“Moonlight” premiered at the Telluride Film Festival exactly one year ago, followed by a bow in Toronto before making history by winning Best Picture in one of the most exciting Academy Awards ceremonies of all time. While “Moonlight” may have opened more doors for black filmmakers than for queer ones, the film’s central themes of identity, masculinity, and sexuality were firmly rooted in queerness. It turns out, “Moonlight” was only the beginning, as queer cinephiles can look forward to a veritable feast of quality LGBTQ films coming out of the fall festival lineup, beginning with the Toronto International Film Festival.
A very gay-friendly city in an extremely gay-friendly country, Toronto will host some of the most anticipated queer films that have already made waves at Cannes and Sundance. Luca Guadagnino’s “Call Me By Your Name” will play the festival before heading to New York, as well as this year’s Palme d’Or contender “BPM (Beats Per Minute),” from Robin Campillo. Chilean filmmaker Sebastián Lelio (“Gloria”) arrives at TIFF with not one, but two queer films. “A Fantastic Woman,” about a young transgender woman, premiered at Berlin earlier this year.
Even with those three heavy-hitters to tout, TIFF is hosting many world and international premieres of promising queer films. Below are 12 exciting LGBTQ films playing Toronto.
1. “Battle of the Sexes”
Emma Stone’s casting as legendary tennis player Billie Jean King may have caused some head scratching, but this biopic comedy from “Little Miss Sunshine” duo Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton is piquing interest regardless. With Steve Carrell as Bobby Riggs, the movie tells the knockout story of the infamous 1973 tennis match between the misogynistic huckster and the then-closeted trailblazer. With a script by “Slumdog Millionaire” scribe Simon Beaufoy, the supporting cast includes out favorites Alan Cumming and Natalie Morales, as well as Sarah Silverman, Elisabeth Shue, and Andrea Riseborough. If “Battle of the Sexes” ends up being a return to form for Faris and Dayton, it could be one of the fall’s biggest hits.
Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams play Orthodox Jewish women exploring a romance in this world premiere from writer/director Sebastián Lelio. The director headed to London for his first film set outside of his native Chile, loosely based on a novel by British author Naomi Alderman, which Lelio adapted with playwright Rebecca Lenkiewicz. Per the official synopsis: “Happily single and living a rich life as a photographer in New York, Ronit (Weisz) is very much the black sheep of her London-based Orthodox Jewish family. When her revered rabbi father dies, Ronit returns home to pay her respects and liquidate her inheritance. But surprises await, chief among them the news that Dovid (Alessandro Nivola) — the heir apparent to Ronit’s father and very much the son he never had — has married Ronit’s childhood friend Esti (McAdams). While Dovid prepares to take over the hallowed place at the synagogue, Ronit and Esti become reacquainted. An old flame is reignited — one that could torch everything this family most cherishes.”
3. “My Days of Mercy”
Christine Vachon’s Killer Films, which produced “Carol,” presents the third feature from Israeli filmmaker Tali Shalom-Ezer. Ellen Page plays an activist demonstrating against the death penalty, who becomes embroiled in a passionate and charged affair with Kate Mara, who is seeking justice for her father’s murder. The two women must surmount their deeply rooted differences or risk losing their connection. Amy Seimetz, co-creator and director of “The Girlfriend Experience,” also stars alongside Elias Koteas (“The Killing”). In the two years since she came out, Page has made a conscious shift towards playing and producing queer roles and stories, but with mixed results. With Killer behind her, “My Days of Mercy” could be the first critical hit from the newly out and proud actress.
On the next page: Scintillating documentaries, and lesbian filmmaker Angela Robinson’s comeback.