by Raquel Stecher
Working on my itinerary for TIFF ’18 was a monumental task. This year’s slate consists of 343 total films: 255 feature length films, 88 shorts. The shortest film is 43 seconds (The Invisible Cinema) and the longest 14 hours (La Flor). 83 countries are represented and 34% of the films are directed by women (and 136 films have a female lead).
Going through the complete list of films was overwhelming. There are so many films I wanted to see. How was I going to chose? I broke it down to the basics. I concentrated on the films screening on the days I would be attending: Thursday-Monday. Then I broke it down by day. The maximum number of films I could watch in one day is 4-5 so I aimed for 4. Then I created a list of what in particular I was looking for:
- Strong female protagonists, women directors
- Foreign films, especially those from Central and South America
- Indie films with a good hook
- LGBT stories, especially ones with female leads
- Period pieces
- A few big movies for good measure and a press conference or two
And here is what I came up with. These are the films that are on my final schedule. I added a few of my back-ups for good measure.
What do you think? Which of these films are you excited about?
dir. Wash Westmoreland
Keira Knightley, Dominic West
This is my number one pick for the festival. This biopic on Colette, author of the Claudine stories and Gigi, offers a look at gender dynamics and female empowerment through the lens of literary history. I’m also particularly interested in the period costuming and detail.
Tell it to the Bees
dir. Annabel Jankel
stars Anna Paquin, Holliday Grainger
An adaptation of Fiona Shaw’s novel, this post-WWII drama set in Britain tells the story of a doctor/beekeeper who falls in love with a struggling single mom. I’m always on the look out for a good LGBT story and this one is already getting some decent buzz. On Instagram, star Anna Paquin referred to this movie as her “passion project.”
dir. Daniel Syrkin
On the cusp of winning the Nobel Prize, a world renowned economist is found dead. Four of his closest friends, determined to get him the prize he deserved, work tirelessly to conceal the death until the laureates are announced. I haven’t been able to stop thinking of this film. I need to know what happens!
dir. Sam Levinson
stars Odessa Young, Hari Nef, Suki Waterhouse and Abra
I usually shy away from horror films but this one sounds so good that I can’t pass it up. Levinson’s new film takes the Salem Witch Trials and gives it a modern twist. Set in present day Salem, MA, the story follows four high school teens as their community turns against itself after a series of social media hacks. I’ve watched the trailer more times than I care to admit.
Vita & Virginia
dir. Chanya Button
stars Gemma Arterton and Elizabeth Debicki
Based on a true story, this film explores the relationship between Vita Sackville-West and legendary author Virginia Woolf. I’d love to compare this one with Colette, another literary biopic with an LGBT angle. Especially considering that Vita & Virginia has a female director and Colette does not.
A Star is Born
dir. Bradley Cooper
stars Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga
I’m curious to see how this iteration of A Star is Born compares with the previous films from 1937, 1954 and 1976. I hope to write and possibly create a video comparing and contrasting all four versions. Stay tuned!
dir. Trevor Nunn
stars Judi Dench, Sophie Cookson
As I said in my original look at the TIFF selections, the biggest draw for me for this movie is Dame Judi Dench. Red Joan is Trevor Nunn’s return to film directing. His last work was Twelfth Night: Or What You Will (1996). The story follows the semi-true, semi-fictionalized story of a British physicist turned KGB spy.
Prosecuting Evil: The Extraordinary World of Ben Ferencz
dir. Barry Avrich
featuring Ben Ferencz
Avrich’s new documentary follows the story of 98 year old Ben Ferencz, the last surviving Nuremberg Trial prosecutor. Ferencz has made it his life’s work to fight against racism and Neo-Nazi sentiment. This looks fascinating! I enjoyed Avrich’s documentary on price gouging in the art world entitled Blurred Lines.
dir. Pablo Trapero
stars Martina Gusman, Berenice Bejo, Edgar Ramirez
Trapero’s new film, set in Argentina against the backdrop of a military dictatorship, follows the story of two sisters who reunite after their father’s stroke. Secrets and long-held grievances threaten chaos where there was calm.
