Cast Caitríona Balfe, Judi Dench, Jamie Dornan, Ciarán Hinds, Colin Morgan, Jude Hill
Cinematography Haris Zambarloukos
Editing Úna Ní Dhonghaíle
Producers Laura Berwick, Kenneth Branagh, Becca Kovacik, Tamar Thomas
Production Company TKBC
Production Designer Jim Clay
Screenplay Kenneth Branagh
Sound Simon Chase, James Mather, Denise Yarde
Writer-director Kenneth Branagh has described Belfast as his most personal film to date. It indeed is. Belfast, a black-and-white drama set in the late 1960s, is about a boy and his close-knit working-class family getting by in turbulent Northern Ireland. While young Jude Hill plays the lead, Dame Judi Dench, Jamie Dornan, Caitriona Balfe and Ciaran Hinds play his parents and grandparents. Branagh, one of the world’s most versatile actors, rewinds to his childhood and presents an affecting, delicate portrait of life amid the tumult of the period seen through the eyes of a child discovering music and other forms of self-expression. Belfast is being seen as a film with tremendous Oscar potential.
United Kingdom, Germany, 2021 English, 111 minutes
Director Pablo Larraín
Cast Kristen Stewart, Timothy Spall, Sally Hawkins, Sean Harris
Cinematography Claire Mathon
Editing Sebastián Sepúlveda
Executive Producers Tom Quinn, Jeff Deutchman, Christina Zisa, Michael Bloom, Maria Zuckerman, Ryan Heller
Producers Juan De Dios Larraín, Pablo Larraín, Paul Webster, Jonas Dornbach, Janine Jackowski
Production Companies Komplizen Film, Fabula Pictures, Shoebox Films
Production Designer Guy Hendrix Dyas
Screenplay Steven Knight
Original Score Jonny Greenwood
Talking of the Oscars, one actor who is definitely going to be in the awards season mix is Kristen Stewart. She plays Princess Diana in Pablo Larrain’s Spencer, which pans out over one a Christmas weekend at the humongous Sandringham Estate. The three days out in the country off the Norfolk coast marks a major turning point for one of the most famous women in the world. The Princess of Wales takes a decision that liberates her from the life she had chosen and the price she had to pay over the years for being in the public glare day in and day out. For Stewart, it is a role of a lifetime. She nails it.
The Electrical Life of Louis Wain
United Kingdom, 2021 English, 111 minutes
Director Will Sharpe
Cast Benedict Cumberbatch, Claire Foy, Andrea Riseborough, Toby Jones
Cinematography Erik Alexander Wilson
Editing Selina Macarthur
Executive Producers Ron Halpern, Didier Lupfer, Dan MacRae, Julia Oh, Ollie Madden, Daniel Battsek, Benedict Cumberbatch, Simon Stephenson
Producers Guy Heeley, Ed Clarke, Adam Ackland, Leah Clarke
Production Companies STUDIOCANAL, Shoebox Films, SunnyMarch, Film4, Amazon Studios
Production Designer Suzie Davies
Screenplay Simon Stephenson, Will Sharpe
Sound Rashad Hall-Heinz, Richard Straker
Original Score Arthur Sharpe
International Sales Agent STUDIOCANAL
In Will Sharpe’s The Electrical Life of Louis Wain, Benedict Cumberbatch (who is also in Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog) plays the eccentric Victorian-era British artist Louis Wain, best known for his surreal paintings of cats. In his advancing years, Wain, a skilled artist who had to support his widowed mother and five younger sisters, grappled with schizophrenia and was confined to mental institutions. Sharpe, who has also co-written the film, gives Cumberbatch all the room he needs to flesh out a vivid figure of great depth and range. He captures the upheavals of Wain’s life with aplomb. The actor brings alive a dynamic life marked by unsettling ups and downs and Sharpe’s directing technique keeps pace with the principal character’s emotional and psychological vicissitudes.
United Kingdom, 2021 English, 137 minutes
Director Terence Davies
Cast Jack Lowden, Peter Capaldi, Gemma Jones, Ben Daniels, Kate Phillips, Simon Russell Beale, Jeremy Irvine, Geraldine James
Cinematography Nicola Daley
Editing Alex Mackie
Executive Producers Paul Ashton, Margarethe Baillou, Norman Merry, Lizzie Francke, Rose Garnett, Jim Mooney, John Taylor, Walli Ullah, Jack Lowden, Peter Hampden
Producer Michael Elliott
Production Company EMU Films
Production Designer Andy Harris
Screenplay Terence Davies
Sound Stephen Griffiths, Andy Shelley, Adam Fletcher
International Sales Agent Bankside Films
Terence Davis, one of Britain’s most accomplished filmmakers, delivers a biographical drama that goes way beyond the limits of the genre. This drama about the life of 20th century English poet and soldier Siegfried Sassoon mixes sustained solemnity with an immersive visual palette and impressionistic narrative devices. The younger Sassoon, who was decorated as a soldier but raised conscientious objections to the idea of war, is played by Jack Lowden, while the older avatar is portrayed by Peter Capaldi. Davies’ exquisite exploration of heroism and trauma relies more on storytelling that puts what is going in the mind of the protagonist ahead of what is happening around him.
Producers Amira Diab, Mohamed Hefzy, Hany Abu-Assad
Production Companies H&A Productions, Film Clinic, MAD Solutions, Lagoonie Film Production, Key Film, Cocoon FIlms
Production Designer Nael Kanj
Screenplay Hany Abu-Assad
Sound Ibrahim Zaher, Mark Glynne, Tom Bijnen
Original Score Jeffrey Van Rossum
International Sales Agent Memento Films International
Oscar-nominated Palestinian writer-director Hany Abu-Assad’s Huda’s Salon is inspired by true events. Shot in Nazareth and Bethlehem in the middle of the pandemic through several disruptions, the film is about a woman whose visit to her West Bank hair salon turns into a nightmare when the owner blackmails her and seeks to paint her into a corner. Huda’s Salon examines the repercussions of occupation on individuals coping with daily challenges in a hostile environment. The film is cast in the mould of a gripping thriller that probes betrayal and danger precipitated by the pressures of constantly living on the edge.
Executive Producers Simon Gillis, Rose Garnett, John Woodward
Producers Jane Campion, Tanya Seghatchian, Emile Sherman, Iain Canning, Roger Frappier
Production Companies See-Saw Films, Bad Girl Creek, Max Films International, Brightstar, New Zealand Film Commission, Cross City Films, BBC Films
Production Designer Grant Major
Screenplay Jane Campion
Sound Robert Mackenzie
Original Score Jonny Greenwood
International Sales Agent Cross City Films
Jane Campion returns to the big screen with her first feature since 2009’s Bright Star. The Power of the Dog, an adaptation of Thomas Savage’s 1967 novel of the same name, also marks a return to the style and substance of her Oscar and Palme d’Or-winning The Piano. The Power of the Dog is the story of two brothers on a ranch in 192os Montana. Their already fraught relationship is thrown into further disarray when one of them marries a widowed single mother. Benedict Cumberbatch delivers another Oscar-worthy performance as a foul-tempered cowboy with too many unresolved issues for him to be at ease with the world around him. And, of course, Campion is back at the peak of her prowess.
