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13 Films We're Excited For At TIFF 2013

By Nigel M. Smith and Peter Knegt | Indiewire September 5, 2013 at 8:50PM

The 38th Toronto International Film Festival gout underway today in Canada's largest city, and is there ever a lot to choose from. Over 11 days, the festival is offering up a whopping 288 feature films, a huge chunk of them world and international premieres.

Daniel Radcliffe is all grown up in "Horns," the newest film from "Piranha 3D" helmer Alexandre Aja (who's also responsible for the terrifying and extremely brutal French horror "High Tension"). In the refreshingly oddball supernatural thriller, Radcliffe plays a small-town guy, blamed for the brutal murder of his longtime girlfriend (Juno Temple), who wakes up one morning to find a pair of horns growing from his head. Suddenly the townsfolk that condemned him for the crime begin to confess their darkest desires and most hidden secrets the newly horned man, who uses his new-found powers to unmask the real killer. Based on the novel by emerging horror author Joe Hill, "Horns" marks new, fantastical territory for Aja, who's proven himself to be one of horror's defining new voices. We can't wait to see what he has in store for us.

"The Railway Man"
One of the most high profile films premiering at TIFF without distribution is Australian filmmaker Jonathan Teplitzky’s "The Railway Man." Based on Eric Lomax’s memoir, the film tells the tale of a Scottish lieutenant (Colin Firth) and his suffering at the hands of Japanese soldiers during World War II when he is shipped off to a camp in Thailand. It isn’t until years later that the PTSD-inflicted Lomax, at the behest of his wife (Nicole Kidman), seeks closure from his former captor. Early buzz is very strong for the film, which could has the kind of dramatic, World War II-inflicted content that Oscar voters eat right up. If any distributor is feeling weak going into awards season, this could be the film that could change their game.

Daniel Bruhl in "Rush"
Daniel Bruhl in "Rush"

Coming in to TIFF with massive buzz thanks to a bunch of ecstatic reviews that leaked before its official world premiere, "Rush" marks a re-teaming of "Frost/Nixon" director and writer Ron Howard and Peter Morgan. This time they are taking on biopic of the Formula 1 champion racer Niki Lauda centered around his 1976 near-death crash. Daniel Bruhl (said to be a near-lock for an Oscar nom here) stars as Lauda alongside Chris Hemsworth as his rival James Hunt. When Lauda recovers, Hunt must prepare himself for his opponent's resurgence while sporting a guilty conscience after the crash. Said to be one of the most satisfying sports films in some time, we're surprised to find ourselves very excited to see Ron Howard's follow-up to "The Dilemma."

"The Sacrament"

Indie horror maestro Ti West is back after spooking us out via "The Innkeepers" with his first full on found-footage horror feature "The Sacrament," which subs the ghosts that plagued his last film for religious fanatics. Framed as a Vice documentary (that are so in style these days), the film centers on a group who venture out to an isolated community to investigate a possible suicide cult, led by a charismatic leader. Understandably skeptical at first, the crew slowly come around to the group's utopian claims. We're guessing things don't end so well. For a festival known for playing home to Hollywood's biggest stars, "The Sacrament" is refreshingly indie centric. On top of West's involvement, it stars Joe Swanberg, Amy Seimetz and Kate Lyn Sheil, all staples of the indie field.

"Salvation Army"
"Salvation Army"

"Salvation Army"
Toronto's LGBT content is almost all about films that premiered at other festivals, from Cannes' "Blue Is The Warmest Color" and "Stranger By The Lake" to Sundance's "Kill Your Darlings" to Venice's "Tom at the Farm." But the debut feature from Moroccan writer Abdellah Taïa tells a queer story TIFF can officially call it's own discovery.  The semi-autobiographical story structured in a diptych: One episode chronicles Abdellah's (Said Mrini) teenage years, while the second half follows the young adult Abdellah (Karim Ait M'hand) as a broke university graduate who travels on a scholarship to Geneva. Said to be a considerable find of a new cinematic voice, "Salvation Army" is at the top of our list of films at TIFF from first time filmmakers.

Not to be confused the French imported "Therese" starring Audrey Tatou that was released just a few weeks ago (based on the 1927 novel "Thérèse Desqueyroux"), Charlie Stratton's "Therese" was made in the US and is based on the 1867 novel "Thérèse Raquin." And instead of Andrey Tatou we get Elizabeth Olsen and Jessica Lange. Just picked up by Roadside Attractions ahead of its Toronto premiere, the film stars Olsen as the titular Therese, a sexually repressed young woman trapped in a loveless marriage to her sickly cousin, Camille (Tom Felton) by her domineering aunt, Madame Raquin (Jessica Lange). When she meets her husband's childhood friend, Laurent (Oscar Isaac, of “Inside Llewyn Davis”), she embarks on an illicit affair with tragic consequences.

This article is related to: Lists, Toronto International Film Festival, August: Osage County, Rush, The Railway Man, Horns, Enough Said, Enemy, Dallas Buyers Club

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