TIFF continues to roll out additions to its lineup on a near daily basis, and thankfully many of the newly announced crop of films are helmed by women.
Three female directors have been added to the fest’s highest-profile program (the Galas): Alice Winocour’s “Disorder,” Catherine Hardwicke’s “Miss You Already” and Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s “Mississippi Grind.” These films will be on the receiving end of serious red-carpet treatment and press coverage. Winocour’s thriller about a French Special Forces soldier who protects the wife of a wealthy Lebanese businessman (Diane Kruger) at her rural mansion had its world premiere at Cannes, where it was acquired by Sundance Selects. “Miss You Already,” a dramedy about two lifelong best friends (Toni Collette and Drew Barrymore), is making its world premiere at TIFF. “Mississippi Grind,” a road journey following a skilled but down-on-his-luck poker player and his new charismatic friend, made its debut at Sundance. Boden, who co-directed and co-wrote the film, told Women and Hollywood that she was drawn to the “friendship aspect of the story and how this new connection between two people could be alternately strengthened and weakened, deepened then undermined, by the ups and downs of gambling.”
TIFF previously announced Gala screenings for Deepa Mehta’s “Beeba Boys,” Julie Delpy’s “Lolo” and Jocelyn Moorhouse’s “The Dressmaker.”
Six female-helmed films have been added to the Special Presentations slate, the fest’s second-most notable category. We’re delighted to learn that Gaby Dellal’s “About Ray” (formerly “Three Generations”) will finally be unveiled at TIFF. The always excellent Elle Fanning stars as titular Ray, a transgender teen who lives with his mother (Naomi Watts) and grandmother (Susan Sarandon), but is forced to seek help from his absentee biological father who must give his legal consent to allow Ray’s transition. As expected, TIFF will also host the North American premiere of Natalie Portman’s directorial debut, “A Tale of Love and Darkness.” We hadn’t heard anything about Mabel Cheung’s “A Tale of Three Cities” prior to TIFF’s press release, but its premise has certainly piqued our interests. The romance is based on the true story of Jackie Chan’s parents, an opium peddler and a former spy. (Who knew?!)
The Contemporary World Cinema program announced a batch of 56 new films, 15 of which are directed by women. (This ratio is far from ideal, but considerably better than some of TIFF’s other lineups such as Midnight Madness, where not a single film announced so far is directed solely by a woman.) We’re especially curious to see what sounds like an ambitious and highly unconventional coming-of-age story in Alexandra-Therese Keining’s “Girls Lost.” The film focuses on three bullied teenage girls who eat a magical plant that temporarily transforms them into boys. According to TIFF’s description of the plot, “Not only does their gender change, [but] the world around them, and their response to it, is altered.”
Wavelengths, TIFF’s hub of experimental films, will feature Chantal Akerman’s “No Home Movie,” a portrait of the director’s mother, a Polish Jew who survived Auschwitz. “No Home Movie” first screened at the Locarno Film Festival and is part of the New York Film Festival’s main program.
The City to City program, a showcase of films by contemporary directors living and working in what TIFF calls “the global city,” will focus on London this year. Of the eight films announced, only one is by a female filmmaker, Elaine Constantine’s “Northern Soul.” The film chronicles the life-changing effect that American soul music has on two British teens working in a factory.
The 2015 Toronto International Film Festival will take place on September 10-20.
See all of the recently added female-helmed features below. Plot descriptions courtesy of TIFF.
Disorder (Maryland) Alice Winocour, France/Belgium – North American Premiere
In this masterfully engineered thriller, a young ex-soldier suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder protects a beautiful woman and her child from a brutal home invasion. Starring Matthias Schoenaerts and Diane Kruger.
Miss You Already Catherine Hardwicke, United Kingdom – World Premiere
This honest and powerful story follows two best friends, Milly and Jess, as they navigate life’s highs and lows. Inseparable since they were young girls, they can’t remember a time they didn’t share everything — secrets, clothes, even boyfriends — but nothing prepares them for the day Milly is hit with life-altering news. A story for every modern woman, this film celebrates the bond of true friendship that ultimately can never be broken, even in life’s toughest moments. Starring Toni Collette, Drew Barrymore, Dominic Cooper, Paddy Considine, Tyson Ritter and Jacqueline Bisset
Mississippi Grind Ryan Fleck, Anna Boden, USA – Canadian Premiere
Gerry is a talented, but struggling poker player about to be swallowed up by his unshakeable gambling habit. But his luck begins to change after he meets the young, charismatic Curtis. Gerry convinces his new lucky charm to hit the road with him, towards a legendary high stakes poker game in New Orleans. The highs and lows unveil the duo’s true characters and motivations, and an undeniable bond forms between them. Starring Ben Mendelsohn, Ryan Reynolds, Sienna Miller, Analeigh Tipton and Alfre Woodard
About Ray Gaby Dellal, USA – World Premiere
The touching story of three generations of a family living under one roof in New York as the life-changing transformation by one ultimately affects them all. Ray is a teenager who realizes that she isn’t meant to be a girl and decides to transition from female to male. His single mother, Maggie, must track down Ray’s biological father to get his legal consent to allow Ray’s transition. Dolly, Ray’s lesbian grandmother, struggles to accept that she now has a grandson. They must each confront their own identities and learn to embrace change and their strength as a family, in order to ultimately find acceptance and understanding. Starring Naomi Watts, Elle Fanning, Susan Sarandon, Tate Donovan, Linda Emond, Sam Trammell and Maria Dizzia.