The Mad Women’s Ball
France, 2021 French, 121 minutes
Director Mélanie Laurent
Cast Lou de Laâge, Mélanie Laurent, Emmanuelle Bercot, Benjamin Voisin, Cédric Khan, Lomane De Dietrich, Christophe Montenez, Grégoire Bonnet
Cinematography Nicolas Karakatsanis
Editing Anny Danché
Producers Alain Goldman, Axelle Boucaï
Production Company Légende Films
Production Designer Stanislas Reydellet
Screenplay Mélanie Laurent, Chris Deslandes
Sound Cyril Moisson, Alexis Place, Cyril Holtz
Original Score Asaf Avidan
Prolific French actor and director Melanie Laurent brings Victoria Mas’s novel Le bal des folles. World premiering at TIFF, The Mad Women’s Ball is about a 19th century Frenchwoman who is wrongly sent to a mental asylum. She plans to escape from her ordeal with the help of one of the nurses at the institution. The film has Lou de Laage in the lead role as a young, independent woman. The story is from over a hundred year ago and it deals with the birth of psychiatry. Its unflinching exploration of misogyny gives the film contemporary resonance while reminding the audience of the abuses that women have had to face at the hands of those who claim to be healers in a lopsided system that thrives on power and oppression.
United States of America, Canada, Hungary, 2021 English, German, 129 minutes
Director Barry Levinson
Cast Ben Foster, Vicky Krieps, Billy Magnussen, Peter Sarsgaard, John Leguizamo, Danny DeVito, Dar Zuzovsky, Saro Emirze
Cinematography George Steel
Editing Douglas Crise
Executive Producers Joel Greenberg, Ben Foster, Danny DeVito, Steven Thibault, Ashley Levinson, Anjay Nagpal, Ron McLeod, Jason Cloth, Richard McConnell, David Gendron, Ali Jazayeri
Producers Matti Leshem, Aaron L. Gilbert, Barry Levinson, Jason Sosnoff, Scott Pardo
Production Companies BRON Studios, New Mandate Films
Production Designer Miljen ‘Kreka’ Kljaković
Screenplay Justine Juel Gillmer
Sound Lon Bender
Original Score Hans Zimmer
International Sales Agents Endeavor Content, BRON Releasing
Another of the many biopics in the TIFF 2021 selection, Barry Levinson’s The Survivor dramatizes the life and times of Harry Haft, an Auschwitz concentration camp survivor who boxed with fellow prisoners simply in order to survive another day. The loser of every bout would be shot while the winner would live to fight another opponent. Haft went on to have a brief but eventful career as a pugilist in post-war Germany and then as a light heavyweight boxer in the US in the late 1940s. Ben Foster infuses the role with disquieting intensity as he brings alive a bruised and battered man who would not give up on life no matter what. The Survivor is as much about American masculinity as a celebration of one man’s will to live against all odds.
United Kingdom, 2021 English, Arabic, Tamazight, French, 117 minutes
Director John Michael McDonagh
Cast Ralph Fiennes, Jessica Chastain, Matt Smith, Saïd Taghmaoui, Christopher Abbott, Ismael Kanater, Caleb Landry Jones, Mourad Zaoui, Abbey Lee, Alex Jennings, Marie-Josée Croze
Cinematography Larry Smith
Editing Elizabeth Eves, Chris Gill
Executive Producers Norman Merry, Peter Hampden, Phil Hunt, Compton Ross, Jack Heller, Scott Veltri, Kimberly Fox, Donald Povieng, Ollie Madden, Daniel Battsek, Lawrence Osborne
Producers Elizabeth Eves, John Michael McDonagh, Trevor Matthews, Nick Gordon
Production Companies House of Un-American Activities, Brookstreet Pictures
Production Designer Willem Smit
Screenplay John Michael McDonagh
Sound Ivor Talbot, Robert Flanagan
Original Score Lorne Balfe
International Sales Agent MadRiver Pictures
British filmmaker John Michael McDonagh directs Ralph Fiennes and Jessica Chastain (also in The Eyes of Tammy Faye) in The Forgiven, an adaptation of the Lawrence Osborne novel of the same name. It tells the story of a about-to-divorce couple on their way to a lavish weekend party in Morocco. They accidentally kill a man. It sets off a chain of events that reveals the workings of a privileged class too trapped in their ivory towers to see how damaging their insensitivity and sense of entitlement can be – to themselves and to those they ride roughshod over. A trenchant critique of bourgeois lives enlivened by a clutch of wonderful performances.
The only film by a first-time director on this list of recommendations, Ruth Paxton’s TIFF Discover title is a psychological horror drama built around three generations of women. A widowed mother is put through severe psychological stress when her teenage daughter announces that, following a flash of enlightenment, she feels that her body is no longer her own. Initially, the mother is inclined to dismiss her announcement as a sign of youthful rebellion or a momentary meltdown. As her new-found faith quickly strengthens its grip on her, the girl stops eating. The strange phenomenon compels her mother to look inwards in search of answers. This stunning debut film from the UK heralds the arrival of a promising female director.
Serving as a launching platform for many Indian filmmakers in the past, the 46th Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) continues to live up to our expectations by showcasing three Indian feature-length films by first-time directors
By Saibal Chatterjee
The 46thToronto International Film Festival (TIFF), which retains the hybrid format that was necessitated in 2020 by a rampaging pandemic, has three Indian feature-length films by first-time directors in an expanded programme that has significantly more titles and in-person screenings than last year.
Besides Payal Kapadia’s A Night of Knowing Nothing, the Critics Week title that scooped up the Cannes Film Festival’s prize for the best documentary film – the Golden Eye – this year, TIFF will premiere sound designer Nithin Lukose’s gripping Malayalam drama Paka: River of Blood and Ritwik Pareek’s piercing social satire Dug Dug.
While the epistolary A Night of Knowing Nothing is part of the festival’s Wavelengths section devoted to avant-garde cinematic works that experiment with forms and genres, Paka and Dug Dug are screening in Discovery, a selection, as the name suggests, aimed unearthing new talent from across the world.
A Night of Knowing Nothing, the FTII-trained Kapadia’s first feature, centres on a university student who writes letters to her estranged lover, revealing through a collage of recollections, personal impressions and experiences the political realities of contemporary India.
Paka and Dug Dug, too, each in its own unique way, provide an insight into today’s India. The former deals with an inter-generational feud between two families in Lukose’s native Wayanad district, against a long history migration and dislocation within the state of Kerala.
Dug Dug, set in Rajasthan, where Pareek grew up before moving to Mumbai, examines the nature of faith and its manifestations in a nation of multiple systems of religious belief. It revolves around an alcoholic man who dies in a gruesome accident while riding his motorcycle in a drunken state. As one strange event leads to another in the aftermath of the tragedy, the deceased turns into the focal point of a rapidly growing religious cult.
Unearthing new talent is a purpose TIFF has served without fail over the years. The festival has helped many Indian independent filmmakers find a doorway to global acclaim. Especially over the last 25 years, North America’s premier film festival, while continuing to embrace mainstream Bollywood cinema keeping in mind the predilections of the south Asian audience in multi-cultural Toronto, has proven to be a wonderful platform for Indian directors crafting films of a different timbre.
