Now in its 39th year, the Toronto International Film Festival has grown from humble beginnings to become one of the leading public film festivals in the world. The renowned festival attracts the kind of star power once reserved exclusively for south of the border. This year TIFF will screen more than 300 films from over 60 countries during its 10-day run from Sept. 4-14.
In all, 285 features and 108 shorts will be shown and 143 of the features will be world premieres. Starting this year, the world and North American premieres will be shown only during the first four days of the festival.
With such a huge lineup, the films are divided into genres to help theatregoers find the kinds of movies they like and then set a schedule so they can view their favourites.
Filmmakers rely on the exposure afforded by screenings at TIFF, as acceptance at the festival goes a long way in establishing their credibility. They also get to see the reactions to their works from knowledgeable and responsive audiences at the screenings.
The Canadian movie industry has come into its own over the last decade and there are some outstanding films worth seeing. The complete list can be seen on TIFF’s website.
Some good Canadian bets include David Cronenberg’s “Maps to the Stars,” a Hollywood satire about the more malicious aspects of show business. When it was shown at Cannes earlier this year, Julianne Moore won best actress. It also stars John Cusack and Robert Pattinson.
“The Good Lie” from director Phillipe Falardeau and starring Reese Witherspoon is the story of an American who gets more than she bargained for when three Sudanese survivors of a civil war move into her home. This is one of two based-on-fact films starring Witherspoon at TIFF.
The second is “Wild” by Jean-Marc Vallée, which tells the story of a woman’s 1600-km solo trek on the famed Pacific Crest Trail. It is based on a best-selling memoir by Cheryl Stayed.
Denys Arcand’s “An Eye for Beauty” details the consequences of an affair that shakes up a married couple’s life.
“Corbo” is another Canadian content film set in 1960s Quebec. Director Mathieu Denis tells the story of a teen recruited into the FLQ and the consequences of the angry political events of the time.
Quebecois director Xavier Dolan’s “Mommy” won the jury prize at this year’s Cannes. It is the continuation of a mother and son relationship first chronicled in “I Killed My Mother,” which went mostly unnoticed by critics and moviegoers.
Shot in Vancouver, “Preggoland” is director Jacob Tierney’s comedy-drama about a woman who fakes a pregnancy to fit in with her friends, all of whom are either parents or pregnant. It stars Laura Harris as Ruth and James Caan as her father.
The psychological thriller “Still” by Canadian up-and-coming director Slater Jewell-Kemker, who dropped out of high school to pursue a filmmaking career, is a 16-minute short that focuses on a young woman who encounters multiples of herself after her abusive boyfriend leaves her in the woods.
Prizes for the best Canadian films include best Canadian feature ($30,000 prize), best Canadian first feature ($15,000) and best Canadian short ($10,000).
Some of the big-name audience faves who will walk the red carpet at this year’s festival include Bill Murray, Kate Winslet, Reese Witherspoon, Denzel Washington, Diane Keaton, Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall, Jennifer Aniston, Steve Carell, Al Pacino, Channing Tatum, Tina Fey, Dustin Hoffman, Ben Stiller, Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Julianne Moore, Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Octavia Spencer, John Travolta, and Adam Sandler.
Sept. 5 has been designated Bill Murray Day and three of his previous comedy hits will be shown for free: “Stripes,” “Groundhog Day,” and “Ghostbusters.” Those attending all three could win a ticket to the world premiere of “St. Vincent,” Murray’s newest flick.
Festival opener is “The Judge,” which stars Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall. It was produced by Susan Downey (Downey’s wife) and directed by David Dobkin.
Alan Rickman’s “A Little Chaos,” starring Rickman and Kate Winslet, will be the closing offering. It promises a sweet ending to the groaning board of movies that is TIFF.