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The Breakouts: 7 Up-and-Coming Directors to Watch For at the Toronto International Film Festival

The Breakouts: 7 Up-and-Coming Directors to Watch For at the Toronto International Film Festival

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Eva Husson (“Bang Gang”)

Why You May Know Her: The Sorbonne and AFI educated Husson has two shorts under her belt, including “Hope to Die,” which had a big festival run in 2004 (it debuted at Tribeca), and 2014’s “Those for Whom It’s Always Complicated,” a funny and sexy road trip-centric feature. 

What She’s Bringing to Toronto: Husson’s feature directorial debut “Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story)” will premiere in the festival’s Platforms section, and it’s already building big buzz for its reportedly frank look at teenage sexuality. It’s already topped our 7 Hidden Gems from the 2015 Toronto Film Festival list, and it’s poised to make big waves when it premieres during a prime spot in the festival’s first weekend.

Sue Brooks (“Looking for Grace”)

Why You May Know Her: The Aussie filmmaker has been working off and on since 1984, and her resume includes a variety of shorts (“An Ordinary Woman,” “The Drover’s Wife”), television gigs and a handful of features (including her last film, 2009’s “Subdivision” and her most well-known, “Japanese Story”). Brooks has been in the game for decades, but her Malick-like approach to churning out new material hasn’t pushed her to the top of heap just yet. 

What She’s Bringing to Toronto: Featuring one of TIFF’s actors to watch, Odessa Young, Brooks’ dramatic-sounding “Looking for Grace” reportedly keeps shifting gears in inventive ways, starting off as a drama about a runaway teen (Young) before becoming a crime caper with an off-kilter sense of humor that verges into satire. The film debuted at Venice to mixed reviews, but mostly, everyone just seems happy to have Brooks back — now let’s keep her there.

Gabriel Mascaro (“Neon Bull”)

Why You May Know Him: Best known for his documentary features (including “High-Rise” and “Housemaids”), Mascaro first tried his hand at narrative features with last year’s sexy and sensual “August Winds.” That worked out well for the Brazilian filmmaker, as the film debuted at Locarno and walked away with a special mention award and a Golden Leopard nomination.

What He’s Bringing to Toronto: The Venice premiere “Neon Bull” has already racked up some admiring reviews, and the visually striking feature is bound for TIFF next. Set amongst the rough and tumble cowboys that populate the world of “vaquejada,” the film explores the complicated life of Iremar (Juliano Cazarré), who wants nothing more than to design outrageously exciting dance costumes, despite his panache for hooking bulls.

Robin Pront (“The Ardennes”)

Why You May Know Him: Pront has previously directed a pair of shorts — 2010’s Matthias Schoenaerts-starring “Injury Time” and “Plan B” — which have been hailed as part of a rising wave of new Flemish cinema.

What He’s Bringing to Toronto: “The Ardennes” is a crime thriller in that puts a gritty, modern spin on the classic Cain and Abel tale. Two brothers — from the titular Ardennes region in Belgium where part of the action takes place — commit an ill-fated crime together that leaves one of them jailed and one of them happily holed up with his brother’s girlfriend. When everyone meets again, it’s not exactly a happy family reunion. The film reportedly opens with a banger of an action sequence, the sort of thing that could earmark Pront for genre stardom.

Andrew Cividino (“Sleeping Giant”)

Why You May Know Him: A regular on Canada’s Top Ten Shorts list (Cividino has had two films appear on it — 2011’s “We Ate the Children Last” and last year’s “Sleeping Giant,” which inspired his first feature), the Canadian native has been steadily turning out well-regarded short films that have played to acclaim on the festival circuit. 

What He’s Bringing to Toronto: Cividino’s feature-length version of his 2014 short expands out the finely rendered coming-of-age drama about an awkward boy and the summer that is destined to chance his life. The film debuted during Cannes’ Critics Week in May, where it was nominated for both the Grand Prize and the Golden Camera. Cividino’s first feature has already gotten some rave reviews, with critics praising both his writing and his ability to get stirring performances out his young cast.

Leyla Bouzid (“As I Open My Eyes”)

Why You May Know Her: Bouzid has been making shorts since 2010, including festival favorites “Zakaria” and “Soubresauts,” and her Venice premiere has already pulled in rave reviews, including one of our own

What She’s Bringing to Toronto: “As I Open My Eyes” is loosely based on Bouzid’s own experiences during Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution, and the film has been hailed a major accomplishment for a first feature. Combining political drama with interpersonal trauma, the film is bolstered by excellent music and reportedly pitch perfect performances. 

Stephen Dunn (“Closet Monster”)


Why You May Know Him: 
The winner of the TIFF Talent Lab Emerging Filmmaker Award, Dunn has crafted a series of short films since 2008, building up both his reputation and his portfolio in the process. He’s a homegrown TIFF filmmaker, and he’s set to debut his first feature at this year’s festival.  

What He’s Bringing to Toronto: Playing in the Discovery section, “Closet Monster” features rising star Connor Jessup (who also directed his own short in the festival, “Boy”) as a teen struggling with his identity, a basic idea bolstered by some inventive style choices. Early footage of the film hints at a feature rife with visual flair and some narrative secrets worth exploring.

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