Let us cast our minds back to 2001. Twenty years ago, Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, the first Indian film to bag the coveted prize since Satyajit Ray’s Aparajito (The Unvanquished), the second part of the master’s iconic Apu trilogy. Monsoon Wedding also played in TIFF Galas, a line-up that was obviously locked way before the Venice awards were announced.
It was the year of Ashutosh Gowariker’s Oscar-nominated Lagaan, which, too, was part of the TIFF line-up in 2001 alongside Pan Nalin’s Samsara and cinematographer-director Santosh Sivan’s Asoka. Both Nalin and Sivan have had other films in the festival. Incidentally, Everybody Says I’m Fine, the first film directed by Mumbai actor Rahul Bose, also made the TIFF cut that year.
Nalin was back in the TIFF mix in 2013 with the Kumbh Mela documentary Faith Connections and in 2015 with the feminist drama Angry India Goddesses, which took home the TIFF People’s Choice First Runner-up Prize. Sivan, on his part, had two early Tamil-language directorial ventures – a suicide-bomber thriller The Terrorist (1998) and the children’s film Malli (1999) – in the festival programme.
Mira Nair’s first film, Salaam Bombay!, travelled to TIFF in 1988 after bagging the Camera d’Or at Cannes, where it premiered in Directors’ Fortnight. She was back at TIFF in 1996 with Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love. In 2006, one of her most-loved films, The Namesake, starring Irrfan Khan and Tabu, figured in TIFF. Last year, the festival showcased the BBC series A Suitable Boy, Nair’s adaptation of the Vikram Seth novel.
The films by Canadian-Indian filmmaker Deepa Mehta that constitute her acclaimed Elements trilogy – Fire (1996), Earth (1998) and Water (2005) – were all at TIFF. Needless to say, Mehta, who is based in Toronto and was also a member of TIFF’s Board of Directors for several years, has had many of her films, including Bollywood/Hollywood (2002), Heaven on Earth (2008), Midnight’s Children (2012) and Beeba Boys (2015), in the festival programme.
Nair and Mehta have led the way for a long line of Indian female directors who have had a sustained and fruitful relationship with TIFF. The festival programmed Shonali Bose’s directorial debut Amu in 2005. The filmmaker’s subsequent films – Margarita, With a Straw (2014), starring Kalki Koechlin, and The Sky is Pink (2019), headlined by Priyanka Chopra Jonas – made their world premieres at TIFF.
Actor Konkona Sen Sharma’s brilliant first film as a director – A Death in the Gunj – premiered at TIFF in 2016, while writer-director Bornila Chatterjee’s sophomore effort, The Hungry, a provocative and lively adaptation of the rarely filmed William Shakespeare play Titus Andronicus, bowed at the festival in 2017.
The year 2017 also saw Rima Das’ maiden directorial venture, Village Rockstars, being unveiled at TIFF. She was back in Toronto the very next year with Bulbul Can Sing and the year thereafter as part of the festival’s ‘Share Her Journey’ campaign aimed at seeking gender parity in the movie industry.
In the case of Ritu Sarin, who directs films with Tenzing Sonam, the gap between her first and second trips to TIFF was much longer. Sarin and Tenzing’s first film Dreaming Lhasa premiered in Toronto in 2005. They returned to the festival in 2018 with The Sweet Requiem.
Nandita Das’ second film, Manto, was also in TIFF in 2018 after it had world premiered in the Cannes Film Festival’s Un Certain Regard section, a decade after her directorial debut Firaaq was unveiled for a global audience at 2008 edition of TIFF.
In 2019, Gitanjali Rao’s animated feature Bombay Rose played at TIFF. It was the second animated Indian film to make it to the festival after Shilpa Ranade’s Goopy Gawaiya Bagha Bajaiya, also a first feature, in 2013.
Needless to say, numerous male directors from India have had their first or second films premiered at TIFF. Notable among them are Murali Nair, whose hour long feature Marana Simhasanam (Throne of Death) arrived at TIFF after winning the Cannes Camera d’Or in 1999, Shivajee Chandrabhushan’s Frozen, (2007), Dev Benegal’s Split Wide Open (1999), Aamir Bashir’s Kashmiri film Harud (Autumn, 2010) and Sidharth Srinivasan’s PaironTalle (Soul of Sand, 2010).
Goan filmmaker Laxmikant Shetgaonkar’s debut Paltadacho Munis (The Man Beyond the Bridge), a part of TIFF in 2009, won the FIPRESCI Discovery Award. No other Indian film has bagged the prize to date.
VasanBala’s debut film Peddlers (2012) screened at TIFF as part of the festival’s City to City programme. The film had premiered in May 2012 in Cannes Critics’ Week. The director returned to TIFF in 2018 with Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota (The Man Who Feels No Pain), the first Indian film to make it to TIFF’s Midnight Madness.
Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota went on to win won the Midnight Madness People’s Choice Award, beating high-profile contenders such as David Gordon Green’s Halloween and Sam Levinson’s Assassination Nation.
Vishal Bhardwaj’s second film as director Maqbool, a reimagining of Macbeth, played in TIFF Discovery, while a film that he scripted, Meghna Gulzar’s Talvar, travelled to the festival in 2015. Irrfan Khan, a principal member of the cast of Talvar, was in attendance at the film’s world premiere.
In 2013, Irrfan had two films in the TIFF official selection – Anup Singh’s Qissa – The Tale of a Lonely Ghost and Ritesh Batra’s Cannes Critics Week entry The Lunchbox.
No discussion about Indian films at TIFF can be complete without a mention of Anurag Kashyap, who has been a regular at the festival since That Girl in Yellow Boots with Kalki Koechlin in the lead, made it to Toronto in 2010. In fact, one of India’s TIFF entries this year, Paka: Throne of Blood, is presented by Kashyap.
In 2011, a film produced by Kashyap, Michael, directed by Ribhu Dasgupta and starring Naseeruddin Shah in the titular role of a retired policeman, travelled to TIFF. Kashyap has since travelled to TIFF with Mukkabaaz (The Brawler, 2017) and Manmarziyaan (2018).
In 2012, TIFF chose Mumbai as the focus of its City to City programme. Nine titles, including the two parts of Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur, made up the selection. The other films screened were Anand Gandhi’s Ship of Theseus, Ashim Ahluwalia’s Miss Lovely, Manjeet Singh’s Mumbai Cha Raja, Hansal Mehta’s Shahid, Mohit Takalkar’s The Bright Day, Dibakar Banerjee’s Shanghai, besides Peddlers.
Mani Ratnam’s Iruvar (1997) and KannathilMuthamittal (A Peck on the Cheek, 2002) screened in TIFF’s Masters section, which has showcased several other Indian filmmakers over the years (Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Buddhadeb Dasgupta, Girish Kasaravalli and Rituparno Ghosh). But the only film by a first-time Tamil director to ever premiere at TIFF is M. Manikandan’s KakaaMuttai (Crow’s Egg, 2014). The film was co-produced by Dhanush and Vetrimaaran.
Another Tamil entry, Suseenthiran’s third film, Azhagarsamiyin Kutharai (Azhagarsamy’s Horse), was at TIFF in 2o11. Significantly, until Lijo Jose Pellissery’s Jallikattu and Geethu Mohandas’s second feature Moothon (The Elder One) premiered in Toronto in 2019, Adoor was the only Malayali filmmaker to be featured at TIFF. NithinLukose is the fourth filmmaker from Kerala to make it into the TIFF league.
