Six industry insiders share tips on must-see films premiering during TIFF 2020.
While the 45th Toronto International Film Festival will look a lot different this year with movie premieres hosted over digital platforms and socially distant indoor and outdoor events, the fervor for viewing highly-anticipated films is running stronger than ever. This season, TIFF has curated a leaner group of 50 films, but the buzz has already grown considerably for their debut, thanks to the festival citing them as the very best in show. So, which ones to watch? From stories of Indigenous folklore and mythology to Halle Berry’s much-hyped directorial debut, we went straight to the industry’s insiders to share their top picks on the new movies they’re most excited about seeing this September.
Actress Tantoo Cardinal is a Member of the Order of Canada, which she received in recognition of her contributions to the growth and development of Aboriginal performing arts in the country, and is arguably the most widely recognized Native Actress of her generation. Tantoo has appeared in plays, television programs, and films, including Legends of the Fall, Dances With Wolves, and had recurring roles in Blackstone, The Killing, plus more.
Beans: “I am interested to see what the impacts of such a major event has had on the generations and community following OKA and Tracey’s vision.”
The Water Walker: “Autumn is one of our very special youth emerging into young adulthood. She has been born into a sacred mission to be an ally for water. I want to see how she has matured into this responsibility.”
Trickster: “Young talent in our communities – I want to see them telling stories.”
Canadian actor Shamier Anderson is known for his role on television series Wynonna Earp, with a recurring gig on Amazon’s Goliath and big screen credits in Stowaway (with Anna Kendrick and Daniel Dae Kim) and Awake alongside Gina Rodriguez. His latest film finds him in the world of MMA alongside Halle Berry in her directorial debut, Bruised.
Bruised: “My number one is this, and not because I’m in it, but because it’s Halle Berry’s directorial debut. I am honoured to be a part of her legacy. The world is in for a treat.”
Black Bodies “This is a short film by Kelly Fyffe-Marshall, a black woman and homegrown filmmaker. I make it my mission to support and champion underrepresented stories, especially those of black females. This is a timely film. It is an introspective look of today’s social climate and I highly recommended it.”
Pieces of a Woman: “I’m excited for this one, directed by Kornél Mundruczcó and starring Shia Lebeouf. Outside of our personal relationship, I am a fan of his work and I’m looking forward to seeing what he does with this piece.”
Asia Youngman is an award-winning film director and screenwriter from Vancouver, Canada. Her films have premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, the Vancouver International Film Festival, and the imagineNATIVE Film and Media Arts Festival. Asia’s first film LELUM’ won the award for Best Documentary Short at imagineNATIVE in 2017 and her latest film THIS INK RUNS DEEP won Best Documentary Short at the 2019 Calgary International Film Festival.
Inconvenient Indian: “I’m also very eager to watch Michelle Latimer’s adaptation of Thomas King’s acclaimed book. The film is a critical examination of the colonial narratives of North America which couldn’t be more essential in this time of transformation.”
Beans: “One of the films I’m most excited about watching at TIFF 2020 is Tracey Deer’s Beans, which is based on her own experience as a 12-year-old living in Kahnawake in 1990 during the Oka Crisis. There’s nothing I love more than a coming-of-age story, especially one that is rooted in Indigenous identity and perspectives.”
One Night in Miami: “It’s a fictionalized account of a 1964 meeting between Malcolm X, Muhammed Ali, Sam Cooke, and James Brown. Regina King is a powerhouse and I expect nothing short of spectacular for her directorial debut.”
Artistic Director at the Toronto International Film Festival, Cameron Bailey is revered for his passion on the importance of the arts and cultural sector in Toronto, Canada, and worldwide. Prior to joining TIFF, Bailey curated films for Cinematheque Ontario, The National Gallery of Canada, The National Film Board of Canada, and Australia’s Sydney International Film Festival.
Lift Like a Girl: “Directed by Mayye Zayed, it’s about a teenage girl in Egypt who trains as a competitive weightlifter, and learns how to be a champion.”
Beans: “This one is a hidden gem by Tracey Deer. This coming-of-age story during the ‘Oka Crisis,’ is the story Canada needs to see right now.”
Spring Blossom: “For an international release, this film (directed by Suzanne Lindon) is a story of a young Parisian woman learning the ways of love and sex and has just the bite it needs.”
Haifaa Al Mansour
The first female filmmaker in Saudi Arabia, Haifaa Al Mansour’s work has been challenged within the Kingdom for encouraging conversation on themes generally considered taboo, like Saudi traditional culture and topics surrounding tolerance and orthodoxy. She has found success in her three short films, as well as international acclaim for her award-winning 2005 documentary Women Without Shadows, which influenced a new wave of Saudi filmmakers.
One Night in Miami: “I am so excited about Regina King’s directorial debut. I love the premise and I feel like this is a film that the world needs right now. It is so important now to promote dialog about activism and the best ways that we can promote positive change in our communities. The vibrant personalities at the core of this story are great vehicles to bring out the urgency and reality of some incredibly complex issues.”
Bruised: “I’m excited to see Halle Berry play a female MMA fighter, and am really curious to see how the film is presented as a work in progress. I love films about women who push themselves to succeed in physical, male dominated arenas. The visuals I’ve seen look very powerful.”
American Utopia: “I’m a big fan of Spike Lee and am excited to see how he presents David Byrne’s music in a concert film. But mostly I love the idea of music as a tool to bring people together. With so much division in the country, and the world at the moment, I am looking forward to seeing something uplifting, something optimistic and joyous, and something that helps us connect across our differences.”
Michelle Latimer is an Indigenous Canadian actress, director, writer, and filmmaker. Her 2014 short The Underground screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, won the best short film award at imagine Native and was selected for Telefilm’s Not Short on Talent showcase at Cannes. She is bringing two projects to TIFF this season in the CBC-TV series Trickster, based on the trilogy, by novelist Eden Robinson, and the film The Inconvenient Indian, by Thomas King.
Gaza Mon Amour: “Palestinian born, twin-brother directing duo, The Nasser brothers, return to Tiff with their sophomore feature after wowing audiences there in 2015 with their first feature Dégradé. I think they have a unique voice and I love that they direct together. Set in present-day Gaza, this film promises to be a witty and surreal tale set against the harsh backdrop of present-day life in Gaza strip.”
Beans: “I am always fascinated and in awe of filmmakers who express their own interiority through their work. Mohawk filmmaker, Tracy Deer lived through the Oka Crisis as a young girl. I’m interested in understanding how she translates that experience into this political coming-of-age story set in a time of incredible, political upheaval.”
Nomadland: “Based on the non-fiction book by Jessica Bruder, Zhao returns to South Dakota’s Badlands to tell the story of a nomadic “houseless” woman played by Francis McDormand who lives a liberated, transient life. I loved her last film “Rider”, set on the Pine Ridge Reservation. She populates her film with real people and she has a knack for celebrating the landscape as a character within her films. She is a director I admire and I can’t wait to see what she does next!”