Body (Body/Cialo) Małgorzata Szumowska, Poland – North American Premiere
Set in Poland, this absurdist dark comedy follows the intertwined stories of a criminal prosecutor, his anorexic daughter, and her therapist who claims she can communicate with the dead. Starring Janusz Gajos, Maja Ostaszewska and Justyna Suwala.
The Meddler Lorene Scafaria, USA – World Premiere
Marnie Minervini, recent widow and eternal optimist, moves from New Jersey to Los Angeles to be closer to her daughter. Armed with an iPhone and a full bank account, Marnie sets out to make friends, find her purpose, and possibly open up to someone new. Starring Susan Sarandon, Rose Byrne and J.K. Simmons.
Mustang Deniz Gamze Ergüven, Turkey/France/Germany – North American Premiere
It’s the beginning of the summer in a village in the north of Turkey; Lale and her four sisters come home from school, innocently playing with boys. The supposed debauchery of their games causes a scandal with unintended consequences. The family home slowly turns into a prison, classes on housework and cooking replace school, and marriages begin to be arranged. The five sisters, driven by the same desire for freedom, fight back against the limits imposed on them. Starring Gunes Sensoy, Dogba Doguslu, Tugba Sunguroglu, Elit Iscan, Ilayda Akdogan, Ayberk Pekcan and Nihal Koldas.
A Tale of Love and Darkness Natalie Portman Israel/USA – North American Premiere
Based on Amos Oz’s international best-seller, this is the story of his youth at the end of the British Mandate in Palestine and the early years of the state of Israel. The film details young Amos’s relationship with his mother and his birth as a writer, looking at what happens when the stories we tell become the stories we live. Starring Natalie Portman, Gilad Kahana and Amir Tessler.
A Tale of Three Cities (San Cheng Ji) Mabel Cheung, China – International Premiere
Based on the miraculous true story of Jackie Chan’s parents, this film is about the unbreakable bond of love between an opium peddling widow and a former spy on the run. Together they witness love and humanity in the face of war, famine, and overwhelming danger. Starring Tang Wei and Sean Lau.
Contemporary World Cinema
25 April Leanne Pooley, New Zealand – World Premiere
Award-winning filmmaker Leanne Pooley utilizes the letters and memoirs of New Zealand soldiers and nurses along with state of the art animation to tell the true story of the 1915 battle of Gallipoli. Dramatic, moving, sometimes humourous and often thrilling, the film explores an event whose resonance continues for Australians and New Zealanders to the present day.
3000 Nights (3000 Layla) Mai Masri, Palestine/France/Jordan/Lebanon/United Arab Emirates/Qatar – World Premiere
After Layal, a newlywed Palestinian schoolteacher gives birth to a baby boy in an Israeli prison, the chief warden threatens to take her baby away unless she agrees to spy on the other prisoners who are planning a major strike. 3000 Nights makes a prison into a metaphor for Palestine under occupation, exploring the complicated interplay of resilience, empathy, and psychological manipulation between women. Layal fights to survive and maintain hope.
An Naomi Kawase, Japan/France/Germany – North American Premiere
Sentaro runs a small bakery that serves dorayakis — pastries filled with sweet red bean paste (“an”). When an old lady, Tokue, offers to help in the kitchen, he reluctantly accepts. But Tokue proves to have magic in her hands when it comes to making “an”. Thanks to her secret recipe, the little business soon flourishes. And with time, Sentaro and Tokue will open their hearts to reveal old wounds.
As I Open My Eyes (A peine j’ouvre les yeux) Leyla Bouzid, Tunisia/France/Belgium – North American Premiere
Tunis, summer 2010, a few months before the Revolution. Eighteen-year-old Farah is at a crossroads: to fulfill her mother’s wish and enroll in medical school or follow her passion for music. She has joined a subversive rock band, “Joujma”. As it becomes more and more visible, she does not suspect the danger of a regime that watches and infiltrates her privacy.
