What’s the hottest TIFF title? Film buffs offer 25 good bets


The Toronto International Film Festival has downsized a bit for its 42nd edition, running Sept. 7 to 17, but the buzz about its film offerings roars as loudly as always.

In fact, our 17th annual “Chasing the Buzz” poll of the most eagerly anticipated movies at TIFF identified 25 films offering particular cinematic sustenance, up one from last year’s 24, and that’s out of a feature lineup that’s been pared to 255-plus movies, down from 296 in 2016.

No one movie dominated the polling of the Star’s 31-member panel of critics, programmers, professors and regular film buffs. But six films took two votes apiece: Agnès Varda’s and JR’s French travelogue Faces Places, Sean Baker’s childhood daydream The Florida Project, Jennifer Baichwal’s and Nick de Pencier’s Tragically Hip salute Long Time Running, Guillermo del Toro’s sci-fi fairy tale The Shape of Water, Iram Haq’s culture clash nightmare What Will People Say and Lucrecia Martel’s long-awaited screen return Zama.

Another 19 each received a single vote: Bodied; Call Me By Your Name; The Death of Stalin; Downsizing; First They Killed My Father; Foxtrot; I Love You, Daddy; Lady Bird; Loveless; The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches; Mudbound; Never Steady, Never Still; On My WayOut: The Secret Life of Nani and Popi; The Rider; A Season in France; The Seen and Unseen; Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood; The Square; and The Third Murder.

Faces Places
(Agnès Varda, JR)
“I prefer not to confront the idea that this might be Agnès Varda’s final film, but any new work by the New Wave godmother is a major event, and the idea of her open-hearted travelogue ending up at the curmudgeonly doorstep of Jean-Luc Godard is an irresistible one.” — Sam Adams, senior editor, Slate.

“Did I dream that legendary filmmaker Agnès Varda would collaborate with street photographer JR to celebrate the people and towns of France? Luckily not: fresh from great reviews in Cannes, this dynamic duo are my top pick.”
— Sherry Coman, Humber College film prof, hana dreaming blogger

The Florida Project
(Sean Baker)
“Tangerine, a drama about trans street walkers in L.A. shot on iPhones, is one of my fave films of the last few years. Baker’s followup film has bigger stars and better cameras but appears to crackle with the same audacious vibrancy that caught my eye in the first place.” — Eli Glasner, CBC arts reporter and film critic.

“The Florida Project is an otherworldly look at the ordinary yet galvanizing moments of life.” — Rachel Noonan, TIFF director of marketing, strategy and communications

Long Time Running
(Jennifer Baichwal, Nick de Pencier)
“Emotion rules this year. My overwhelming ‘buzziest’ choice is this documentary on The Tragically Hip’s final tour and historic last show on Aug. 20, 2016, in Kingston. That was the night Canada shut down to witness Gord Downie as he stood up to cancer, and caused our hearts to swell with joy and pride.” — Anne Brodie, film critic, WhatSheSaid!

“You’ve got to love a band that can make a hit out of a song on being in Bobcaygeon. That’s what makes The Tragically Hip so irresistible to Canadians: they have been making music about us for decades. And it’s why this documentary on them, Long Time Running, is my choice for the TIFF film to see.” — Marc Glassman, film critic, Classical 96.3 FM

The Shape of Water
(Guillermo del Toro)
“The director of Pan’s Labyrinth appears ready to take us on another empathy-filled journey with this new fable about unlikely love.” — Charles Ealy, film critic, Austin American-Statesman

“Guillermo del Toro always delivers up a visual feast and Sally Hawkins is a delight. This looks Oscar-bound.” — Teri Hart, senior reporter/producer, Rogers Media

What Will People Say
(Iram Haq)
“Norwegian-Pakistani director/writer/actress Haq delves further into semi-autobiographical territory following her feature debut I Am Yours, with her most personal film to date.” — Angela Cave, film buff and TIFF-goer since 1999

“The title alone hits a nerve for any child stuck between assimilation and holding up old cultural values. Competing in the Platform program, Iram Haq’s sophomore feature is about a Norwegian girl forcefully sent to Pakistan by her parents.” — Radheyan Simonpillai, film critic, NOW magazine, CTV’s Your Morning

(Lucrecia Martel)
“Nine long years were worth the wait for Lucrecia Martel’s impressive return, a haunting adaptation of Zama, Antonio di Benedetto’s 18th-century existential masterpiece.” — Brad Deane, senior manager, TIFF Cinematheque

“There is only one possible choice: Zama, the brilliant Argentine director Lucrecia Martel’s return to the screen after her Salta Trilogy with her first-ever historical epic, a conjuring of a mythic past.” — B. Ruby Rich, editor, Film Quarterly

Bodied (Joseph Kahn): “Early impressions suggest a movie that is an equal-opportunity offender with nothing off-limits. ‘You know how sensitive the climate is towards racism and appropriation,’ a line in the trailer says — so just how will TIFF audiences react to this in-your-face battle rap project?” — Jake Howell, freelancer and second-generation film writer

Call Me By Your Name (Luca Guadagnino): “A slow-burn love story that feels like a balmy summer vacation in northern Italy. Ripe and sensual, more bi than gay, moving father-son finale. Knockout perfs from Timothy Chalamet, Armie Hammer, Michael Stuhlbarg. And I’m straight, by the way.” — Jeffrey Wells, columnist, hollywood-elsewhere.com

