The Toronto International Film Festival returns this year for its 40th anniversary. Recently TIFF held their always highly anticipated Opening Press Conference announcing the first round of film selections. Every year leading up to these announcements, speculation runs high as to which film will land the coveted Opening Night slot and which star-studded films will land in Toronto after fierce competition from the rival Venice and Telluride Film Festivals. Jockeying behind the scenes to secure the biggest world premieres always plays its part. This year TIFF surprised us with several selections, as well as seeing many of the expected heavy hitters that will be key players this awards season.
One of the most unexpected announcements was TIFF choosing Jean-Marc Vallée’s Demolition, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Naomi Watts, and Chris Cooper as the Opening Night Film. It comes as a bit of surprise that we would be seeing this film at the festival, as shortly before this announcement, its distributor Fox Searchlight Pictures announced it would be pushing the release of the film back to April 2016, causing many to wonder if the film is not good since it was expected to be getting an awards push this year. The film follows a New York investment banker (Gyllenhaal) as he engages in destructive behaviour in an attempt to deal with a family tragedy.
A complete shock to just about everyone was the announcement of Michael Moore’s latest documentary Where to Invade Next. Somehow Moore was able to keep this project a complete secret. Not even IMDb had it listed on their site. With little to go on, we can surmise that this will have Moore’s trademark humour and rogue style that has made him famous, as he apparently tells the Pentagon that he’ll do the invading from now on. This festival is a great friend to Moore so this will no doubt be a highly anticipated screening event during the festival.
In what is surely an effort to replicate the success of 2013’s Gravity, one of the more star-studded Galas will be Ridley Scott’s new film The Martian. Starring Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara, Jeff Daniels, Kristen Wiig, Chiwetel Ejiofer, Sean Bean and many others, the film tells the story of astronaut Mark Watney trying to survive being trapped on Mars by himself after his crew must abandon him during a major dust storm. The film is based on the excellent best-selling book of the same name by Andy Weir.
Other anticipated Galas include festival veteran Deepa Mehta’s Beeba Boys, an action flick that is a departure from her normal style, Australian film The Dressmaker starring Kate Winslet and Liam Hemsworth, Forsaken, a western starring father-son team Donald and Kiefer Sutherland, Legend starring Tom Hardy in dual roles as twin mob brother Reggie and Ronnie Kray who ruled London in the ‘60s, and Atom Egoyan’s latest Remember, starring Christopher Plummer as a man out for revenge on the man who killed his family 70 years earlier.
Sure to be one of the hottest tickets of the festival this year (I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up being selected as one of the Buzz List films) is Tom Hooper’s The Danish Girl, starring Alicia Vikander, Academy Award winner Eddie Redmayne, Amber Heard, Ben Wishaw, and Matthias Schoenaerts. Redmayne plays Einar Wegener, a Danish painter during the 1920s who by all accounts was the first person in history to undergo gender reassignment surgery to become a woman. Vikander plays his remarkable wife who supports his transition, in what would have been a shocking event at the time. Based on the book of the same name by David Ebershof, this one has Oscar Bait written all over it.
Another film worth noting is Cary Fukunaga’s Beasts of No Nation. This one is being delivered from Netflix so new distribution ground is being broken, as the company plans to release it simultaneously in limited theatres as well as on their streaming service. It is believed that Netflix is gunning for Oscar attention with this one, hence the limited theatrical release in order to qualify, so it should be interesting to see if the company can shake up the Hollywood standard.
It looks to be turning into a major year for LGBT films at the festival. In addition to the Special Presentations film The Danish Girl, Gala selections include Freeheld starring Julianne Moore as a cop with terminal cancer and her legal battle to leave her pension benefits to her domestic partner played by Ellen Page. Also, Roland Emmerich’s newest film Stonewall, a partially fictional take on the Stonewall Inn riots in 1969 that is widely credited for igniting the modern-day gay rights movement.
With over 250 films set to screen at this year’s festival, many more exciting announcements are still to come! Stay tuned for further coverage of this year’s slate of films, including coverage of the Midnight Madness and Vanguard programmes, as well as our list of highly anticipated and most buzz-worthy picks.