TIFF 2012 has an absolutely stellar list of films. However, just like when you’re given too many great cupcake choices, its a bit difficult to decide where to start and really, where to end. We break down the gigantic list and its various categories to bring you the top 12 must-watch films at the festival. With a mix of documentaries, feature films and a couple of foreign films, this list will surely give audiences a chance to experience the diversity of film that the festival delivers each year. This is by no means the only list we shall be procuring over the coming days but it is definitely a start. What are you hoping to watch at the festival? Share your thoughts below!
Martin McDonagh has once again snagged Colin Farrell to star in one of his feature films, the last one being the ridiculously brilliant In Bruges. If the 2008 film is any indicator, McDonagh has a talent in effectively developing characters on screen through his double-duty as director and screenplay writer. Also, In Bruges is a perfect example of great balance in a film: great actors playing great characters, all within a great story. Seven Psychopaths features a brilliant cast including Woody Harrelson, Abbie Cornish, Christopher Walken, Olga Kurylenko, Sam Rockwell, Tom Waits and of course, Colin Farrell. With such a stellar cast line-up and knowledge that McDonagh can create a great screenplay (He won the BAFTA for In Bruges) & work with very talented artists, this is a must-see film at the fest.
Mads Mikkelsen has time and again proven that he can deliver in pretty much any role he takes. Some of his best include his portrayal of Le Chiffre in Casino Royale and as Tristan in King Arthur. He, however, goes even further as the title role of Lucas in Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt. The film is set in a small Danish village during the Christmas season and follows the story of a kindergarten teacher Lucas (Mikkelsen) who is falsely accused of child abuse. Mikkelsen delivers a performance so brilliant, it earned him the honorary title of ‘Best Actor’ at the 65th annual Cannes Film Festival. Knowing that you are in for a treat with anything Mikkelsen does and the simple fact that his performance in The Hunt has been so well rewarded, this is a must-watch at this year’s festival.
Roger Michell returns to the festival with his biography-drama about former President Franklin D. Roosevelt, portrayed by the fantastic Bill Murray. In his last visit to TIFF, Michell showcased his film Venus starring the brilliant Peter O’Toole. The film received a very positive response, even garnering O’Toole an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. Bill Murray is one of the finest actors in the industry and understanding Michell’s delicate and thoughtful approach to film and his experience with veteran actors, this is definitely a film to consider. In addition to Murray, the film also stars Laura Linney (The Other Man) and Olivia Williams (An Education), two very talented actresses that are sure to add a lot of value to both the story and film as a whole. With a scheduled release sometime in December, catching this film early would definitely be a treat.
From Argentine documentary filmmaker José Luis García comes the story of peace activist Lim Su-kyong who 20 years ago swore that she would cross the North Korean-South Korean border on foot. The story is one that many from the region remember very well. In 1989, Pyongyang – the capital city of North Korea – hosted the 13th World Festival of Youth and Students. The South Korean government took all measures necessary to prevent any South Korean’s from participating at the event. That wasn’t what was on Lim Su-kyong’s mind. Without the permission from the government, she attended the festival, giving her the nickname that most Korean’s know her today as: The Flower of Unification. Upon her return to South Korea, she was arrested and put behind bars. García goes on an epic journey to find this young woman and bring her story to the big screen. This story not only provides a look at a significant moment in history but also a deeper look at a person who changed the way society thought. This should be a staple on anyone’s TIFF list.
Filmmaker Marc Wiese brings to the big screen the story of Shin Dong-Hyuk, a former prisoner of a North Korean prison camp. Born in 1983 to two prisoners within the camp, he spent his entire childhood – up until he was 23 – as a laborer and prisoner, subjected to indescribable conditions in his small world. With the help of another prisoner, he escaped his brutal world into one he did not know existed. Shin Dong-Huyk is the only man to escape a ‘total-control zone’ grade internment camp and lived to tell his story. This documentary is a rare glimpse of a man who wasn’t thrown into a harsh world, but born in it. A film like this is a rare opportunity for audiences to get a glimpse of war from a very rare perspective. This is a must-watch!
Fresh out of her years as Hermione Granger, Emma Watson is slowly but surely stepping away from the magical world to her own space. Having already done a handful of films outside the Potter realm, The Perks of Being a Wallflower will be the first major feature film where we get to see her in a title role outside of Harry Potter. The film is directed by RENT screenplay writer Stephen Chbosky, marking his second attempt as director. Chbosky may not be an experienced director but with this film featuring a pretty talented cast – Nina Dobrev, Logan Lerman, Paul Rudd, Ezra Miller, Kate Walsh and of course Emma Watson – this film has potential. If anything, it will be nice to see Watson put her acting skills into a role that is not Harry Potter related.