The Death of Stalin (Armando Iannucci): “Iannucci was a festival sensation with his acerbic send-up of Washington politics with In the Loop. So I can’t wait to check out his Death of Stalin, which promises a similarly incisive, hysterical look at another moment in history riddled with dysfunction and tyrannical behaviour.” — Eric Kohn, deputy editor and chief critic, Indiewire

Downsizing (Alexander Payne): “Payne has long been one of the most cutting, funny, and insightful chroniclers of the human condition in film and the fact that he’s drifted into science fiction for this new social satire has me giddy with anticipation.” — Phil Brown, freelance film critic

First They Killed My Father (Angelina Jolie): “Brings the skills Jolie developed in her first four features — intimacy, patience, visual beauty — to a powerful true story about a family torn apart and trying to survive the ‘righteous intentions’ of the Khmer Rouge. A foreign-language film that could be a contender for Best Picture.” — David Poland, editor/columnist, Movie City News

Foxtrot (Samuel Moaz): “I’m still quaking from Moaz’s tank combat film Lebanon. His followup Foxtrot, eight years in the making, is far and away my most anticipated of this year’s TIFF, even though I’ve been purposely avoiding any information about its plot.” — Jordan Hoffman, freelance writer for The Guardian and VanityFair.com

I Love You, Daddy (Louis C.K.): “Sixteen years after Louis C.K.’s first studio-feature almost ruined his filmmaking career, the successful writer/director/comedian has returned with a black-and-white, 35mm indie that’s sure to surprise and challenge.” — Greg Cruse, cinephile and TIFF fanatic since 1992

Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig): “Gerwig’s solo directorial debut brings to audiences all of the wit and intelligence of her previous screenwriting work — think Frances Ha or Mistress America — but with a more sophisticated sense of character and a sense of control rarely seen in first-time feature directors. This might look like just another coming-of-age story, but I think it will be a defining film for its generation.” — Kerri Craddock, TIFF director of programming

Loveless (Andrey Zvyagintsev): “This film left me breathless in Cannes this year. A marriage torn apart by an ugly divorce leaves the 12-year-old son adrift, bereft, unloved. Heartbreaking and gut-wrenching for its brutal depiction of self-centred clueless parents, Loveless is a masterful followup to the director’s powerful Leviathan, which also played at TIFF.” — Michèle Maheux, TIFF executive director/COO

The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches (Simon Lavoie): “Lavoie, co-director of Those Who Make Revolution Halfway, returns with an equally fierce and daring piece, freely adapted from a beloved Québécois cult novel. Fiercely Gothic and intensely stylized, Lavoie’s latest is the kind of audacious movie festivals were created to showcase.” — Steve Gravestock, senior TIFF programmer, Canadian films

Mudbound (Dee Rees): “I was a huge fan of Pariah by Dee Rees and have been very eager to see her feature followup.” — Ann Hornaday, film critic, Washington Post

Never Steady, Never Still (Kathleen Hepburn): “This family drama set against the bleak Alberta oil field work camps promises to be fertile ground for new Canadian talent. Bonus: the always-fascinating Shirley Henderson also stars.” — Johanna Schneller, freelance Toronto culture writer

On My Way Out: The Secret Life of Nani and Popi (Brandon Gross, Skyler Ross): “This short film is an up-close-and-personal look at heart-wrenching sacrifice and the impact secrets have on a marriage and extended family.” — Richard Crouse, Pop Life, CTV News Channel

The Rider (Chloé Zhao): “A Directors’ Fortnight prizewinner at Cannes 2017, the second feature from U.S. director-to-watch Zhao (and her second set in the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation) is a cowboy story based on the real lives of its novice cast. Artful, prizewinning cowboy film equals buzz!” — Jennie Punter, correspondent, Variety

A Season in France (Mahamat-Saleh Haroun): “European filmmakers have told stories of migrants flocking to their continent but none has found the depth, clarity and emotion of this film, from the acclaimed African director who’s spent much of his career in Paris.” — Cameron Bailey, TIFF artistic director.

The Seen and Unseen (Kamila Andini): “Magically transports us into the inner world of children — here, twins, one of whom falls ill, while the other uses her remarkable imagination to connect with her sibling.” — Piers Handling, TIFF director/CEO

Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood (Matt Tyrnauer): “The infamous gigolo of Hollywood’s golden age, Scotty Bowers, spills his secrets in this surprisingly poignant documentary directed by Matt Tyrnauer (Valentino: The Last Emperor).” — Thom Powers, TIFF Docs programmer, host Pure Nonfiction podcast

The Square (Ruben Ostlund): “His followup to Force Majeure doesn’t disappoint! Set in the world of contemporary art, Ostlund balances comedy, satire and pathos as he explores neurosis, contemporary masculinity, social media and modern culture. It’s smart and juicy!!!” — Karen Gordon, film critic, Metro Morning, CBC Radio

The Third Murder (Hirokazu Kore-eda): “The great humanitarian Kore-eda moving from family drama to courtroom-murder mystery. Can’t wait to see how he juggles morality above the law.” — Alice Shih, film critic, Fairchild Radio

Source: The Star


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