The 43rd annual edition of the Toronto International Film Festival opens in just under a month, and already the buzz is building in anticipation of this year’s stellar line-up spotlighting several firsts. Noteworthy is the number of foreign language directors presenting their inaugural films in English—Mélanie Laurent’s gala screening of Galveston being one—and the presence of actors making their debuts as filmmakers—among them, Bradley Cooper whose remake of A Star is Born stars Lady Gaga in her first feature film performance. TIFF is often where Oscar discoveries are made. Here are five more films sure to be noticed.
High Life – Claire Denis, the French auteur who gained widespread recognition 30 years ago for the sensual Chocolat, has finally made her first English-language film. High Life stars Juliette Binoche, André Benjamin (better know as André 3000), Mia Goth, and Robert Pattinson. In this sci-fi thriller, a group of criminals who board what they think is a spaceship mission to an intergalactic black hole, find themselves the subjects of human reproductive experimentation. No romance here. Behind-the-scenes talents include Icelandic-Danish artist Olafur Eliasson, who designed the spacecraft and astrophysicist Aurélien Barrau, who served as the film’s science advisor. Earlier this year, Vanity Fair published still images of the film, whetting appetites and showing that—scary subject matter aside—it is a visually stunning work of art.
If Beale Street Could Talk – For his follow-up to Moonlight, the 2017 Oscar winner for Best Picture, Barry Jenkins has adapted James Baldwin’s acclaimed 1974 novel for the big screen. The gut-wrenching film follows a young Harlem couple ripped apart by a false rape charge and subsequent imprisonment, set to an original score by Nicholas Britell, Jenkins’ collaborator on Moonlight. Newcomer Kiki Layne and Canadian actor Stephan James, who portrayed sprinter Jesse Owens in the 2016 film, Race, shine in the lead roles. Brad Pitt was the executive producer of this project, which will have its world premiere at TIFF. Expect big things from this one.
The Death and Life of John F. Donovan – Kathy Bates, Kit Harington, Thandie Newton, Natalie Portman, Susan Sarandon, Ben Schnetzer, and Jacob Tremblay star in Quebecois director Xavier Dolan’s eagerly awaited English-language debut about a young man’s recollection of his childhood correspondence with an American television star, and the impact their letters had on both their lives. The film (which is making its world premiere at TIFF) attracted perhaps the wrong type of attention earlier this year when Dolan, now with six films under his belt, announced on Instagram that he was cutting Jessica Chastain (through no fault of her own) after deeming her scenes incompatible with the narrative—a costly decision underscoring just how committed the 29-year-old filmmaker is to providing a believable storyline.
First Man – Damien Chazelle’s first film since winning the Best Director Academy Award for La La Land in 2016 reunites him with the film’s star Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong in this telling of the real-life story of the American astronaut and his history-making lunar landing. Netflix’s The Crown’s Claire Foy plays Armstrong’s wife, Janet, and Corey Stoll plays Buzz Aldrin, Armstrong’s fellow moon walker. While based on James R. Hansen’s official 2005 biography of Armstrong, the script, co-written by Josh Singer (The Post and Spotlight) and Nicole Perlman (Guardians of the Galaxy), doesn’t let the facts get in the way of good dramatic story. Action packed moments send the imagination soaring.
Sharkwater Extinction – At just 37 years of age, Toronto documentary filmmaker Rob Stewart died scuba diving of the coast of Florida in 2017 while making this riveting sequel to Sharkwater, his award-winning 2006 exposé of the illegal multi-billion-dollar international shark fin industry and the political muscle supporting it. Stewart devoted his life to the cause of saving the world’s most feared sea creatures, up to 150 million of which are butchered each year for shark fin soup, pet food, and even cosmetics. The film was compiled posthumously by award-winning editor Nick Hector from footage and notes made by Stewart before his untimely death. To honour Stewart, and ensure his legacy, TIFF is staging a special world premiere screening and tribute event dedicated to the late conservationist.
TIFF 2018 runs from September 6-16, visit the festival website for showtimes and tickets.
Photos courtesy of the Toronto International Film Festival.
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