TIFF’s industry platform welcomed 3,926 international professionals digitally this year, and remains a force for market activity with strong deals continuing to be made
“TIFF 2020 was a year we won’t soon forget,” said Cameron Bailey, TIFF Artistic Director and Co-Head. “Over the last 10 days, we have experienced community in the truest sense. The pandemic hit TIFF hard and we responded by going back to our original inspiration — to bring the very best in film to the broadest possible audience and transform the way people see the world through film. We heeded the urgent calls for greater representation of under-represented voices. And we watched as audiences embraced cinema’s ability to transport them through screens of all sizes by joining us online from all over this country — something that we would never have seen in previous years. TIFF delivered on its promise to provide Festival-goers and the industry with impactful programming. We are very proud of what the TIFF team accomplished.”
“The films and talent featured in this year’s Festival have left us inspired and moved,” said Joana Vicente, TIFF Executive Director and Co-Head. ”In a time where the very future of our beloved art form was in question due to cinema and production shutdowns and film festival cancellations, we have seen a tenacity of spirit. We’re heartened by the support and generosity from TIFF’s loyal sponsors, donors, members, and public audiences who encouraged us to deliver a reimagined Festival. We’re grateful for the industry delegates and press corps who championed TIFF’s decision to go ahead with the Festival. We are excited by the fact that 46% of the films screened this year were either directed, co-directed or created by women. We are inspired by the generosity of the industry, who gave their time to be present — virtually — in support of the Festival. And, finally, we are genuinely moved by the commitment of all TIFF’s stakeholders who helped us deliver the TIFF Tribute Awards to Canadian and international audiences.
TIFF’s industry platform welcomed 3,926 international professionals digitally this year, and remains a force for market activity with strong deals continuing to be made. The following films were sold at TIFF 2020: Another Round, Bruised, Good Joe Bell, MLK/FBI, Night of the Kings, One Night in Miami… , Pieces of a Woman, Shadow In The Cloud, Shiva Baby and Summer of 85, with many other sales continuing to be negotiated for films in and out of selection.
TIFF’s Industry Conference presented 35 digital sessions, including Master Classes with Viola Davis and Julius Tennon, Luca Guadagnino, Ted Hope, and dream hampton. The Dialogues stream featured conversations with directors Radha Blank, Stella Meghie, and Lulu Wang; writers Tracy Oliver, Cord Jefferson, and Leslye Headland; Primetime directors Derek Cianfrance and Lenny Abrahamson; and documentarians Sam Pollard and Shola Lynch.
Additionally, Perspectives sessions included “Narrative Sovereignty” with TIFF Tribute Award honouree Tracey Deer, and “From Micro to Macro: How Data Can Drive Anti-Racist Action in Film and Television.” Popular Microsessions encouraged conversations in “Reclaiming Our Time, Stories and Screens for Under-represented Canadian Creators” and “Harnessing Media to Make Positive Social Change,” to name just a few, and Spotlights featured countries such as Russia, India Israel, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom. The Conference also offered two special industry events: “Aaron Sorkin on The Trial of the Chicago 7 ”, and “Women on the Rise: 2020 TIFF Rising Stars, a panel presented by OLG.”
Talent development also remains at the forefront of TIFF’s commitment to the industry. The Filmmaker Lab provided emerging directors with an immersive learning experience. This year, 20 directors were selected to participate — 10 from Canada and 10 from around the world. The Lab, designed to be inspirational, brought filmmakers into contact with some of the finest creative talent in the world and was supported by Telefilm Canada, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the RBC Female Creator Initiative, Anne-Marie Canning, and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) with Filmmaker Lab Fellowships generously supported by Hudson’s Bay Foundation, Canada Goose and TIFF’s Share Her Journey campaign. For 2020 the HFPA selected three of our Filmmaker Lab participants for their three-week residency programme: Maha Al-Saati (Saudi Arabia), Álvaro Gago Díaz (Spain), and Jeff Wong (Canada).
In order to acknowledge the heroes working to keep people safe during the global health crisis, TIFF presented a special screening of Concrete Cowboy to 500 invited frontline workers on Monday, September 14. The screening was held on TIFF’s online film platform, Bell Digital Cinema, and sponsored by Fasken.
TIFF partnered with Toronto area hospitals Sinai Health, Toronto General, St. Michael’s, and St. Joseph’s (Unity); long-term care facilities Baycrest Hospital, Homes First, and South Riverdale Community Health Centre; and mental health care partners CAMH (PHP, ENCORE, Gifts of Light), CMHA, Real Canadian Superstore, and the TTC in order to facilitate outreach to 500 frontline workers in the Greater Toronto Area. Many of these partners work closely with TIFF year-round as part of our Mental Health Outreach programme, which supports individuals on their path to wellness by harnessing the unique power of film to unlock imagination and encourage curiosity.
For the first time ever, TIFF’s leading fundraiser, the TIFF Tribute Awards, was broadcast across Canada on CTV and ctv.ca, and streamed internationally to the rest of the world by Variety. During the one-hour broadcast, Academy Award–winning actress Kate Winslet and Academy Award–winning actor Sir Anthony Hopkins each received a TIFF Tribute Actor Award ; Nomadland director Chloé Zhao was awarded the TIFF Ebert Director Award; Academy Award–nominated filmmaker Mira Nair was honoured with the Jeff Skoll Award in Impact Media; Grammy Award– winning composer Terence Blanchard, whose work was featured in this year’s films Bruised and One Night In Miami… , received the TIFF Variety Artisan Award; and Beans director Tracey Deer was awarded the TIFF Emerging Talent Award.
National Film Development Corporation’s Film Bazaar has created a climate in which young filmmakers can dare to attempt transcending geographical boundaries.
As an incubator of new film projects in India and the rest of the subcontinent, the NFDC Film Bazar Goa, now in its 14th year, has rendered yeoman service by engendering an eco-system that allows originality to thrive while not losing sight of tried and tested ground rules that have proven beneficial. This year Film Bazaar will take place in virtual format.
It isn’t surprising, therefore, that many of the subcontinent’s most applauded and well-travelled contemporary films have taken shape – and wings – on this platform that has made mentoring and networking facilities available to them. Think Ritesh Batra’s The Lunchbox, Chaitanya Tamhane’s Court, Paobam Paban Kumar’s Loktak Lairembee and Ashim Ahluwalia’s Miss Lovely and you cannot help but recognise the assistance that these acclaimed Indian films have received at the Film Bazaar where buyers, sellers, festival programmers and producers converge in search of the next lot of support-worthy films.
It isn’t unusual for veteran screenwriters and directors (such as Govind Nihalani and Kamal Swaroop) to turn up in this dynamic marketplace with the intention of exploring co-production possibilities. The Bazaar is numerically dominated by younger filmmakers, a large percentage of them being first-timers.
Film Bazaar Goa is held on the sidelines of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI), but it is a hub of activity so intense that it often overshadows the main event. The greatest strength of the Bazaar is the youthful energy that propels it and the range and depth of international participation that the annual event commands. The result is a space where a free exchange of ideas and synergies take place and yields salutary results.