Campo Grande Sandra Kogut, Brazil/France – World Premiere
Eight-year-old Ygor and six-year-old Rayane were abandoned by their mother, who left them on Regina’s doorstep in Rio de Janeiro’s Ipanema neighborhood. The sudden and unexpected arrival of these children in Regina’s life and the search for their mother changes their lives.
Chevalier Athina Rachel Tsangari, Greece – North American Premiere
In the middle of the Aegean Sea, on a luxury yacht, six men on a fishing trip have decided to play a game. Things will be measured, blood will be tested. The man who wins will be the best man, and he will wear upon his littlest finger the victorious signet ring: the “Chevalier”.
Girls Lost Alexandra-Therese Keining, Sweden – World Premiere
Kim, Bella and Momo, three bullied teenage girls, are going through the throes of finding themselves. Surrounded by a dark world of teenage violence, marginalization and sexual confusion, the girls have only each other. They come across a curious magical plant that, when consumed, transforms the girls temporarily into boys. Not only does their gender change, the world around them, and their response to it, is altered.
Granny’s Dancing on the Table Hanna Sköld, Sweden – World Premiere
Thirteen-year-old Eini grows up isolated from society with her violent father, a man afraid of the world, who keeps her very close. The brutality that Eini is exposed to pushes her to almost lose her sense of self — but through the power of her own imagination she is able to create a world from which she can draw strength to survive.
Homesick (De nærmeste) Anne Sewitsky, Norway – Canadian Premiere
When Charlotte, 27, meets her half-brother Henrik, 35, for the first time as an adult, it becomes an encounter without boundaries, between two people who don’t know what a normal family is. How does sibling love manifest itself if you have never experienced it before? Homesick is an unusual family drama about seeking a family, and breaking every rule to be one.
Jack Elisabeth Scharang, Austria – North American Premiere
One winter’s night a girl freezes to death after suffering brutal injuries. Jack is convicted of her murder. When he is released from prison 15 years later, he goes from being a jailbird poet to a real ladykiller and darling of Vienna’s society. Can a man change so fundamentally? Or is it a case of once a murderer, always a murderer?
Murmur of the Hearts Sylvia Chang, Taiwan/Hong Kong – North American Premiere
Legendary Taiwanese actress and filmmaker Sylvia Chang directs this magical story of estranged siblings whose shared memories of their mother’s fairy tales begin to draw their lives together once again.
Parisienne (Peur de rien) Danielle Arbid, France – World Premiere
The new film from Lebanese director Danielle Arbid follows a young Arab immigrant in Paris, whose encounters with three men reveal different facets of her new country, and of herself.
Price of Love Hermon Hailay, Ethiopia – North American Premiere
A young Addis Ababa taxi driver’s cab is stolen when he gets caught up in the dark side of love. He finds himself stuck in a relationship with a prostitute, making him confront his past and discover the price of love.
Song of Songs (Pesn pesney) Eva Neymann, Ukraine – North American Premiere
1905. A Jewish Shtetl. Shimek and Buzya are two 10-year-olds. Of course, she is a princess and he is a prince. They live in the same yard, in neighbouring palaces. Years later Shimek begins to understand what Buzya really means to him when he receives the news that she is about to be married.
Thank You for Bombing Barbara Eder, Austria – World Premiere
Three international TV correspondents — Ewald (Erwin Steinhauer), Lana (Manon Kahle) and Cal (Raphael von Bargen) — cross paths while waiting for a war that has already begun long ago in their own lives.
No Home Movie Chantal Akerman, Belgium – North American Premiere
Shuttling between fiction, adaptation, documentary and essay film, Belgian filmmaker Chantal Akerman has created one of the most original, daring and influential oeuvres in film history. No Home Movie is a sober, profoundly moving portrait of Akerman’s mother in the months leading up to her death, when she was mostly confined to her Brussels apartment. A Polish Jew who survived Auschwitz, her mother suffered from chronic anxiety, an affliction that shaped Akerman’s thematic preoccupations with gender, sex, cultural identity, existential ennui, solitude and mania.
City to City
Northern Soul Elaine Constantine, United Kingdom – North American Premiere
John and Matt are changed forever when they discover American soul music. No longer satisfied with the prospect of a dead-end factory job, they dream of finding the American soul record which will make them famous DJs. Northern Soul was phenomenally popular with British youth in the 1970s, taking the north of the country by storm. This is the story of a youth culture that changed a generation and influenced songwriters, producers, DJs and designers for decades to come. This is the story of Northern Soul. Starring Elliot James Langridge, Joshua Whitehouse, Antonia Thomas and Steve Coogan.