Few film festivals in the world double as an acquisitions marketplace quite like the Toronto International Film Festival, which will screen more than 300 movies between September 8 and September 18. Most of these films have yet to land a U.S. distributor, and only a select group of titles will secure a distribution deal before the end of the fest.
Which movies are likely to be swarmed by buyers at TIFF 2016? Here are nine hot titles from the lineup that could be prime targets for acquisition execs.
“The Bad Batch”
Writer-director Ana Lily Amirpour’s follow-up to her hit debut “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” is billed as a “dystopian love story in a Texas wasteland.” The film follows a young girl named Samantha (Suki Waterhouse) who’s been banished from civilized society and ends up escaping from a community of cannibals. Produced by Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures, the film stars Keanu Reeves, Jim Carrey, Deigo Luna and Giovanni Ribisi. Despite its dystopian-cannibal setting, the film serves as a social commentary and cautionary tale about exclusionary government policies. Netflix bought SVOD rights after its Venice premiere; theatrical is still available.
Sales contact: Annapurna International
Campbell Grobman Films/Mike Tollin Productions
Canadian director Philippe Falardeau’s “The Bleeder” is a biopic of legendary New Jersey-born boxer Chuck Wepner (Live Schreiber), who earned the nickname “The Bayonne Bleeder” for taking a beating from champions like George Foreman, Sonny Liston, and Muhammad Ali without going down. The film focuses on Wepner’s life outside of the ring, including his marriages to his second wife Phyllis (Elisabeth Moss) and third wife Linda (Naomi Watts), and how his career was an inspiration for the Oscar-winning film “Rocky.” Written by Jeff Feuerzeig (“The Devil and Daniel Johnson”) and Jerry Stahl (“Permanent Midnight”), the movie marks Falardeau’s seventh film to play at TIFF. His 2000 debut “The Left-Hand Side of the Fridge” won the Best Canadian First Feature Film award and his 2011 film “Monsieur Lazhar” won TIFF’s Best Canadian Feature Film award.
Sales contact: UTA, Millennium
“Buster’s Mal Heart”
Writer-director Sarah Adina Smith’s second feature film after her 2014 drama-mystery “The Midnight Swim” represents the first silver-screen lead role for actor Rami Malek (“Mr. Robot”). The film follows follows Jonah, a mountain man and fugitive who’s surviving the winter by breaking into vacation properties. Jonah has earned the nickname “Buster” by frequently calling into talk radio shows to warn listeners of the impending doom to be brought on by Y2K. Prior to becoming a fugitive, Jonah was a night concierge at a hotel with a wife named Marty (Kate Lyn Sheil). Jonah is haunted by a recurring dream of being lost at sea, but discovers that the dream is actually real. He is one man in two bodies. The movie is the story of how he split into two.
Sales contact: The Film Sales Company
The sci-fi thriller “Colossal” stars Anne Hathaway as a hard-partying young woman whose boyfriend (Dan Stevens) breaks up with her, leaving her unemployed and with nowhere to live. She returns to her hometown where she reunites with a childhood friend (Jason Sudeikis), but her hopes of making a fresh start are dashed when she discovers that a giant monster terrorizing Seoul, Korea is connected to her own mental breakdown. “Colossal” is yet another example of writer-director Nacho Vigalondo mixing the genres of sci-fi, fantasy, and drama, turning what at first appears to be a quirky story into something much larger in scope.
Sales contact: CAA, Voltage
Chilean director Pablo Larraín’s “Jackie” stars Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy. The film covers a four-day period in the former First Lady’s life, beginning just before the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and focusing on the grief-stricken days that followed. Portman appears to have turned in a remarkably convincing portrayal of the former First Lady, nailing details like her delicate mannerisms and famously breathy voice. The movie includes archival film footage from 1963 and co-stars Peter Sarsgaard as Robert Kennedy and Greta Gerwig as a member of the White House staff. Darren Aronofsky, who directed Portman in 2010’s “Black Swan,” is a producer.
Sales contact: Insiders
“King of the Dancehall”
Courtesy of TIFF
Nick Cannon’s feature film musical centers on a young man from Brooklyn named Tarzan (Cannon) who hatches a plan centered on marijuana to pay for his mother’s medical bills. Tarzan travels to Jamaica where he meets up with his cousin (Busta Rhymes) and a falls into the Jamaican dancehall music scene. Cannon stars in the movie alongside Peter Stormare, Whoopi Goldberg and Louis Gossett Jr. The fast-paced soundtrack includes Beenie Man, who also narrates the film. “Dancehall” is a love letter to Jamaican music complemented with amazingly choreographed dance sequences that amount to physical poetry.
Sales contact: ICM
Castle Rock Entertainment
One of two films at TFF this year starring actor Woody Harrelson, “LBJ” is director Rob Reiner’s biopic of Lyndon Baines Johnson, from his days as a young man in West Texas to assuming the presidency after John F. Kennedy’s assassination. The film sees Johnson attempt to take control of a country in mourning, answer calls for social justice and preside over the escalating Vietnam War. “LBJ” co-stars Jennifer Jason Leigh as Lady Bird Johnson, Michael Stahl-David as Robert Kennedy, and Richard Jenkins as Senator Richard Russell.
Sales contact: CAA, Voltage
Trailblazing filmmaker Morgan Spurlock’s latest documentary gets up close and personal with man’s most famous parasite, the rat, and how countries around the world control, kill or profit off the rodent. In the movie, researchers explain how rats are becoming resistant to poison and disrupting the food chain. The film was inspired by Robert Sullivan’s New York Times bestselling book, “Rats: Observations on the History & Habitat of the City’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants.” One 40-year veteran of the pest-control industry even speculates that there may be more rats than people in New York City. The film takes viewers from New Orleans to the Berkshire mountains to Cambodia and Vietnam, exposing how rat control in a global issue.
Sales contact: Submarine Entertainment
“Strange Weather” stars Oscar-winner Holly Hunter as Darcy Baylor, a Mississippi woman whose son Walker committed suicide seven years ago. After budget cuts threaten her job as as university administrator, Baylor learns that a friend of her son named Mark (Shane Jacobsen) started a successful restaurant chain by stealing Walker’s concept and business plan. Baylor embarks on a road trip with her best friend Byrd (Carrie Coon) to confront Mark and hope that some form of understanding waits at the end of her journey. “Strange Weather” is writer-director Katherine Dieckmann’s first feature film since 2009’s “Motherhood” starring Uma Thurman.