By: Daniel Reynolds
Have you made your picks for the 2016’s Toronto International Film Festival yet? I hope so. As per usual, there are hundreds of wondrous options available, more movies than we could ever reasonably hope to quantify. Is it too much? No, I say — it’s part of the fun.
Now, we still have to wait for single tickets to officially go on sale for TIFF 16. The fest organizers have cannily scheduled their release for Sunday on a long weekend. (Maybe this makes it easier to buy the ones you want? Yes, let’s go with that.) Still, that won’t stop me from reflecting on the picks I’ve made so far. The summer may be coming to an end, but TIFF time is, to me, the best time.
So, let’s get down to it. What follows are the details of and commentary on my first ten selections for TIFF 16, my twelfth (!) year in attendance.
Thursday, Sept. 8, 5:3o pm – Toni Erdmann – Ryerson Theatre
The buzz surrounding Maren Ade’s latest work has been growing since its debut at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year. I profess to know little about her previous work, and despite an earlier glimpse of a trailer, have decided to go into this one with as fresh and open a mind as possible. What I know: It’s apparently an uproariously funny story involving a buttoned-up woman and her prankster father; and it’s apparently so well-made it has already been slotted into a spot on the BBC’s list of top 100 films of the century so far. (At no. 100, but still.) Not bad for a film that has existed for about six months.
Saturday, Sept. 10, 6:15 pm – Just Not Married – Isabel Bader Theatre
The first of two picks from TIFF’s City to City program, the Nigerian film Just Not Married excites me from the premise alone. It’s a caper/heist movie based around a conceit so brilliant I wish I had thought of it in my own writing. In director Uduak-Obong Patrick’s film, the main character Duke (Stan Nze) figures to solve his perpetual brokeness by stealing cars with his pals, immediately dressing them up as a newlywed’s honeymoon vehicle, and then making an escape. I have no idea where else this film will go, or what quality of filmmaking to expect (this is Patrick’s first feature), but I’m all in on that concept.
Sunday, Sept. 11, 1:30 pm – The Bleeder – Winter Garden Theatre
I’m pulling for Philippe Falardeau. While his film Monsieur Lazhar was not his first, it did announce him as a major (Canadian) talent. I love that film. Since then Falardeau has toggled between Hollywood (The Good Lie) and Quebec (My Internship in Canada) to a mostly indifferent response. So now we arrive at The Bleeder. It’s the story of Chuck Wepner, loose inspiration for one of the most famous cinematic figures of all time: Rocky Balboa. In the hands of Falardeau, I’m hoping for an emotive, sensitive and insightful piece of work. That Wepner is played by Liev Schreiber, one of the more fascinating and underrated actors currently working, just solidifies my belief it’ll deliver a knockout blow.
Sunday, Sept. 11, 4:30 pm – After the Storm – Isabel Bader Theatre
As a full-blown Hirokazu Koreeda addict, there was little chance I could let his latest film pass me by. And, interestingly enough, after two low-key affairs (Like Father, Like Son and Our Little Sister), Koreeda looks to be driving out into slightly darker waters in After the Storm. The central figure, played by mainstay Hiroshi Abe, is a divorced (and failed) writer who has apparently tried his hand at being a detective and likes to gamble. This is the guy we’re meant to root for as he tries to reconnect with his family. All of this is a far cry from the gentle tones of his last two films. And that’s without mentioning the role a typhoon looks to play.
Monday, Sept. 12, 9:45 pm – The Dreamed Path – Bell Lightbox 3
Based on a recommendation, Angela Schanelec’s latest gets the nod for Monday. This is where TIFF magic can really take off: heading into a (relatively) unheralded film you know little about — in terms of both what’s in front and behind the camera — and hoping for the best. The Dreamed Path regards two different relationships split by 30 years, one a young couple on vacation in Greece in the 80s, the other a marriage dissolving in modern day Germany. How this pays off remains a mystery for now; we can just open our eyes and wait to see.
Tuesday, Sept. 13, 9:00 pm – Yourself and Yours – Bell Lightbox 1
In retrospect, I feel it was probably a mistake to not see Right Now, Wrong Then at TIFF last year. It made my shortlist but ultimately I declined on Korean director’s Song-soo Hong most recent work. That changes this year with Yourself and Yours, my first Hong experience. Billed as a take on Luis Bunuel’s That Obscure Object of Desire — which, I mean, OK — the film concerns a painter named Young-soo who loses track of his girlfriend only to find himself surrounded by women with a similar likeness, working overtime to drive him mad. It’s also apparently “an endlessly playful exploration of romantic obsession and insecurity” — which, I mean, OK.
Wednesday, Sept. 14, 8:45 pm – Okafor’s Law – Scotiabank 4
My friend (and sometime Same Page contributor Nick Fernandes) who I’ll be seeing a few films with this year, was quick to point out that the titular Okafor here is not in fact former professional basketball player Emeka. This information did not deter my selection of the film. What “Okafor” is remains unclear at the moment, though this film from Nigerian director Omoni Oboli (the second I’ll be seeing from the City to City program) focuses on a man known to his friends as Terminator. He’s called this because he’s something of a player, and he’s been challenged by his friends to re-seduce three women from his past. This sounds more interesting than Emeka, right? Rom-coms from North America are usually lame, but give me something new from Lagos, and I’m there.
Friday, Sept. 16, 6:45 pm – Barakah Meets Barakah – Elgin Theatre
Speaking of which, can I interest you in the first rom-com to come out of Saudi Arabia? Sure, why not. Barakah Meets Barakah, directed by first timer Mahmoud Sabbagh, tells the story of a relationship between a quiet civil servant and a vocal Instagram star. Both dream of a grander life, and both know that dating in as repressive a country as Saudi Arabia is tough. Like Okafor’s Law, to be invited to look in a window such as this, a culture, and a romance story, largely unseen in western cinemas, is a treat.
Saturday, Sept. 17, 12:00 pm – Certain Women – Scotiabank 3
We’re go for the four-in-a-row Kelly Reichardt TIFF streak here and it almost didn’t happen. Yes, I had originally slotted in La La Land, which is currently blowing up, for the previous night. But, due to demand, was rebuffed in my quest for a ticket. This is some consolation prize though, considering that Reichardt’s last three films — Night Moves, Meek’s Cutoff, Wendy and Lucy — stand as three of the finer American films made in the last decade. Her latest, an interwoven tale of three women played by Michelle Williams, Kristen Stewart and Laura Dern, will almost certainly be worth watching. (But if anyone has an extra ticket to La La Land, let me know.)
Saturday, Sept. 17, 3:15 pm – Moonlight – Bell Lightbox 1
We end on a cool note with the return of Barry Jenkins and Moonlight. For those keeping track, Jenkins’ last feature length film (Medicine for Melancholy) was released all the way back in 2008. What he’s got on his hands here — an intimate yet epic journey through one man’s life in Miami over the years — looks to be both profound and moving. Add in a mix of noteworthy actors — including Mahershala Ali, Andre Holland (a standout from The Knick) and Naomie “Moneypenny” Harris — and we’re really getting somewhere. I suspect the eight year wait for Jenkins will turn out to have been worth it.
Please be advised, of course, that this list is merely the first ten. As has been the case the past few years, I purchase a 10-pack of tickets and make my initial selections with an eye for further film picks to be fit in and around this primary list. There will be
blood more, is my point.
In any case, keep an eye open for my series of mini-reviews over the next ten days. Keep an eye open for me in line looking exhausted and elated. Keep an eye open for all of the incoming TIFF magic. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year.
Happy TIFF-ing everyone!