The Toronto International Film Festival kicks off tonight in Canada’s biggest city, and while we’ve already offered this list of potential fun nights out, we thought we should probably get to the films too. Because there’s quite a few of considerable LGBT interest, most of them having their world premieres. Here, in alphabetical order, are 10 in particular we are excited for. Click on the dates for ticket info and have a great TIFF…
Why are we excited? There’s been lots of strong buzz for this noir drama about an ex-con (Russell) whose seemingly happy wife with his wife (DeGuow) is interrupted by a mysterious man from his past (Stapleton). Noted as an “inspired variation on ‘A History of Violence,” it sounds like it also might have a bit of a “Brokeback Mountain” twist…
Do I Sound Gay?
Why are we excited? Thorpe uses the documentary to take a journey of discovery to confront his anxiety about “sounding gay,” bringing along those noted famous names for perspective. It sounds both a hilarious and thought-provoking take on a much more complex issue than we might think.
The Duke of Burgundy
Why are we excited? As one might expect from Strickland, this looks like quite something. TIFF compared it to Luis Buñuel’s “Belle de Jour” and Joseph Losey’s “The Servant” and called it “by turns kinky, dryly comic and compelling surreal.” So what it’s about? An intense, sadomasochistic relationship between a wealthy amateur lepidopterist (Knudsen) and her newly hired housekeeper (D’Anna) — who essentially becomes her sex slave.
Why are we excited? The dark comedy tells the story of David Gold (Mills), a closeted former child actor who, now in his mid-30s, is struggling to get work and has just been diagnosed with skin cancer. Desperate times call for desperate measures, so David forges his resume and gets a job as a high school guidance counsellor. Except it turns out he’s not such a good fit for the job, handing out bad advice and alcohol to teenagers as he continues his own private downward spiral. Early word is that it’s quite the breakout for Mills.
Why are we excited? Word out of Venice was decent for just one part of Al Pacino’s aggressive attempt at a 2014 renaissance (“Manglehorn” is also playing at the festival). Based on the Philip Roth novel, Pacino plays an aging actor whose life is dramatically altered when he begins an affair with an alleged lesbian named Pegeen (Gerwig). So I guess think “Chasing Pegeen,” and though that makes it “LGBT content” questionable, the pedigree of the cast and filmmaker are too much not to keep us curious.
The Imitation Game
Why are we excited? In the tradition of the big gay biopic with obvious dreams of Oscar nominations, “The Imitation Game” tells the story of closeted mathematician and computer scientist Alan Turing, who played a key role in cracking Nazi Germany’s Enigma code, which in turn helped the Allies win World War II. What did they do to thank him in return? Just a few years after the war ended, Turing was prosecuted for homosexuality and subjected to chemical castration. It wasn’t until last year that the Queen of England granted Turing a posthumous pardon. Hopefully “The Imitation Game” works as an appropriate tribute to Turing (and word out of Telluride suggests it does), though it certainly bodes well that the film’s cast includes who it does.
Love in the Time of Civil War
Who made it? Acclaim Quebec director Rodrigue Jean, who won best Canadian feature at TIFF in 2008 with “Lost Song.”
Why are we excited? This docudrama takes us deep into the bleak world of Montreal hustlers and junkies — a narrative take on what director Jean explored in 2008 documentary “Men For Sale.” It focuses on Alex (Landry), a drug addict and hustler who is drifting into oblivion. Given Jean’s previous work, we fully expect a fearlessness to “Love in the Time of Civil War” that we too often don’t get from depictions of male prostitution.
Who made it? Abel Ferrara, the bold mind behind “Bad Lieutenant,” “The Funeral,” “Dangerous Game,” “Go Go Tales” and “4:44 Last Day on Earth”
Why are we excited? One of the greatest queer directors of all-time gets the biopic treatment (sort of) from the always controversial Ferrara. Pier Paolo Pasolini — who was also a poet, novelist, agitator, journalist, playwright, actor, painter, philosopher and communist, among other things — is played by Willem Dafoe in the film, who looks at the last day of Passolini’s life as he struggles with censors as he tries to finish his last film, “Salo, or the 120 Days of Justice.” We have a feeling if there’s anyone Passolini would want taking on his story, it’s these two.
Who made it? Matthew Warchus, largely known for his work directing award-winning theater (“The God of Carnage,” “Boeing Boeing,” “Matilda The Musical”).
Why are we excited? “Pride” appears to be the gay answer to a long line of conventional but charming British dramas where folks find a way to come together to get ‘er done. The film—which won the Queer Palm for best LGBT film at Cannes—is set in the summer of 1984. Margaret Thatcher is in power and the National Union of Mineworkers is on strike, leading a London-based group of gay and lesbian activists to raise money to support the strikers’ families. Initially rebuffed by the Union, the group identifies a tiny mining village in Wales and sets off to make their donation in person. As the strike drags on, the two groups, of course, discover that “standing together makes for the strongest union of all.” Get ready to have your heart warmed, whether you like it or not.
Stories of Our Lives
Who made it? The members of a Nairobi, Kenya-based arts collective — who requested to have their names removed from the film “for fear of reprisal.”
Why are we excited? “Stories Of Our Lives” mixes 5 short films — “Duet,” “Run,” “Ask Me Nicely (Itisha Poa),” “Each Night I Dream,” and “Stop Running Away” — to create what looks to be a pioneering anthology about the lives of LGBT people in a part of the world we too often ignore. “Beyond the pervasive social and cultural conservatism of Kenyan society, the country’s laws stigmatize and criminalize non-heterosexual identities, which has naturally resulted in the near-total absence of questions of sexual identity from Kenyan cinema,” TIFF said. “‘Stories of Our Lives’ is both a labour of love and a bold act of militancy, defying the enforced silence of intolerance with tales rooted in the soil of lived experience.”
The Toronto International Film Festival runs September 4-14.