When the 39th Toronto International Film Festival (September 4-14) released its first two rounds of programming at this year’s events, we were initially unimpressed by the paltry representation of female filmmakers.
Now that TIFF has released the films intended for its Galas, Special Presentations, and World Cinema Programme, we’re a bit more relieved that there will be more than enough women-directed films to keep festival attendees busy.
Among the featured films will be Lynn Shelton’s Laggies, Gina Prince-Bythewood’s Beyond the Lights, Céline Sciamma’s Girlhood, Maya Forbes’ Infinitely Polar Bear, Anne Fontaine’s Gemma Bovery, Sophie Barthes’ Emma Bovary, and Naomi Kawase’s Still the Water.
Here are the recently announced women-directed works that will be playing at Toronto:
Infinitely Polar Bear Maya Forbes, USA – Canadian Premiere
Set in the late ’70s, a manic-depressive mess of a father tries to win back his wife by taking responsibility of their two young daughters. The spirited girls don’t make the overwhelming task any easier. Starring Mark Ruffalo, Zoe Saldana, Imogene Wolodarsky, Ashley Aufderheide, Beth Dixon and Keir Dullea.
Laggies Lynn Shelton, USA – International Premiere
Overeducated and underemployed, 28-year-old Megan is in the throes of a quarter-life crisis. Squarely into adulthood with no career prospects or motivation to think about her future, Megan is comfortable lagging a few steps behind while her friends check off milestones and celebrate their new grown-up status. When her high-school sweetheart proposes, Megan panics and — given an unexpected opportunity to escape for a week — hides out in the home of her new friend, 16-year-old Annika, and her world-weary single dad Craig. A romantic coming-of-age comedy about three people who find their lives intertwined in the most unconventional of ways. Starring Keira Knightley, Sam Rockwell and Chloë Grace Moretz.
Beyond the Lights Gina Prince-Bythewood, USA – World Premiere
Noni is the music world’s latest superstar, but the pressures of fame have her on edge — until she meets Kaz Nicol, a young cop and aspiring politician. Can Kaz’s love give Noni the courage to find her own voice and become the artist she was meant to be? Starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Nate Parker, Minnie Driver, Colson “MGK” Baker and Danny Glover.Galas
Gemma Bovery Anne Fontaine, France – World Premiere
Martin, an ex-Parisian well-heeled hipster passionate about Gustave Flaubert who settled into a Norman village as a baker, sees an English couple moving into a small farm nearby. Not only are the names of the new arrivals Gemma and Charles Bovery, but their behaviour also seems to be inspired by Flaubert’s heroes. Starring Gemma Arterton, Fabrice Luchini, Jason Flemyng and Niels Schneider.
Madame Bovary Sophie Barthes, United Kingdom/Belgium – World Premiere
In 19th-century France, Emma Bovary, the wife of a dull country doctor, embarks on a series of love affairs and spends well beyond her means. Although the affairs provide moments of perceived bliss, Emma’s idealized notions of love evade her and leave her in ruinous debt. Starring Mia Wasikowska, Laura Carmichael, Ezra Miller, Paul Giamatti, Rhys Ifans, Logan Marshall-Green and Henry Lloyd-Hughes.
Contemporary World CInema
Aire Libre Anahí Berneri, Argentina – International Premiere
Even though they refuse to admit it, Lucía and Manuel no longer have dreams in common. Maybe for love or perhaps as a remedy for something that is beyond repair, they plan on rebuilding their life together out of town. Their shared passion for architecture seems to bring them together, as they plan on renovating a house with a garden, selling their apartment and moving in with Lucía’s mother. But living with his wife’s family is suffocating Manuel, and he decides to take a break from cohabitation and moves to his parents’ house. As Lucía and Manuel begin to live separate lives trying to fulfill their own personal dreams, they forget what brought both of them together. Building a place to meet is very hard for them, discovering what they have destroyed is hard as well.
Amour Fou Jessica Hausner, Austria/Luxembourg/Germany – North American Premiere
Berlin, the Romantic Era. Young poet Heinrich wishes to conquer the inevitability of death through love, yet is unable to convince his skeptical cousin Marie to join him in a suicide pact. It is while coming to terms with this refusal, ineffably distressed by his cousin’s insensitivity to the depth of his feelings, that Heinrich meets Henriette, the wife of a business acquaintance. Heinrich’s subsequent offer to the beguiling young woman at first holds scant appeal… until Henriette discovers she is suffering from a terminal illness. Amour Fou is a romantic comedy based loosely on the suicide of the poet Henrich von Kleist in 1811.
