What To Watch Out for at This Year's TIFF

Get the lowdown.

From September 10 to September 20 the Toronto International Film Festival plays host to a line-up of last-minute movies hoping to snag some early awards buzz. Be it the loftier aspirations of the Oscar-bait set right through to the grittier genre fare, there’s plenty of stuff to check off your must-see list. Here’s a glimpse at a few of the most intriguing titles.


Jean-Marc Vallee’s last two efforts (Dallas Buyers Club, Wild) were carefully crafted to appeal to Academy voters. Real-life stories with an achy, breaky heart at their sobbing center. In Demolition the true inspiration tag might be missing, but the sadness remains with Jake Gyllenhaal cast as a family man who loses it when tragedy strikes. Think Southpaw without the ring.

The Lobster

The Lobster caught people’s attention when it debuted at Cannes because it’s batshit mental: In the near-future people have a small window of time to secure a lifelong mate, otherwise they become transformed into a creature of their choosing. It’s been a while since a plot as doo-lally as this has come along.

Amazing Grace

This behind-the-scenes piece follows Aretha Franklin during the recording of her Amazing Grace live album at an L.A missionary church in the early seventies. Part-documentary and part-live concert, the footage was directed by the late Sydney Pollack and has never been synced with the audio until now. No word on a post-TIFF release so this could be a one-off bit of movie history.

Green Room

If you saw the slick revenge thriller Blue Ruin then the idea of that same director - Jeremy Saulnier - casting Patrick Stewart as a skinhead neo-Nazi leading a gang of thugs might pique your interest. The plot follows an unfortunate punk band who accept a last-minute gig at a dodgy nightclub frequented by Stewart’s posse. Murder ensues. Word out of Cannes was very encouraging.

Der Nachtmar

It Follows but without the anonymity. This German horror preys on the same anxieties, but instead of a mystery figure stalking you after a fumble it’s an odd little creature that haunts you after a drug binge. The threat of being pursued by a varicose veins-version of Gollum just might keep youngsters away from substance abuse.

Kill Your Friends

Nicholas Hoult does Patrick Bateman in a music industry spin on American Psycho. Based on John Niven’s 2008 novel the excesses afforded to Hoult’s A&R man cause the twentysomething to embark on the usual hedonistic activities. And then a bit of light murder to shake off his rage. Who doesn’t like rooting for the bad guy?

Beasts of No Nation

Uzodinma Iweala’s 2005 novel is brought to the big screen by Cary Fukunaga, the former True Detective director who scored Idris Elba to lead this war drama. Set in an unnamed West African country, Elba plays a surly commander who enlists a child soldier into his crew. Suitably stirring stuff that’s set to debut on Netflix the same day as its theatrical release.

Black Mass

Finally, Johnny Depp’s putting on prosthetics for good. A gangster biopic based on the tale of James “Whitey” Bulger, the notorious Chicago mobster-turned-FBI informant. Trailers have demonstrated real menace lurking behind Depp’s facade and a gutsy take on the material.


Whether you love or loathe Kristen Stewart and her shruggish so-what response to fame, her recent acclaim for Clouds Of Sils Maria has her destined for better material. Romantic sci-fi Equals could be it. It sounds like an updated take on THX-1138, which mediated on how troublesome emotions can get in the way of a harmonious society, so they’re eradicated.

This Changes Everything

Climate change documentary inspired by Naomi Klein’s bestselling tome. Instead of casting a wide net to lecture and finger-wag us into guilt, the film took to a number of global locations to showcase the real-world effects of our ignorance towards the issue.


Jafar Panahi’s dedication to making films regardless of Iran’s cultural laws strictly forbidding such an action continues. This Is Not A Film is a blinding piece of modern cinema and his next Taxi prompts further discussion in the same arena, as he takes to a cab and proceeds to paint a picture of modern Tehran.


Who better to go up against Tom Hardy than himself? Like Dominic Cooper did in the little-seen Devil’s Double, Hardy plays twin brothers Ronnie and Reggie Kray who were during their heyday two of London’s most notorious gangsters. As this is Hardy he appears to be fully immersed in the role. Probably smashed a few windows and robbed an off-license to get in the mood.

Our Brand Is Crisis

This comedy drama from director David Gordon Green looks worth a watch, as a feature remake of the 2005 documentary about the influence of American political finagling during the 2002 Bolivian presidential election. A true story and it stars Sandra Bullock in what appears to be a greyed wig? SOLD.


The story of denounced screenwriter Donald Trumbo is fascinating on its own. Throw in Bryan Cranston and it practically sells itself, with the former Breaking Bad geezer tackling the title role of Communist scribe whose career in Hollywood bombed after he was outed. Jay Roach is an interesting choice to helm as his biggest hit to date is Meet the Parents.


A bunch of cops explore an abandoned warehouse after receiving a call for back-up. Unable to find their colleagues they instead get sucked into hell. The official TIFF website has it listed under the Midnight Madness portion of the program, and says to expect a similar response to the 2008 screening of Patrick Laugier’s utterly brilliant Martyrs. They must be referring to that “I know it’s a good film but now I’m dead inside” feeling.

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