Filmmakers from across the subcontinent have benefitted immensely from the time and energy they have spent in Goa in reaching out to the world and pushing their ideas, films and screenplays. A majority of Indian films that have played in the leading international festivals – The Lunchbox, Miss Lovely, Titli, Chauthi Koot, Thithi, Killa and Ship of Theseus, to name only a few – have participated in Film Bazaar at crucial stages of their development.
Assamese director Bhaskar Hazarika’s Aamis (Ravening) was part of the Film Bazaar’s Co-Production Market in 2017. It returned to the Viewing Room – Film Bazaar Recommends in 2018 and went on to screen in the Tribeca Film Festival in 2019. Geetu Mohandas’ Moothon (The Elder One), which had its world premiere at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in September, opened in Indian multiplexes in the second week of November.
The film had started its journey in Film Bazaar’s Co-Production Market in 2016 (the title back then was Insha’allah). Moothon was in the Work-in-Progress (WIP) Lab the very next year alongside several other Indian films that got picked by international festivals – Ere Gowda’s Balekempa, Dominic Sangma’s Garo-language Ma’Ama and Ivan Ayr’s Soni.
Geetu Mohandas, an actress-turned-filmmaker also owes the rise of her debut film, Liar’s Dice, to Film Bazaar. The film was in the Co-Production Market in 2011. It premiered in the MAMI Mumbai Film Festival in 2013 before being screened in the Sundance Film Festival and 2014. Liar’s Dice was India’s official nomination that year for the Best Foreign Language film Oscar.
Besides a host of films that have come out of the country’s many filmmaking centres, projects conceived and developed in Mumbai have enjoyed a lion’s share of the spoils in Film Bazaar. The most notable among them is The Lunchbox. After its world premiere in Cannes Critics’ Week in 2013, it travelled to TIFF and Karlovy Vary.
The Lunchbox was distributed in more 50 countries – a record for an independent Indian film. Interestingly, the Film Bazaar has over the past decade and a bit mentored films that have subsequently taken on commercial trappings and gone on a different tangent. Sharat Katariya’s Dum Laga Ke Haisha, starring Ayushmann Khurrana and Bhumi Pednekar, which came to Goa as a work in progress, went mainstream with Yash Raj Films throwing its weight behind the film.
Films such as Shanghai and Nil BatteySannat, among others, have found similar theatrical outlets. In the case of Alankrita Shrivastava’s Lipstick Under My Burkha, Prakash Jha Productions was involved from the very outset. It was part of Film Bazaar’s WIP Lab in 2015. Completed in 2016 and released in 2017 after a protracted run-in with the censors, the film earned critical accolades and substantial commercial success.
Gitanjali Rao’s animation film Bombay Rose has had the longest gestation of all the titles that have emerged from the Film Bazaar. It was in the Screenwriters’ Lab in 2015, the Co-Production Market in 2016 and the WIP Lab in 2017. In 2019, it premiered at the 76th Venice Film Festival and then travelled to TIFF, Busan International Film Festival and BFI London Film Festival. It is now scheduled to screen in the Doha Film Institute’s Ajyal Film Festival and Marrakesh International Film Festival.
Not every film that participates in the Film Bazaar soars into the stratosphere. In fact, a chunk of the entries that have been listed on the Viewing Room roster run into dead-ends. But that does not diminish the significance of the exercise. Over the last decade, almost every film that is regarded as fine specimen of Indian indie cinema – among them Nagraj Manjule’s Fandry, Rahi Anil Barve’s Tumbbad, KanuBehl’s Titli, Shanker Raman’s Gurgaon, Pushpendra Singh’s Ashwatthama, Amit V Masurkar’s Newton, Devashish Makhija’s Bhonsle, Dipesh Jain’s In the Shadows and RidhamJanve’s The Gold-Laden Sheep & the Sacred Mountain – is a Film Bazaar product. The event helps these filmmakers not only to evolve into outstanding films but also to find a place on the radar of the spotters that are sent out by major festivals.
In a nation that produces more films than any other in the world, Film Bazaar has created a climate in which young filmmakers can dare to attempt transcending geographical boundaries. The Mumbai movie industry in particular is notoriously insular and cannot see beyond box office collections. But filmmakers working outside the pale of the mainstream are compelled to think of the wider world – the Film Bazaar fulfils that needs admirably, helping independent filmmakers engage with the world on an equal footing.
One of the biggest contributions of the Film Bazaar is manifested in the support it has extended to filmmakers from other countries of the subcontinent. Bangladesh’s Mostafa Sarwar Farooki, Rubaiyat Hossain and Golam Rabbany Biplob, Sri Lanka’s Prasanna Vithanage and Prasanna Jayakody, Pakistan’s Mehreen Jabbar and Sabiha Sumar, Nepal’s Deepak Rauniyar, Bhutan’s Khyentse Norbu and Afghanistan’s Siddiq Barmak have been part of the Film Bazaar over the years.
No wonder, for indie filmmakers in this part of the world, all roads lead to Goa come November.
‘In a time of disruption, professionals from around the world still look for occasions to come together, share innovative ideas, buy and sell content, and find creative ways to collectively forge ahead towards a safer, healthier,and inclusive future,’ says Geoff Macnaughton, Senior Director, Industry & Theatrical, giving details about this year’s TIFF Industry.
How has the TIFF Industry shaped this year?
We made an early decision to go fully digital for TIFF Industry. We could still engage with the global delegates. We could still engage with them versus working through travel restrictions and things like that. So, we have our online screening platform for press and industry screenings. We have a mix of what we’re calling this year, industry select titles, which are a collection of hot sale titles from around the world, that will be shown to buyers and anyone interested in acquiring content. And they will also have private screening. So similar to the Marche, there’ll be a handful of select private screenings, where people can watch them.
Tell us about the TIFF Industry Conference this year…
The five-day event, taking place September 10–14 during the Festival, will inspire and incite discussions for creative and business entrepreneurship. The Conference is an inspiring professional development opportunity for delegates to experience high-profile speakers, intimate conversations, provocative panel discussions, and user-friendly presentations designed to help build resourceful, innovative, and financially sustainable business practices.
We have a really strong conference lineup. We have around 34 different sessions. They are big names in the industry. We have some of the greatest speakers who are really changing the industry in a significant way. And then, we have these more targeted sessions called microsessions and national spotlights that will really focus on very specific subject matters that the audiences will find interesting.
This is a pivotal moment in recognizing the unsung heroes, whose work will pave the way to a more sustainable and equitable industry. This year’s Industry Conference will be a catalyst for change, examining new trends and championing diversity, racial equality, and gender parity. Talent Development continues to be a cornerstone of TIFF’s year-round work and we are exceptionally proud of the programme we’ve curated for the participants, and are excited to see them grow.
What are the tools deployed by TIFF Industry?
There are three kinds of tools that we are using for TIFF Press & Industry access. We are using Shift 72 for our screening platform. We are suing Cinando’s Match & Meet App as a networking tool for professional business meetings. Industry Talk is run by Paragon. Delegates will be able to navigate TIFF digital spaces through these tools.
Are there any physical events for TIFF Industry? Will there be live audience for Industry talks?
We don’t have any in-person physical industry events. Everything will be digital. And everyone across the world, will have multiple ways to see it. So for instance, if a conference conversation goes live digitally, noon Eastern Standard Time, then anyone outside of that timezone either can watch it within their own time zone and if their timezone is in off hours or when they’re sleeping, they can catch up on that conference talk the next morning.
