Friday August 05, 2022

Toronto film festival back at full tilt

Toronto film festival back at full tilt

Raymond & Ray

Besides a new Steven Spielberg film (The Fabelmans) that is set to premiere at the 47th Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), North America’s premier annual celebration of cinema, has put together a line-up that promises to deliver a full complement of riches.

It is early days yet with less than half the titles having been announced thus far. However, TIFF, returning to in-person mode after a two-year hiatus, already has enough to whet a film lover’s appetite. The festival is scheduled from September 8 to 18.

This is only the first time that a Spielberg movie will be unveiled at TIFF. The buzz around it is understandable. “The Fabelmans,” says the festival CEO Cameron Bailey, “is a beautiful, powerful film and unlike anything he has made before.” The semi-autobiographical film revolves around a boy growing up in post WWII era Arizona and dreaming of being a filmmaker.

Also slated for a world premiere at TIFF this year is Rian Johnson’s Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. A sequel to 2019’s Knives Out, the whodunnit has Daniel Craig reprising his role as the sharp-eyed sleuth Benoit Blanc.

Toronto film festival back at full tilt
Glass Onion

Among the TIFF 2020 Gala Presentations is Squid Game star Lee Jung-jae’s Hunt, which premiered at Cannes this year as part of the festivals’ Midnight Screenings, and Gina Prince-Bythewood’s The Woman King, starring Viola Davis.  Also in the TIFF Galas selection are world premieres of Rodrigo Garcia’s Raymond and Ray, starring Ewan McGregor and Ethan Hawke; Paul Weitz’s Moving On, featuring Jane Fonda, Malcolm McDowell and Lily Tomlin; English actress Mary Nighy’s directorial debut and Anna Kendrick starrer Alice, Darling; Peter Farrelly’s war drama The Greatest Beer Run Ever with Zac Efron, Russell Crowe and Bill Murray; and Tyler Perry’s A Jazzman’s Blues.

TIFF 2020 will open with Welsh-Egyptian filmmaker Sally El Hosaini’s The Swimmers, which tells the story of two sisters who make an impossible journey from war-torn Syria to the 2016 Rio Olympics.

TIFF has also announced 45 Special Presentations titles, including several that will be world premiering at the festival. Among these are Sir Richard Eyre’s Allelujah and German director Edward Berger’s All Quiet on the Western Front, adapted from Erich Maria Remarque’s anti-war novel of the same name.

The Fabelmans and the Knives Out sequel are both part of TIFF Special Presentations. The section also includes Another Round writer Tobias Lindholm’s Good Nurse, a true crime thriller starring Jessica Chastain and Eddie Redmayne, Stephen Frears’ The Lost King, a British comedy-drama inspired by real events, Lena Dunham’s Catherine Called Birdy and Sam Mendes’s Empire of Light, a romance that unfolds around an old cinema in 1980s United Kingdom.

Shekhar Kapur’s What’s Love Got to Do With It?, the Indian director’s first fiction feature in a decade and a half, is also part of TIFF 2022’s Gala Presentations. The title, one of 18 Gala Presentations that have been announced, is a British rom-com co-produced and scripted by Jemima Khan.

“What’s Love Got to Do With It? is a super fun film, a romantic comedy in the great tradition of the genre. Set in the United Kingdom and Pakistan, it is a smart film about a cross-cultural romance,” says Bailey.  

Kapur’s last fiction feature was 2007’s Elizabeth: The Golden Age, which also screened at TIFF.

What’s Love Got to Do With It? has Lily James, Emma Thompson. Sajal Aly (who played Sridevi’s daughter in the Bollywood film Mom), Shazad Latif and Shabana Azmi in key roles.

Another Indian entry figures in the TIFF 2022 Gala Presentations selection – first-time director Shubham Yogi’s Kachchey Limbu, starring Radhika Madan and debutant Ayush Mehra. It is cricket-themed drama involving two Mumbai siblings.

Also in the TIFF program is Pakistani director Saim Sadiq’s Joyland, a Cannes Un Certain Regard entry that bagged the section’s Jury Prize.

“More titles will be announced in the coming weeks, says Bailey. Sections for which films are yet to be announced are Discovery, Contemporary World Cinema and TIFF’s competitive Platform.

Back at full tilt after two severely curtailed editions in 2020 and 2021, TIFF 2022 will screen a total of 200 feature films, down from the 2019 number of 260.

“With a significantly tighter line-up, we have made a conscious decision to make TIFF a walkable festival. All the major venues are going to be within walking distance, making it a more convenient festival to navigate for everyone,” says Bailey.

This year, TIFF has added the historic Royal Alexandra Theatre, a few steps away from the festival’s Bell Lightbox headquarters, to its list of venues. In operation since 1907, the “Royal Alex” is the oldest continuously operating theatre in North America.

“The main learning from the past two years,” says Bailey, “is that we cannot duplicate the experience of people watching films together in a theatre with the filmmakers present.”

“The electricity and anticipation of people waiting to see the premieres and filmmakers waiting nervously for the lights to go down and the magic to begin – that is something that wanted to come back to,” he adds.

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