Indian film director Gauri Shinde brings veteran film actor Sridevi back into the world of film, after almost 14 years. Sridevi is a film icon, who dominated the Indian film industry since her debut in the 1970’s. Having appeared in everything from Tamil to Kannada films, she has won numerous awards including four Filmfare awards; the last Filmfare award was for her role in Yash Chopra’s Lamhe, starring opposite Anil Kapoor. In English Vinglish, Sridevi portrays a housewife who, after being married into an American household, enrolls in an English speaking course to please her family. This film not only features a great cast of actors – co-stars include Mehdi Nebbou, Adil Hussain, Priya Anand and cameo appearance by Amitabh Bachchan – but is a platform by which we see a legendary actress return to the big screen.
From acclaimed Canadian director David “Sudz” Sutherland comes a story about three people from very different backgrounds. After committing minor criminal offenses, these three individuals are deported to Jamaica, a “home” they hardly know. Shot in Trinidad, Jamaica and Toronto, this riveting drama stars Tatyana Ali (Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) and CCH Pounder (RoboCop) and Lyriq Bent (Saw Series). Sutherland is no stranger to TIFF. Back in 2003 (yes, 10 years ago almost), his debut comedy film Love, Sex and Eating the Bones won the Best Canadian First Feature prize at that year’s Toronto International Film Festival. His new film – co-written by him and his wife & film partner Jennifer Holness – is bound to be a head turner. It will be brilliant to see Tatyana Ali & CCH Pounder back on the big screen and in such dynamic roles. Sutherland understands film and his past work is a testament of that.
Ruba Nadda – you don’t really need to say much more. Back in 2009, her feature film Cairo Time premiered at TIFF and received the accolade of Best Canadian Feature Film. Ever since, her work has been on the radar. She returns to the festival with her latest work: Inescapable . Starring Alexander Siddig, Joshua Jackson, Marisa Tomei and Oded Fehr, this new thriller revolves around a father who goes on a desperate search for his daughter, creating absolute chaos in the Middle East. Nadda brings a refreshing approach to her films, something for which TIFF has acknowledged and rewarded her. A brilliant cast – Siddig having worked with Nadda before on Cairo Time – coupled with a recognized Canadian director is a great reason to see this film at the festival.
Chinese filmmaker and screenwriter Lu Chuan returns to the festival with another visual-treat in the form of The Last Supper. This new historical film features a plot that is based on events from the post-Qin Dynasty, Chu–Han period of Chinese history, which is from about 206 to 202 BC. The film observes important events such as the Feast at Hong Gate that occurred in 206 BC and the Battle of Gaixia, which was fought in 202 BC. Lu Chuan’s credentials are more than enough to make this a TIFF must-watch film. He has only three films prior to this, and each film has won a number of awards. His last work – City of Life and Death – won Best Film at the 2009 San Sebastian Festival and Best Director Award at the 4th Asian Film Awards. Kekexili: Mountain Patrol won Best Asian Film at the 25th Hong Kong Film Awards and Best Feature Film at 2005’s Banff Mountain Film Festival. His first work – The Missing Gun – was officially selected for the “Upstream” section at the Venice International Film Fest and received Annual Best Script at the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival. Lu Chuan is a proven director who delivers every single time.
If there is one Canadian artist who is getting a lot of attention this year, its Tatiana Maslany. Born in Regina, Saskatchewan, this powerhouse actor has done everything from theatre to film having appeared in productions such as Eastern Promises and Violet & Daisy. She is a Gemini Award-winner, a Sundance Award-winner and this year she has been recognized as one of TIFF”s Rising Stars. If you have seen her Gemini Award-winning performances, such as the one of CTV’s Flashpoint, you will know what she is capable of. This year, her film Picture Day follows the story of a high school senior who falls for an older rock musician. Maslany is a proven actress who takes the simplest of roles and adds sophistication to them. This film is a great opportunity to see her in her element.
Indian director Manjeet Singh brings to the festival an observational portrait of a young Indian boy living in the Mumbai slum, while having to deal with his hard-working, suffering mother and his violent, alcoholic father. When he his beaten and humiliated by his father for trying to save his mother from his anger, he runs away home, into the busy streets of Mumbai during the grand festival of Lord Ganesha. The story brings forward a story that deals with the chaos of life, whether it be within one’s society or within one’s life. The film features a brilliant cast including Rahul Bairagi, Tejas D Parvatkar, Aftab Khan and Dhanshree Jain along with veteran actors – and brothers – Salman Khan and Arbaaz Khan. This film is full of colour and story, coupled with a very talented cast.