In a time of disruption, professionals from around the world still look for occasions to come together, share innovative ideas, buy and sell content, and find creative ways to collectively forge ahead towards a safer, healthier,and inclusive future. This year, delegates can expect to find community, connection, inspiration, and talent — the foundation that will serve as the way forward. All Industry engagement and opportunities will be online, including business and talent development and its Industry Conference.
What has been the delegate registration feedback?
We expect that it would be the same numbers, with a similar per centage of participation in previous years. We are happy that a large number of industry delegates are engaging with us.
What about participation from National Pavilions and Agencies?
Instead of the TIFF Industry Centre this year, all national agencies have been given the option to have a spotlight on our digital platform. Essentially, it’s a curated page to highlight their content, their films, co-production initiatives, locales and services. We have 20 to 25 countries in the National Pavilion. They will have a footprint on our Industry platform. They can be engaged through Cinando’s Meet & Match App for meetings.
American filmmaker Spike Lee masterfully directs a transformative experience, as the show raises political injustice, revealing how audiences can come together during challenging times through the power of entertainment
The HBO, Spike Lee-directed filmed version of David Byrne’s Broadway theatrical concert “American Utopia” will be the opening night presentation of the 45th Toronto International Film Festival on September 10.
The film documents musical innovator and former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne’s powerful Broadway show, where he performs songs on stage and shares the spotlight with 11 musicians from around the world, including Toronto’s own Jacquelene Acevedo. Lee masterfully directs a transformative experience, as the show raises social and political issues, revealing how audiences can come together during challenging times through the power of entertainment.
TIFF continues to work closely with the Province of Ontario, the City of Toronto, and public health officials on the safe execution of the Festival, with its number-one priority being the health and well-being of both Festival filmgoers and the residents of the entire community. The presentation of TIFF’s traditional in-person film festival will be contingent on the Province’s reopening framework to ensure that Festival venues and workplace practices meet and exceed public health guidelines.
“Spike Lee has somehow always been exactly of his moment and ahead of his time,” said Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director and Co-Head, TIFF. “With David Byrne’s American Utopia, he brings Byrne’s classic songs and joyous stagecraft to the screen just when we need it. Spike’s latest joint is a call to connect with one another, to protest injustice, and, above all, to celebrate life.”
“This joyful film takes audiences on a musical journey about openness, optimism, and faith in humanity,” said Joana Vicente, Executive Director and Co-Head, TIFF. “This is especially poignant at a time of great uncertainty around the world. We’re eager to share the excitement of Opening Night with audiences.”
“HBO is enormously fortunate to be able to bring David Byrne’s American Utopia to the Toronto International Film Festival,” said Nina Rosenstein, Executive Vice President, HBO Programming. “David’s poignant vision paired with Spike’s impeccable direction is a visual journey. TIFF Festival attendees are certain to be captivated by this unique viewing experience during these demanding times.”
David Byrne’s American Utopia played at Broadway’s Hudson Theatre in New York City with plenty of fanfare from October 2019 to February 2020. The concert consisted of performances of songs from Byrne’s 2018 solo album of the same name, including popular Talking Heads favourites such as “Once in a Lifetime” and “Burning Down the House.” Janelle Monáe’s “Hell You Talmbout” is also featured in the set list and contributes to tackling the impactful subjects surrounding Black Americans who have been killed at the hands of law enforcement. The 11-person troupe performs choreography by Annie-B Parson and dances with their instruments throughout the stage, creating a high-energy performance. In Canada, David Byrne’s American Utopia will premiere on Bell Media’s Crave day-and-date with the US broadcast on HBO this fall.
Spike Lee makes short films, ads, documentaries and feature films. He is also a teacher. Mr. Lee is a tenured film professor at New York University Graduate Film School and artistic director too. David Byrne is a Scottish-born, American-raised songwriter and singer. He’s best known as the frontman of Talking Heads, who were active between 1975 and 1991 and were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2002. Byrne won an Oscar and a Grammy Award along with Ryuichi Sakamoto and Cong Su for their original score for Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor (1987).
Participant, River Road Entertainment and Warner Music Entertainment are executive producing and financing the project, with Participant as lead. The film is produced by David Byrne’s Todomundo and Lee’s Forty Acres and a Mule Filmworks production companies and executive produced by RadicalMedia. Byrne and Lee serve as producers. Participant’s Jeff Skoll, David Linde, and Diane Weyermann executive produce; along with Warner Music Group’s Len Blavatnik, David Bither, Charlie Cohen, and Kurt Deutsch; Bill Pohlad and Christa Zofcin Workman of River Road; and RadicalMedia’s Jon Kamen, Dave Sirulnick and Meredith Bennett. Kristin Caskey, Mike Isaacson and Patrick Catullo, who lead-produced the Broadway production, also serve as executive producers.
The 45th Toronto International Film Festival runs September 10–19, 2020.
The 45th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) will take place September 10–19 with socially distanced screenings (in physical and drive-ins), digital screenings, virtual red carpets, press conferences and industry talks.
TIFF, which usually discovers and shows the path to the best of award seasons including Oscars will have a lineup of 50 new feature films, five programmes of short films, as well as interactive talks, film cast reunions, and Q&As with cast and filmmakers.
The 45-year-old event is one of the largest publicly attended film festivals in the world and attracts more than 480,000 people every year.
Over the first five days, TIFF’s full slate of films will premiere as physical, socially distanced screenings. Festival-goers can also enjoy drive-ins and outdoor experiences that take them beyond the movie theatre. TIFF is working closely with the Province of Ontario, the City of Toronto, and public health officials on the safe execution of the Festival, with its number-one priority being the health and well-being of both Festival filmgoers and the residents of the entire community.
TIFF has unveiled the lineup of first eight films earlier this week to be screened at the festival. Ammonite, directed by Francis Lee (United Kingdom); Another Round, from director Thomas Vinterberg (Denmark); Bruised, the debut film from director Halle Berry (USA); Concrete Cowboys by filmmaker Ricky Staub (USA); Fauna, from director Nicolás Pereda (Mexico/Canada); Good Joe Bell by director Reinaldo Marcus Green (USA); Spring Blossom, the debut film by director Suzanne Lindon (France); and True Mothers by director Naomi Kawase (Japan) will all screen at this year’s Festival.
“The pandemic has hit TIFF hard, but we’ve responded by going back to our original inspiration — to bring the very best in film to the broadest possible audience,” said Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director and Co-Head, TIFF. “Our teams have had to rethink everything, and open our minds to new ideas. In countless video calls over the past three months we have rebuilt our Festival for 2020 drawing on our five decades of commitment to strong curation, support for filmmakers, and engagement with audiences. We have listened to this year’s urgent calls for greater representation of under-represented voices. You’ll see that this year at the Festival. And we have watched as audiences have embraced cinema’s ability to transport them through screens of all sizes. You’ll see that too. We’re excited to present thoughtful, high-impact programming this September that reflects our belief that there’s no stopping great storytelling.”
