A PUSH FOR DIVERSITY
Toronto International Film Festival
THE LINE-UP AT THIS YEAR’S TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL INCLUDES SOME EXCITING TITLES FROM DEBUT DIRECTORS AS WELL AS AN INCREASED NUMBER OF MOVIES BY FEMALE FILMMAKERS
Among the most anticipated titles assembled for the 43rd Toronto International Film Festival (Sept.6 to 16), which is stepping up a continuing push for diversity, are several that home in on severely troubled families, probably reflecting, in tangential terms, the struggles of a crisis-ridden world at large.
Opening with the world premiere of Outlaw King, a flashy, action-packed period epic that is scheduled to launch globally on Netflix on Nov.9, the festival will head into the fraught lives of individuals and groups waging intense societal and familial battles.
Outlaw King, directed by David Mackenzie, brings to the screen the stirring story of the rise of 14th century Scottish hero Robert the Bruce, who led a band of outlaws in a fight to free his nation from the control of the English crown. The film reunites the director with his Hell or High Water actor Chris Pine.
Outlaw King also stars Florence Pugh, Billy Howle and Aaron TaylorJohnson, who is in another major film world premiering in TIFF this year —
A Million Little Pieces, helmed by his spouse and 50 Shades of Grey director Sam Taylor-johnson.
A Million Little Pieces, co-starring Billy Bob Thornton and Odessa
Young, is an adaptation of James
Frey’s controversial 2003 bestseller about a drug addict and alcoholic who checks into a rehab clinic and seeks redemption in the company of a one-time crime boss and a former sex
Struggling youngsters are at the centre of several other TIFF 2018 titles, including Peter Hedges’ Ben Is Back, which stars the director ’s Oscar-nominated actorson Lucas Hedges as a prodigal who returns home, forcing his mother, played by Julia Roberts, to strain every sinew in her body to prevent her family from going off the rails.
Hedges features in two other films in the festival — actor Jonah Hill’s directorial debut Mid90s and Australian actor Joel Edgerton’s second feature as director, Boy Erased. Both films home in on families grappling with serious issues of adjustment and acceptance.
Mid90s is a comingof-age drama about a 13-year-old boy in 1990s Los Angeles contending with a troubled home life aggravated by an older brother who is emotionally and physically abusive. Hedges plays the role of the elder sibling alongside the film’s lead, child actor Sunny Suljic.
In Boy Erased, Hedges is cast as the young son of a Baptist pastor who is forced by his parents into a gay-conversion program. Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe star as the parents.
TIFF also hosts the world premiere of Beautiful Boy, Belgian director Felix van Groeningen’s first English-language film. Based on the memoirs of a father and a son, David and Nic Sheff, the plot hinges on a reallife family coping with addiction over many years.
Thirty-four percent of the films in TIFF’S 2018 selection have been
made by women and 136 of the 343 films (255 features and 88 shorts) in the program revolve around strong female leads. So it is no surprise that TIFF’S spread of cinematic tales of family woes and life-affirming personal quests aren’t only about boys and men.
Jake Scott’s American Woman, starring Sienna Miller, Christina Hendricks and Aaron Paul, tells a decadespanning story of a woman whose teenage daughter disappears, leaving her alone to raise her infant grandson. In Blind Spot, sought-after Swedish actress Tuva Novotny’s directorial debut described as “an uncompromising confrontation with family tragedy and heartbreak,” a mother struggles to grasp the extent and implications of her daughter’s crisis.
Paul Dano’s Wildlife, another film by an actor-turned-director, adapts a Richard Ford novel of the same title about a boy who watches his parents drift apart when the family moves to Montana and his mother falls in love with another man. The film has Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal in starring roles.
Irish author, filmmaker and Oscarnominated screenwriter Neil Jordan’s world premiering Greta is a psychological thriller about a young New York woman (Chloe Grace Moretz) who develops a bond with a lonely, mysterious widow (Isabelle Huppert). In his introduction to the film, TIFF CEO and director Piers Handling describes the film as “a nerve-rattling thriller in which loneliness breeds malice.” He writes: “Featuring an especially captivating turn from the ever-versatile Isabelle Huppert, Greta exudes Jordan’s singular capacity for ushering gothic thrills into a contemporary context.”
Apart from actors making their debuts as directors (most notably, Bradley Cooper with the umpteenth update of A Star Is Born, in which he himself stars opposite Lady Gaga), a couple of Gallic women filmmakers — Claire Denis and Melanie Laurent — are bringing their first Englishlanguage films to TIFF.
Denis’ “provocative sci-fi drama” High
Life receives a Gala screening. It stars Robert Pattinson, Juliet Binoche, Mia Goth and Andre Benjamin as a group of criminals sent into deep space.
Their destination is the black hole that is closest to Earth.
This genre represents uncharted territory for the acclaimed French director who is known and feted the world over for her fierce spirit of creative adventure.
Laurent’s Galveston, a screen adaptation by HBO’S True Detective creator Nic Pizzolatto of his own bestseller, is about a wounded hitman (Ben Foster) on the run with a distressed young prostitute (Elle Fanning) and her kid sister. Laurent is best known in North America for her acting roles in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds and the American rom-com Beginners.
Numerous other TIFF 2018 titles would be on everybody’s must watch list, not the least among which is Britishnigerian actor Adewale Akinnouye-agbaje’s maiden directorial venture Farming. The semi-autobiographical film pieces together the story of a London-born Nigerian child who is voluntarily sent to a white working-class home under a 1960s social experiment, plunging him into a difficult-to-surmount identity crisis.
The media spotlight will also be on Damien Chazelle’s First Man, which has Ryan Gosling as astronaut Neil Armstrong; Wash Westmoreland’s Colette, a period drama starring Keira Knightley; Michael Winterbottom’s The Wedding Guest, a thriller in which Dev Patel stars as a mysterious British man on a journey across Pakistan and India; Chilean director Sebastian Lelio’s Gloria Bell, an English-language remake of his own film Gloria starring Julian Moore as a middle-aged divorcee who seeks to spice up her life on the dance floor; and Green Book, in which Peter Farrelly moves away from his staple of comedies to present a race relations drama about a working-class Italian-american bouncer who serves as chauffer to a black classical pianist on a concert tour across the American South in the early 1960s.
Two directors who have had enormous success with their previous films — Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) and Steve Mcqueen (12 Years a Slave) — will be in Toronto with their new features. Jenkins’ If Beale Street Could Talk adapts James Baldwin’s novel about a woman fighting to free her falsely accused husband from prison before the birth of their child. Mcqueen’s Widows is about four women whose criminal husbands are killed.
The festival will close on Sept.16 with the announcement of its awards — including those for the fourth year of its competitive Platform line-up of 12 artistic mould-breaking films, four of them by women directors — and the final night Gala screening of
Justin Kelly’s Jeremiah Terminator Leroy, which tells the true story of a young woman (Kristen Stewart), who spends years impersonating a celebrated literary persona conjured up her sister-in-law (Laura Dern).
Jeremiah Terminator Leroy
A Star Is Born