Breathe (Respire) Mélanie Laurent, France – North American Premiere
Charlie is a 17-year-old girl tortured by doubt, disillusionment and solitude. When the beautiful and self-confident Sarah arrives and the two become inseparable, Charlie is thrilled to feel alive, fulfilled and invincible in their intense friendship. But as Sarah tires of Charlie and begins to look elsewhere for a new friend, their friendship takes an ominous turn.
The Farewell Party (Mita Tova) Sharon Maymon and Tal Granit, Germany/Israel – North American Premiere
The Farewell Party is a compassionate dramatic comedy about friendship and saying goodbye. A group of friends at a Jerusalem retirement home build a machine for self-administered euthanasia in order to help their terminally-ill friend. But as rumours of the secret machine begin to spread, more and more people ask for their help.
Frailer (Brozer) Mijke de Jong, Netherlands – World Premiere
A woman diagnosed with terminal lung cancer gathers her three dearest friends together to make the most of the time she has left
Gett, The Trial of Viviane Amsalem (Gett, le procès de Vivane Amsalem) Ronit Elkabetz and Shlomi Elkabetz, France/Germany/Israel – North American Premiere
This film tells the story of Viviane Amsalem’s five-year fight to obtain her divorce in front of the only legal authority for divorce cases in Israel, the Rabbinical Court. Viviane and her lawyer must face the uncompromising attitude of her husband, Elisha, who isn’t responsive to the rabbi’s convocations. Witnesses are called, the procedure drags on, while Viviane is still unable to recover her dignity.
Girlhood (Bande de filles) Céline Sciamma, France – North American Premiere
Oppressed by her family situation, dead-end school prospects and having to live by the boys’ rules in the neighbourhood, Marieme starts a new life after meeting a group of three free-spirited girls. She changes her name, her dress code, and quits school to be accepted into the gang, hoping that this will be a way to freedom.
High Society (Le beau monde) Julie Lopes Curval, France – International Premiere
Twenty-year-old Alice lives in Normandy. Passionate about embroidery, she invents and creates, trying to find her own path. Contemplating what to do with her innate talent, she meets Agnes, a rich Parisian lady who helps her get into a prestigious school. Without hesitation, Alice leaves everything behind to start a new life in Paris. When she meets Antoine, Agnes’ son, they fall passionately in love. Antoine finds in Alice a sincerity and simplicity that frees him from the bourgeois environment he hates, while Alice risks losing herself in a fascinating new world.
Impunity Jyoti Mistry, South Africa – World Premiere
When the mauled body of Zanele Majola, a minister’s daughter, is discovered in the forest of an exclusive safari lodge the morning after her engagement party to a rising political star, Dingande Fakude, a Special Crimes Unit detective is dispatched from Pretoria to oversee the investigation and bring swift closure. He is teamed with the local detective, Naveed Khan, a self-styled outcast. When two young lovers, Derren and Echo, working as waiters at the party, are taken in for questioning, their complicity seems obvious. But as more crimes are uncovered, what looks like an open and shut case presents the two policemen with the complicated challenge of protecting the political elite. Behind the intertwining stories of a couple on a killing rampage and the corruption of politics in South Africa, filmmaker Jyoti Mistry weaves a provocative portrayal of a society permeated with violence and its spectacle, where the notion of justice has gone awry.
Laila is a young romantic, a secret rebel in a wheelchair. Undeterred by cerebral palsy, she embarks on exhilarating adventures of self discovery, which cause a rift both within and with those she is closest to. Ultimately, it is in the intensity of these bonds where she must find the strength to truly be herself.
A politically complacent middle-aged man and a young pro-democracy activist debate about the future of their country while hiding from the police in this fascinating drama that blends scripted scenes with on-the-ground footage from Iran’s 2009 Green Revolution.
Sand Dollars (Dólares de Arena) Laura Amelia Guzmán and Israel Cárdenas, Dominican Republic/Argentina/Mexico – World Premiere
Noelí and her boyfriend earn their living from the tourists in a beach town in the Dominican Republic. When Noelí meets Anne, a mature French woman who promises to take her to Europe, she must decide whether to stay with her loved one or to leave in the hope of a better future.
Still the Water (Futatsume no mado) Naomi Kawase, Japan/France/Spain – North American Premiere
On the subtropical Japanese island of Amami-Ōshima, traditions about nature remain eternal. During the full-moon night of traditional dances in August, 16-year-old Kaito discovers a dead body floating in the sea. His girlfriend Kyoko will attempt to help him understand this mysterious discovery.
Today (Emrouz) Reza Mirkarimi, Iran – International Premiere
In this delicate, deceptively small-scale drama from award-winning Iranian director Reza Mirkarimi, Youness, an ageing taxi driver, takes a young woman to a hospital at the end of his working day not knowing what awaits him there.