presenting her with an impossible choice: keep trying to make things work, or let it all go for the promise of something better.
UFO in Her Eyes
(dir. Xiaolu Guo, Germany)
Kwok Yun leads a simple peasant's life in the peaceful village mountains. She lives with her grandfather and works as a labourer. Following a countryside tryst with a married man, she spots a UFO – a giant glowing object in the shape of a dumpling. Later that same day, she helps a snake-bitten American businessman who disappears as mysteriously as the UFO. Using the unexpected events for political gain, the ambitious village leader, Chief Chang, stimulates tourism with UFO tours and gets the local economy roaring, despite the dangers such radical change can bring, especially to the environment.
(dir. Nancy Savoca, USA)
Union Square chronicles the reluctant reunion of two estranged sisters: one on the verge of marriage, the other on the brink of a nervous breakdown.
Your Sister's Sister
(dir. Lynn Shelton, USA)
Still mourning the recent death of his brother, a bereft and confused man finds love and direction in a most unexpected place.
Wow, they just have SO MANY FILMS showing in Toronto this year, it's incredible. I know there's always a line-up this big, but I'm really impressed with the films they've chosen this year, it looks like it's going to be one of those unforgettable TIFF years. While there are many films I can't wait to see, I always hope there's more gems that I don't even know about that I'll hopefully be able to discover while I'm there next month.
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