The Wedding Guest
dir. Michael Winterbottom
stars Dev Patel
Michael Winterbottom’s adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s novel Jude the Obscure, Jude (1996), was a big influence on me in my teen years. The Wedding Guest follows the story of a British man with a secret agenda who travels through Pakistan and India. The plot description is as mysterious as the movie promises to be.
dir. Federico Veiroj
stars Gonzalo Delgado
This Uruguayan drama follows the story of an artist who tries to reconcile his work with being a single father to his young daughter. Based on the trailer this looks like a sweet and possibly melancholy father-daughter story. I’m also curious to see how it explores work-life balance.
The Good Girls
dir. Alejandra Marquez Abella
stars Isle Salas, Flavio Medina
Set in 1982 Mexico during the country’s debt crisis, Abella’s film explores the story of a rich socialite whose perfect world starts to fall apart. I made it a point to add some Spanish-language films and I love that this film is a period piece directed by a woman and with a female lead protagonist. It checks off of a lot of criteria on my wishlist.
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
dir. Marielle Heller
stars Melissa McCarthy, Richard E. Grant, Jane Curtin
I have an extensive background in book publishing and this story of Lee Israel, bestselling author turned literary forger, is right up my alley. It hits a bit close to home so while I’m sure the story will make me uncomfortable, I think it has a lot of potential to enlighten and entertain.
dir. Steve McQueen
stars Viola Davis, Liam Neeson, Colin Farrell, Michelle Rodriguez
I’m not 100% sold on this one. It’s co-written by Steve McQueen and Gillian Flynn so you know it’ll be ruthlessly violent. I’m quite sensitive to the content but am thoroughly intrigued by the idea of widows taking over a heist for their criminal husbands. The all-star cast doesn’t hurt either. McQueen’s film is a remake of the 1983 British mini-series by the same name. Maybe I should watch that instead?
The Man Who Feels No Pain
dir. Vasan Bala
stars Abhimanyu Dassani
This Bollywood action flick looks like it can deliver big on entertainment value. Abhimanyu Dassani stars in his debut as literally a man who feels no pain. This gives him an advantage as a street fighter. The story follows him from childhood to his adult years as he vows to defeat 100 foes. The trailer is quirky and fun. I definitely need to see this movie!
dir. Gaspar Noe
stars Sofia Boutella
Inspired by a true story, Climax follows a dance troupe’s party spirals out of control after they drink sangria spiked with LSD. Because it’s directed by Gaspar Noe you know it’ll be weird and shocking. The story is set in 1996 and features mostly non-actors Noe on YouTube or in a Paris nightclub. This is part of TIFF’s Midnight Madness line-up.
dir. Polo Sorrentino
stars Toni Servillo
I’m always drawn to strange and twisted foreign films. The Italian film Loro looks like it fits that category to a T. Sorrentino’s movie tells the story of controversial tycoon/politician and his over-the-top world. This looks bonkers in the best way possible. Just watch the trailer and you’ll see what I mean.
dir. Wanuri Kahiu
stars Samantha Mugatsia and Sheila Munyiva
The newest offering from Kenyan director Wanuri Kahiu, this film explores the romantic relationship between two young women in a culture that rejects and a country that bans homosexuality.
Sew the Winter to my Skin
dir. Jahmil X.T. Qubeka
Based on the true story of outlaw John Kepe, Qubeka’s film is Robin Hood meets 1950s South Africa. The protagonist steals from rich white colonists to give to the indigenous poor. I have to make the difficult decision of whether to watch this film at TIFF or attend the Share Her Journey rally. I won’t be able to do both!
The Old Man & The Gun
dir. David Lowery
stars Robert Redford, Sissy Spacek, Danny Glover, Casey Affleck, Elisabeth Boss
Robert Redford recently announced that The Old Man & The Gun will be his final film. The film legend is retiring and I can’t pass up an opportunity to watch his grand finale.
I’d like to offer a special thank to you to TIFF for their Media Inclusion Initiative for 2018. They made 200 additional press spots available for under-represented journalists including people of all genders, sexual orientations, ethnic backgrounds and abilities. I am honored to have been selected as one of those journalists. And an extended thank you to the initiative’s sponsors which include Netflix, 20th Century Fox, Rotten Tomatoes and others.
See you in Toronto!