TIFF 2014: Midnight Madness, Masters, Docs and Vanguard Highlights.

As we get closer to September, the announcements for the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival continue to roll in.

The first bit of news to note is that on Friday July 25th, following their press conference three days earlier, TIFF announced that the film The Judge, starring Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall, had been upgraded from a Gala slot to being the coveted Opening Night film. This selection was particularly unusual, as typically the Opening Night film does not come from titles previously revealed, leading many to wonder if TIFF’s initial choice for the slot fell through.

The film is about a successful lawyer (Downey Jr.) who must return home to defend his father, a former judge, who is on trial for murder.  Since Robert Downey Jr. himself was involved with making the announcement on his Facebook page, perhaps TIFF was just waiting for confirmation that the actor would be able to attend the festival, wanting to open with one of the biggest movie stars in the world.  I don’t think we’ll fully know the politics at play behind the scenes here but it certainly got people talking and will surely be a fan-pleaser.

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Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall in The Judge, TIFF 2014’s Opening Night Film.

On Tuesday July 29th, the always popular Midnight Madness program was revealed.  Once again, 10 horror, action-filled, and hilarious genre films will screen throughout the festival to the always energetic midnight crowd.  In entertaining tradition programmer Colin Geddes dropped Twitter hints and clues as to what each film in the line up would be at midnight Monday night.  Many guesses were made, some correct, but many incorrect.  Likely the most anticipated film of the bunch is Kevin Smith’s new film Tusk, starring Justin Long.  Smith recently announced that this film is actually the first in a trilogy of films he is working on called The True North Trilogy all taking place in Canada.  Justin Long stars as a man who travels to Canada in search of an unusual character that he hopes to interview for his podcast.  Upon meeting him, Long is kidnapped and tortured into becoming a walrus.  This is quite an unusual premise but looks to have Kevin Smith’s usual charm and absurd sense of humour.

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Kevin Smith’s new Horror, ‘Tusk’, with Justin Long.

Other films from the Midnight Madness program announced include opening night film Tokyo Tribe, the latest from last year’s Midnight Madness People’s Choice winner, Japanese director Sion Sono, Big Game, starring Samuel L. Jackson as the President of the United States and must survive in the wilderness with the help of a young teenager after his plane is shot down.  This one is from director Jalmari Helander who was previously at the festival with his 2010 favourite Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale.  Sundance favourite What We Do in the Shadows will be making its Canadian debut.  This is a mockumentary about a group of vampires trying to survive together in modern life as roommates, and was created by the crew that brought us Flight of the Concords.  Also making an appearance will be the latest instalment in the popular [Rec] horror series, [Rec] 4: Apocalypse, a film about a sexually transmitted disease that curses who ever catches it called It Follows, Belgian film Cub, about a Boy Scout troop who encounter a psychopathic hunter who has riddled the woods with traps, and a documentary about the rise and fall of 1980’s action-exploitation film studio Cannon Films.  One additional title will be revealed when TIFF reveals their Canadian film line-up for the festival next week.

The Vanguard programme always promises to feature strange and bizarre films that push the boundaries.  The most anticipated of the bunch would likely be the new film from legendary Japanese director Takashi Miike called Over Your Dead Body.  A theatre troupe, rehearsing a classic play about murder and revenge find life imitating art in what promises to be another bloody good time.

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Joshua Oppenheimer’s ‘The Look of Silence’

TIFF Programmer Thom Powers has revealed this year’s TIFF Docs slate, featuring new films from old masters, new directors, and past festival favourites.  Director Joshua Oppenheimer is back with a follow-up film to his provocative The Act of Killing with a continuation of that story in The Look of Silence, master documentarian Frederick Wiseman brings us National Gallery, a behind-the-scenes look at London’s National Gallery, Robert Kenner’s Merchants of Doubt about the morally questionable world of professional sceptics hired by corporations to cast doubt and cloud public opinion on climate change, and first-time documentary director Ethan Hawke will make an appearance with his film Seymour: An Introduction, an intimate portrait of classical pianist Seymour Bernstein.  Previously announced is a special 25th anniversary screening of Michael Moore’s classic documentary Roger & Me, in celebration of the film winning the People’s Choice Award in 1989, which helped launch the filmmaker’s career.

 

The Masters programme was also revealed.  This section features new works from some of the greatest art-house filmmakers, with this year being no exception.  Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev’s film Leviathan, winner of the Best Screenplay prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival will be making its North American premiere.  One of the eagerly anticipated films making an appearance in the Masters programme this year is Michael Winterbottom’s new film The Face of An Angel, starring Kate Beckinsale and Daniel Brühl, which is a fictionalized version of the infamous Amanda Knox murder case.  Legendary French director Jean-Luc Godard is also back with his latest film Goodbye to Language 3D.

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Kate Beckinsale and Daniel Brühl in Michael Winterbottom’s ‘Face of an Angel’

Many more film announcements still to come over the next several weeks.  Up next, on August 6th, the roster of Canadian and Short Cuts Canada films will be revealed.

 

See all our ongoing TIFF 2014 Coverage!