The Toronto Film Festival is underway, the first purely in-person edition since before the COVID-19 pandemic. There are high-profile premieres, including Ryan Johnson’s Knives out after, Glass Oniona number of films traveling on their charts from Telluride and/or Venice (Florian Zeller’s The sonby Laura Poitras All the beauty and bloodshed), as well as smaller acquisition titles that are always at risk of being overlooked amid galas. Below are a number of films, most but not all TIFF premieres, that we recommend checking out, whether that recommendation is based on the shortlist or simply our knowledge of the director’s past work. Check back in the next few days for Vadim Rizov’s Cahiers des Critiques of the festival.
The Fabelmans. Wikipedia considers 1999 the first time Steven Spielberg publicly discussed his intention to make a film based directly on his own childhood, rather than sublimating the trauma of divorce through HEY or disappointment in father figures across a range of other titles. “My big fear is that my mum and dad don’t like it and think it’s an insult and don’t share my loving but critical view of what it was like growing up with them.” he declared. The New York Timesthen waited more than six months for the death of its last relative in 2020 before announcing that production was finally imminent. —Vadim Rizov
How to blow up a pipeline. Would any of today’s socially-minded progressive funders make a documentary based on the book Verso by eco-scholar Andreas Malm, How to blow up a pipeline, which, as a means of dealing with the climate crisis, advocates precisely what its title suggests? Indeed, what would the “impact campaign” and its “call to action” have looked like? (For once, definable metrics wouldn’t be uncommon.) Leave it to the immensely talented Daniel Goldhaber to take up the cause with his world premiere in Toronto, which isn’t a Loopmanics-style manual but a thrilling ensemble thriller in which eight mostly young activists take charge of their increasingly hot futures. Goldhaber and Pipeline producer Isa Mazzei made our list of 25 New Faces based on the excellent feature debut they directed together, Cam, and here they join other New Faces (editor Daniel Garber, actor Sasha Lane) in a film that’s pleasantly stripped of the twist on both sides – these youngsters want to blow up a pipeline! And while the approach here can never be called didactic, Garber and his team (he wrote the film with executive producer Jordan Sjol and producer and actress Ariela Barer) deftly allow for nuanced dialogues around climate activism. , which include a reflection on how oil supply chain disruptions affect the working class, to gracefully emerge from character and backstory. Bold, passionate and unapologetic, that’s what independent films should be. —Scott Macaulay
Vulture. Third feature film by Stéphane Lafleur, 2014 You Sleep, Nicolewas an equally wistful and perplexing coming-of-age skit, something like ghost world without any grotesque secondary characters to counterbalance its main characters whose US home video release was also the only time I was asked to write the liner notes for a DVD (and Blu-ray!), Eight years later, the Quebec director is back with a film about five astronauts charged with the melancholic task of simulating the behavior of a manned mission to Mars to predict problems before they arise. — VR
Life on the Capes. The filmmaker selected Meriem Bennani and Orian Barki for our list of 25 new faces in 2021 based on their devious and emotionally astute Instagram series about the COVID-19 pandemic, 2 lizards. Now, 2 lizards is part of a larger program at TIFF with the premiere of Bennani’s latest film, Life on the CAPS, a sci-fi feature film dealing with migration issues and set on a fictional island in the middle of the Atlantic. It is presented in collaboration with The Power Plant and The Vega Foundation. —SM
Ciné-Guérillas: Scenes from Bobines de Labudovic. Documentary based on an inherently fascinating subject matter for those looking for something at the intersection of the secret history of cinema and Cold War artifacts, Mila Turajlić’s film reconstructs the story of Yugoslav cameraman Stevan Labudović, personally sent by Tito to help document the Algerian War to End France. Occupation. — VR
To go up. In addition to his many post-initial launch stops here, Hong Sang-soo had four films premiering at TIFF: 2002’s revolving door and 2006 Woman on the beach (both of which were released in South Korea before their festival debut), followed more than a decade later by 2018’s underrated you and yours and now this movie (characteristically, the second of two this year, after The novelist’s wife premiere in Berlin). — VR
