Another edition of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is in the books. The festival kicked off, September 9th, and ran through September 19th, and included some in-person screenings and events but most of the American and international industry members tuned in from home. TIFF is one of the biggest and most important film festivals of the year. Its early September date generally marks the start of the film industry's awards season. The Festival has also been a reliable predictor of Oscar’s success. Some of the biggest award winners’ films of the past have premiered at TIFF. Films such as American beauty, 127 Hours, Black swan, Silver linings playbook, and last year’s big winner, Nomadland all had their first screenings at the Festival.
Since I live in Europe and even though I’m fully vaccinated I didn’t feel comfortable traveling and opted to cover the festival from home. Because of that, I missed out on some big movies like Belfast, Dune, The humans, Spencer, Last night in Soho, and The eyes of Tammy Faye due to them being inaccessible to my location. However, the lineup of movies available to me was still quite good. For me, the Festival’s highlights included getting to see a few under-the-radar gems like Violet, Aloners.
Overall it was a terrific festival. TIFF at one-third of its capacity is still better than pretty much every other festival out there. And I’m excited to return next year when hopefully everything will be back to normal and I will finally be able to attend the festival in person. For now, I will share with you five films of the Festival that caught my eye.
I want to say thanks to the TIFF organizers, publicists, and film distributors who provided us access to screeners and promotional materials throughout the festival’s run. See you in 2022!
The power of the dog
Phil Burbank, a charismatic rancher, provokes terror and respect in everyone around him. When Phil's brother returns home with a new wife and her son, he taunts them until he is introduced to the possibilities of love.
Jane Campion's adaptation of Thomas Savage's novel of the same name is a slow-burn but never dull film. With breathtaking cinematography and outstanding performances from all of its stars the film keeps us guessing about the actual source of the conflict. It's one of those few films that you can't tell what's going to happen next. But at its core, the film deals with toxic masculinity and the concept of manhood in a society where men aren't allowed to express their true colors.
The power of the dog screenplay and directing are excellent and the film confirms Jane Campion's status as one of the best directors of her time.
The Rescue is a documentary about the weeks-long 2018 rescue mission that captivated the world after 12 Wild Boars soccer players, aged 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach. They became trapped deep within the miles-long Tham Luang Nang Non cave in northern Thailand during an after-practice recreational excursion.
This is a gripping and inspiring story of bravery that unfolds like fiction. And honestly, if this was a scripted story, I would probably complain that the writers were way over the top. Back in 2018, I was kind of aware of this news story, but despite the fact that we already know the outcome, the film manages to generate an almost agonizing sense of suspense. The filmmakers masterfully combined amazing archive material (most of it previously unseen), dramatic reenactments, and interviews with the main characters. The image of the divers coming face to face with the stranded kids, their young faces shining with joy and hope, is breathtaking.
With their most fascinating and masterfully constructed stress-fest to date, Oscar-winning documentary E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin further solidify their status as superstars of the intense non-fiction film.
Bergman Island is the newest film by French writer and director Mia Hansen-Love starring Tim Roth, Vicky Krieps, Mia Wasikowska, and Anders Danielsen Lie. And it follows a filmmaking couple that retreats to the island where Ingmar Bergman lived and made many of his films to create screenplays for their future projects.
This film went to places I was not expecting and I enjoyed every minute of the wild journey. Hansen-Love makes you believe the couple is just on a creative summer vacation at Bergman's island. But it turns out to be unusual storytelling that has several layers, all of which eventually merge. Denis Lenoir's cinematography enhances the beauty of the mythical Fårö island, and all performances are outstanding.
Bergman Island may be a love letter to Ingmar Bergman. But is not only a film about individuals sitting around obsessing about Bergman. It is a layered film that deals with marital issues with a good amount of sharp humor, and I think it's worth seeing.
Hong Seong-Eun’s impressive debut, Aloners, has a simple script that is very well-executed. Jina is a person who would rather be alone than interacting with others.
She lives alone in an apartment building and makes a living by working at a credit card call center. She immerses herself in her phone in the hopes of becoming completely invisible to anyone who tries to engage with her. But gradually she begins to experience the anguish of loneliness.
The film is incredibly realistic, and it occasionally feels more like a documentary. And it was cool to see Korean urban life in a realistic manner. I really loved Aloners. Hong Sung-Eun is really talented, and I'm excited to see what she creates next.
This film is so upsetting and gave me all the feels. It follows three children over the course of a school year and provides insight into the difficulties of culturally diverse communities and underprivileged residents of the infamous Toronto suburb.
It perfectly captures these families’ determination as they frantically strive to keep their heads above water in the face of a structure that is meant to make them fail. Shasha Nakhai and Rich Williamson, the filmmakers, have a background in documentary filmmaking, and the majority of the actors have never acted before. This combination could have been disastrous, but it is what makes Scarborough seem authentic.
My only problem with the film was that it is a little long, and it could've been cut down even more to emphasize the story. Overall, this is a heartbreaking film, but it is also a defiant one.