A PUSH FOR DI­VER­SITY

Toronto In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val

The Gulf Today - Panorama - - FRONT PAGE - By Saibal Chat­ter­jee

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

worker.

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).

Co­lette

Jeremiah Ter­mi­na­tor Leroy

Beau­ti­ful Boy

A Star Is Born

Wid­ows

Greta

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