“TIFF has a proud history of programming award-winning films, expanding the conversation to include a multitude of voices, and in creating boundary-pushing initiatives for the industry,” said Joana Vicente, Executive Director and Co-Head, TIFF. “And this year we’ve added new innovations and ways to give back to the community. In doing so, we’re aiming to advance what a film festival is capable of delivering — for audiences and the film industry. We could never have anticipated the global seismic changes we would be facing in 2020. We tapped into the original spirit of the Festival from when it began in 1976 as our guiding light. The distilled edition of TIFF 2020 reflects a deep love of film, passion for our loyal audiences, commitment to the industry, and a whole lot of heart.”
For the first time in its history, TIFF will launch a digital platform for the Festival, affording new opportunities to connect with audiences beyond Toronto. TIFF has partnered with Shift72 to develop this industry-leading online platform. Over the 10 days, the platform will host digital screenings, as well as numerous talks and special events.
For 2020, TIFF will be welcoming TIFF Ambassadors, 50 celebrated filmmakers and actors invited to help TIFF deliver a strong Festival this year for the film industry. They will include Ava DuVernay, Darren Aronofsky, Taika Waititi, Anurag Kashyap, Nicole Kidman, Martin Scorsese, Nadine Labaki, Alfonso Cuarón, Tantoo Cardinal, Riz Ahmed, Rian Johnson, Jason Reitman, Isabelle Huppert, Claire Denis, Atom Egoyan, Priyanka Chopra, Viggo Mortensen, Zhang Ziyi, David Oyelowo, Lulu Wang, Rosamund Pike, Sarah Gadon, and Denis Villeneuve, to name a few.
Information regarding film selection, screening venues, ticket sales for both Members and the public, accreditation, and TIFF’s Industry Conference will be available in the coming weeks.
We are happy to present the latest issue of Pickle for the
delegates at the 44th Toronto International Film Festival and sales and
industry representatives. TIFF is unarguably the biggest festival and market in
For India, and now increasingly to South Asia, Toronto has
become a hub for discovery of talent. Toronto is a great place to be in
especially for young Indian filmmakers who are visibly changing the face of
Indian cinema. Being discovered at Toronto opens them a new path to their
cinematic techniques and excellence. Toronto leads the global film festival
outfits to bring into limelight excellence and best minds in Indian cinema.
This year four Indian films are being screened at TIFF,
including The Sky is Pink directed by Shonali Bose (Galas 2019), Moothon (The
Elder One) directed by Geetu Mohandas (Special Presentations 2019), Jallikattu
directed by Lijo Jose Pellissery (Contemporary World Cinema) and Bombay Rose
directed by Gitanjali Rao (Contemporary World Cinema).
The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Government
of India, in collaboration with
Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has set up India Stand at the
Industry Centre which will provide a platform to popularize Indian cinema in
the overseas market and facilitate new business opportunities. The objective is
to promote cinemas of India, film locales and services and 50th edition of
International Film Festival of India in Goa (November 20-28, 2019). A breakfast
session with global producers is slated for September 9.
With this edition, we have changed the masthead of Pickle.
It is much leaner with alphabets following smooth lines. The idea is to give
ourselves a refreshing brand new look, underscoring our moto to embrace change
for the better. We look forward to your views and suggestions on the new mast
created by Shruti Remalli.
The Indian media ecosystem is changing fast. The Over-the-
Top (OTT) space is gaining attraction in the Indian market with the presence of
Hotstar, Voot, ErosNow, ZEE5, Sony Liv, ALT Balaji, Sun Nxt, Amazon Prime and
Netflix, which are expanding and growing the market in India.
Pickle’s October print issue will focus and reach out to delegates at MIP Junior and MIPCOM — the world’s biggest audiovisual market at Cannes, France. Feel free to email your thoughts and suggestions.
The 44th Toronto International Film Festival will, like the editions that have gone before, will see the emergence of a clutch of Oscar favourites. The focus of observers will be not only on the film that wrests the festival’s coveted Audience Choice Award, but also on a host of other buzz-generating titles By Saibal Chatterjee
World cinema greats like Pedro Almodovar (with the
autobiographical Pain and Glory, which fetched Antonio Banderas the best actor
award in Cannes), Bong Joon Ho (whose Parasite bagged the Palme d’Or this year)
and Hirokazu Kore-eda’s The Truth (follow-up to the 2018 Palme d’Or-winning
Shoplifters) in the TIFF program seeking to launch their Oscar bids.Which are
the other TIFF films that have the power to capture attention in the awards
Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story, starring Scarlett
Johansson and Adam Driver, isn’t premiering in TIFF. The Netflix film arrives
in Toronto after competing in Venice. The indie director’s new drama, which
delves into a once-happy marriage falling apart under the weight of the
clashing individual compulsions of the partners, promises to be one of the
buzziest titles at the festival. Marriage Story, ironically focused on a
divorce, also has notable performances from Laura Dern, Alan Alda and Ray Liotta
Both Driver and Johansson have another title each in the TIFF 2019 programme –
the former is in The Report, the latter in Jojo Rabbit. Both films are expected
to be talked about in the lead-up to the Oscars.
film that is most certainly up for Oscar glory is the Tom Hanks starrer A
Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood, directed by Marielle Heller. While Hanks is
one of Hollywood’s most beloved stars, Heller’s Can You Ever Forgive Me? earned
three Oscar nominations earlier this year, including two in acting categories
(for Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant.
A Beautiful Day…, one of over one hundred world premieres in this year’s TIFF
line-up, Hanks plays children’s television host Fred Rogers who becomes the
subject of a profile for a cynical, reluctant New York journalist (Matthew
TV personality’s wisdom and generosity transforms the writer who starts out
with the intention of rustling up a superficial writeup. But the encounter
turns out to be much more than that. The film is based on Tom Junod’s Esquire
article about his experiences with Rogers.
Phillips’ Joker, a comic book movie with a difference, narrates the origin
story of the arch-villain. The eponymous character is played with customary vim
and vigour by Joaquin Phoenix. While the lead performance will surely be on the
Academy’s radar leading up to Oscar night in 2020, the film is in with a chance
to become the second comic book movie (after Black Panther) to earn a Best
This searing portrait of the quintessential bad guy
is set in early 1980s crime-infested Gotham City. The cast of Joker includes
Robert De Niro as a talk show host who is idolised by Arthur Fleck, a hard-up
clown who aspires to be a successful stand-up comic and, thwarted in more ways
than he can countenance, lets the demon inside him wrest control of his being
and turn him into a crazed killer.
We will also be keeping an eye on the flight of The
Goldfinch, the John Crowley film that Warner Bros. will launch at TIFF.
Starring Nicole Kidman and Ansel Elgort, the film adapts a Pulitzer
Prize-winning novel by Donna Tartt about a layered coming-of-age crime story
woven around a young man who loses his mother in an art museum bombing.
Fox Searchlight Pictures, the studio that won the 2017
Best Picture Oscar for The Shape of Water, will bet big this year with Taika
Waititi’s anti-hate satire Jojo Rabbit, another buzzy TIFF world premiere.
The inventive film centres on a German boy who, on
discovering a Jewish girl hiding in his home, consults his imaginary best
friend Adolf Hitler (played by Waititi himself).
Soderbergh’s The Laundromat, starring Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman and Antonio
Banderas, is a sharp dramatization of the Panama Paper leaks, which revealed
the unsavoury world of global finance. Adapted from an investigative
journalist’s Pulitzer Prize-winning reportage, the film has been scripted by
Scott Z. Burns, who also has his own directorial project, The Report, in TIFF.
