Every September, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) ushers in the start of awards season; that special time of year when Hollywood releases “anti-blockbusters” with award aspirations. This week, Piers Handling (Director, CEO) and Cameron Bailey (Artistic Director) took the stage to unveil TIFF’s first wave of films and answer questions from the press.
Year after year, TIFF stands out for its solid mix of indie-darlings, Oscar contenders, and big budget Hollywood fare and so far, this season’s lineup looks to be no different. Highlights from the 14 Galas and 33 Special Presentations announced so far include Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water, Darren Aronofsky’s mother!, and the George Clooney/Coen brothers collaboration, Suburbicon.
Festival Announcment Highlights
Mary Shelley | Haifaa Al Mansour, Ireland/United Kingdom/Luxembourg/USA
Elle Fanning stars in this scintillating biopic of the Frankenstein author, chronicling her tempestuous marriage to dissolute poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and the fateful night at a Swiss chateau that inspired her most famous creation.
mother! | Darren Aronofsky, USA
North American Premiere
Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, and Michelle Pfeiffer star in Darren Aronofsky’s highly anticipated psychological thriller about a couple threatened by the arrival of univited guests to their tranquil home.
Suburbicon | George Clooney, USA
North American Premiere
Director George Clooney teams with co-writers Joel and Ethan Coen and an all-star ensemble (Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, and Oscar Isaac) for this complex tale of very flawed people making very bad choices in a seemingly idyllic 1950s community.
Downsizing | Alexander Payne, USA
Matt Damon headlines a cast that includes Kristen Wiig, Christoph Waltz, Hong Chau, Laura Dern, Jason Sudeikis, Alec Baldwin, and Neil Patrick Harris in Alexander Payne’s sci-fi social satire about a man who chooses to shrink himself (literally) to simplify his life.
The Shape of Water | Guillermo del Toro, USA
At the height of the Cold War, circa 1962, two workers in a high-tech US government laboratory (Sally Hawkins and Oscar winner Octavia Spencer) discover a terrifying secret experiment, in this otherworldly fairytale from Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth).
Notably absent was the announcement of TIFF’s opening night Gala selection. Right now the money is on Canadian director Xavier Dolan’s The Death And Life Of John F. Donovan since it wasn’t mentioned as part of TIFF’s Gala series. There is also a long-shot that fellow Canadian Denis Villeneuve’s highly anticipated sci-fi flick, Blade Runner 2049, may take the slot. The opening night Gala film should be announced in mid-August.
Also noteworthy is the significantly lower number of films showcased this year. TIFF 2017 will be a leaner festival than previous years. “What’s always important to remember is that the festival is not for any one person. No one person can see every film that’s in the festival. No one person has the taste that’s quite that broad,” Bailey said. “We’ll still have the range, we’ll still have the choice for our public audience. We think we’ve kind of walked that fine line.” TIFF 2017 won’t include the Vanguard and City to City programs and will run about 20% fewer films which translates to roughly 60 less titles.
Aside from the next Guillermo del Toro movie, I’m excited for writer/director Greta Gerwig’s latest feature, Lady Bird. Frances Ha and Mistress America are a couple of my favourite films of the past few years. Gerwig has a knack for crafting dramedies that ping pong back and forth between insightful, painful, and hilarious. I can’t wait to see what she has lined-up next.
What films stood out to you? Let’s talk about them in the comments below.
The 2017 Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 7 to September 17. For additional festival information click here.