Sanctuary. In Zachary Wigon’s 2014 debut, The Heart Machine, a couple’s long-distance online romance is destabilized by the very technology that enables it as Cody, played by John Gallagher, discovers audio clues that lead him to believe his lover, played by Kate Lyn Sheil, is not not in Berlin, as claimed, but walking the same streets of New York as him. Eight years later, Wigon, who wrote extensively for Directorcomes back with the polite and witty Sanctuary, in which the nature of a couple’s relationship is challenged not by technology or geographic distance (the new film takes place almost entirely in a hotel suite) but by the slipperiness of the roles the two play one for the other. Margaret Qualley plays Rebecca, an initially demure dominatrix whose specialties are role-playing and high-class mental fucking. Christopher Abbott is Hal, the submissive client, who isn’t an executive in need of letting go of the reins for an afternoon, but such a person’s son. The death of his hotelier father has resulted in both a significant legacy and the anxiety-inducing demand that he become the hotel chain’s CEO, and for Hal, it requires ending his psychodramatic relationship with Rebecca – a decision that will not bother him. not suitable. . What follows is an edgy, expertly calibrated and convincingly acted pas de deux — part War of the Rosespart secretary – in which the privilege afforded by Hal’s generational wealth is rare armor against the insight Rebecca has gleaned from his psyche. —SM
Pavement. Lila Neugebauer is one of the most talented directors of her generation, having directed, among others, the original productions of Sarah DeLappe WolvesAnnie Baker The antipodes and Tracy Letts Marie Page Marlowe (as well as the 2018 cover of Kenneth Lonergan’s The Waverly Gallery, with Elaine May). She’s done some TV work, but the Apple TV+ is tied Pavementstarring Jennifer Lawrence and scripted by novelist Ottessa Moshfegh with Luke Goebel and Elizabeth Sanders, is her feature debut, and simply based on the brilliance of her stage work, it’s a must-watch.
runner. After two strong shorts (To die and runner, whose director developed this new feature), New York-based NYU graduate Marian Matthias makes her debut with this drama about financial insecurity and loss in America’s heartland. Eighteen-year-old Haas (Hannah Schiller) is thrown on the road when her single father dies, forcing her to face various current adversities. Shot, just like his shorts, by Jomo Fray, another 25 New Face, runner is a start that I look forward to. —SM
Theater of Thought. Traveling to TIFF from Toronto is Werner Herzog’s last trip, Theater of Thought, his brain research documentary, which juxtaposes the director’s quasi-romantic worldview with the cold materialism of much neuroscience. Repeatedly referring to the human “soul” or using an excerpt from Alexander Dovzhenko’s 1930 film Earth to frame a discussion of the afterlife, Herzog is both fascinated by the experiments undertaken by an assortment of science and research—experiments involving everything from the tiniest microorganisms to groups of adults having their brains scanned while reading JD Salinger—while manifesting a bit of an “Is there ?” vibe. Who is the ghostwriter of our thoughts and actions, he wants to know, wondering how culture and group dynamics play into our behaviors and decisions. Towards the end of the doc, bioethics becomes a greater concern as brain implant prototypes are demonstrated. As is typical in these late Herzog’s interview-based documentaries, the director’s largely off-screen questions follow a pattern of brain activity we’re all familiar with, alternating between incisive queries and eccentric non-sequences. , with an engaging section – a visit to watch tightrope walker Philippe Petite train in a “flow” demonstration – feeling fully beamed from another film. —SM
Slugger. Another long-awaited feature developed from a short film is the debut of New York-based Miles Warren. Slugger. With Jalyn Hall, Shamier Anderson and Moonlightby Trevante Rhodes, and based on his impressive 2021 short of the same name, Bruiser features a 14-year-old protagonist (Hall) whose path away from violence leads to an unexpected relationship. —SM
Self-portrait in a coffee maker. In what is described as a playful look at the process of making creative work, Self-portrait in a coffee maker is an introspective nine-part series by South African artist William Kentridge. Kentridge’s work has spanned several mediums and here he focuses on the artist’s studio, a space he explores with Melies-style visual effects and, according to the program notes, “the physical presence of a silent screen comedian”. Three out of the nine planned episodes will be screened. —SM
Finally, here’s Darren Hughes with two recommendations from pre-festival viewing:
Qing dynasty queens. “My favorite film from the Berlinale was Qing dynasty queens, Ashley McKenzie’s ambitious, supernatural fantasy about a “queer friendship story” between a suicidal young woman and a Chinese immigrant she meets while hospitalized. It’s one of the greatest little movies I’ve seen. —Darren Hughes
Dry ground burning. “Dry ground burning is a ramshackle (in the most exciting sense of the word) mix of genres, equal parts western, gangster flick, madmax-like dystopia and documentary. Like Juliano Dornelles and Kleber Mendonça Filho bacarau (2019), it instantiates a world that seems to exist outside of time, incomprehensibly cruel and unjust but also somehow imbued with revolutionary potential. — DH