Report, a powerful expose of CIA’s torture tactics, stars Adam Driver as an
investigator deployed by the US Senate to probe the country’s use of
third-degree methods post-9/11.
The cast includes Annette Bening, who could well be in Best
Supporting Actress Oscar contention for her part in a political thriller that
tracks one man’s dogged, half-decade pursuit of answers to many questions
triggered by CIA’s unbridled use of torture as a tool of investigation.
Armando Iannucci’s The Personal History of David Copperfield, which world premieres at TIFF, could make amends for the total snub that the Scottish director’s most recent film, The Death of Stalin, received from the Academy. The new film is bolstered by a cast of proven actors – Dev Patel plays David Copperfield and is supported by Tilda Swinton, Ben
Whishaw and Hugh Laurie. Iannucci imparts a decidedly contemporary sensibility
to the Charles Dickens 19th century classic.
TIFF hosts the North American premiere of Benedict Andrews’ Seberg, the biopic of French nouvelle vague icon Jean Seberg. The titular role is played by Kristen Stewart in a drama in which the FBI turns the spotlight on the actor owing to her growing friendship with civil rights activist Hakim Jamal. Among the less fancied titles that might acquire a higher profile by the end of the festival is Cory Finley’s Bad Education, starring Hugh Jackman, Allison Janney and Ray Romano. It is based on a true story of a financial crime in the US school system.
This film, as much a character study as a dramatized account of a massive coverup of a scandal. Kasi Lemmons’ Harriet, featuring Tonywinning Broadway
actor Cynthia Erivo, is another film that has the potential to attract wide awards season attention. It
is the rousing biopic of abolitionist Harriet Tubman, who escaped slavery and led other to
freedom through a network of safehouses known as the Underground Railroad.
Assamese writer-director Bhaskar Hazarika is a cinematic fabulist whose sensibility is anything but ordinary. His two films, Kothanodi (River of Fables) and Aamis (Ravening), foray into zones of consciousness that border on the bizarre (in the case of the former) and the macabre (in the latter) even as they remain unwaveringly humanistic.
Kothanodi drew upon a compendium of Assamese folk tales to narrate four stories blending the fabulous and the fantastic to throw light on the human condition. The film had its world premiere in Busan. Aamis, the story of a young man drawn towards an older woman via their love for meats of all kinds – a forbidden relationship that triggers a chain of acts of self-destruction. The Aamis premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival.
Only two narrative features old, Gurvinder Singh, a filmmaker with a distinctive approach to the medium, is already close to achieving the status of a master. His first film, Anhe Ghore Da Daan (Alms for a Blind Horse, 2011), premiered in Venice. His second, Chauthi Koot (The Fourth Direction), made it to the Cannes Film Festival’s Un Certain Regard competition.
The two Punjabi-language films, adapted from literature, were richly textured, quietly engaging portraits of common people dealing with socio-political and historical forces beyond their control. The Mani Kaul protégé has been running a café in the tiny town of Bir, Himachal Pradesh for several years. His next film, Khanaur (Bitter Chestnut), which is expected to premiere in one of the major festivals later this year, is a personal “insider’s take” on the lives of the ordinary folks of a place in flux owing to its transformation into a paragliding hub.
Going Beyond Stories
Half a decade is all that the 42-year-old lawyer-turned-filmmaker has taken to carve a niche for himself. Sanal Kumar Sasidharan’s combative films, which have fetched him numerous international and state awards since his first feature, the crowd-funded Oralpokkam (Six Feet High, 2014), go beyond mere stories. They engage at a very deep level with contemporary social and political issues.
Chola, his fifth feature and the sole Indian film in the official line up of the 76th Venice International Film Festival, is no different. It expands upon his concern with individuals dealing with collective attitudes and prejudices in a complex society. It, however, represents a break from his previous four films. Chola is two hours long – the longest of Sasidharan’s films thus far – and features mainstream Malayalam cinema stars, Nimisha Sajayan and Joju George, both of whom picked up acting prizes in the 2019 Kerala State Film Awards. Sasidharan’s S Durga won the Hivos Tiger Award at the International Film Festival of Rotterdam in 2017.
Actress-filmmaker Konkona Sen Sharma has yet to chalk out plans for her sophomore directorial outing, she is one talent capable of springing surprises both behind and in front of the camera. Her maiden film, A Death in the Gunj, as fine a film as any Indian first-timer has ever made, premiered in TIFF in 2016.
One of her earliest films as an actor, Shonali Bose’s Amu, in which she played the titular role, also screened in Toronto. She is currently prepping for a web series that she is slated to direct on the life and times of Arati Das, who was known as Kolkata’s queen of cabaret in her heydays. The show will be set against the social and political backdrop of 1960s and 1970s Bengal. The series is expected to go on the floors early next year. That rules out the likelihood of Sen Sharma delivering a new big screen film in 2020. She is nonetheless one Indian filmmaker whose progress as a director will be followed with keen interest.
Strong Cinematic Sense
The world is likely to soon hear a great deal more of the maverick Meghalaya filmmaker Pradip Kurbah. A two-time National Award-winner, he is all set to catapult his native language, Khasi, on to the global cinema stage. His third narrative feature, Iewduh, set in the entrails of the largest market in the northeastern hill state and filmed with sync sound, is due to emerge in a major international festival soon. Kurbah’s first two films, RI: Homeland of Uncertainty and Onaatah: Daughter of the Earth, fetched him unstinted awards and accolades.
Amrit Pritam, who works closely with Oscar-winner ResulPookutty, is the sound designer of the film. A director rooted in his milieu and endowed with a strong cinematic sense, he has already earned a fan following in his home state and other parts of India. Iewduh, which promises to be the next big leap in his career, could be the beginning of a new chapter.
An alumnus of the Kolkata-based Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute, Dominic Sangma, who makes films in the Garo language, is another Meghalaya filmmaker who has begun to make waves worldwide. His debut feature, Ma’ama (Moan), a deeply personal film that probes loss and longing from the standpoint of an old man – the director’s father – grieving for his long-deceased wife, instantly marked him out as a storyteller of exceptional depth.
Ma’ama was the only Indian film to earn a slot in the International Competition of the 2018 Jio MAMI Film Festival. Sangma’s second film, Rapture, was one of ten projects from across the world selected for mentoring by filmmaker Mira Nair in the La Fabrique Cinemaprogramme hosted by InstitutFrancais as a part of the 2019 Cannes Film Festival.
A Tamil filmmaker waiting to be discovered by the world, Thiagarajan Kumararaja’s two films – the neo-noir gangster film Aaranya Kaandam (2011) and the multi-plot drama Super Deluxe (2019) – have established him as one of the most strikingly voices working in Chennai today.
Aaranya Kaandam was in the making for several years, ran into trouble with India’s censor board and eventually under performed at the box office. But the film’s appeal has grown steadily – it now enjoys cult status. Kumararaja’s second film, Super Deluxe, proved beyond doubt that here was a fearless filmmaker capable of weaving pure magic with ideas, plot twists and images. The film orchestrates its multiple strands with awe-inspiring skill and an unfailing sense of drama that draws its strength from being both provocative and entertaining.