The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) has emerged as one of the most prominent film festivals of the first world, and its increasing status for generating Oscar buzz is only amplifying the reputation.
Here’s looking at the titles that can sparkle this movie season.
Anything with Aaron Sorkin’s writing credit always attracts attention for his way of increasing the stakes with words is always delicious. Molly’s Game is special because the acclaimed writer is making his directorial debut with it, and he has Jessica Chastain playing the titular role of Molly Bloom, who ran an illegal empire of high-stakes poker before everything blew up. The crackerjack dialogues are all there in the trailer, and it’s everything sexy and smart.
Elle Fanning stars as Mrs Shelly, re-counting her stormy marriage to the dissolute Percy Bysshe Shelley and the events that led to her most celebrated creation, Frankenstein. Directed by Haifaa Al-Mansour, the first female filmmaker from Saudi Arabia who garnered much acclaim for her humanist touch in Wadjda, this biopic carries great expectations.
The Mountain Between Us
Idris Elba and Kate Winslet will survive a plane crash in the High Uintas Wilderness - one of the largest stretches of harsh and remote land in the United States, and will take on a perilous journey to survive the disaster. Hany Abu-Assad, the man behind two Oscar nominated films (Paradise Now, Omar) is adapting Charles Martin’s novel of the same name to reaffirm your belief in the power of love to sustain humanity. Plus you have an endless carpet of snow to frighten and seduce.
The Death of Stalin
With mad comedies such as Veep, The Thick of It, In the Loop in his resume, it can be safely stated that Armando Iannucci has almost mastered the genre of political satire. After leaving Veep in 2015, Iannucci has been busy building a parody of Soviet manners. Titled The Death of Stalin, the film shows the furious political choreographies that transpired in the aftershock of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin’s death in 1953. With a host of British and American actors (Richard Brake, Jason Isaacs, Olga Kurylenko, Jeffrey Tambor, Andrea Riseborough, Rupert Friend, Paddy Considine, Steve Buscemi) as Stalin’s subordinates lighting up Iannucci’s absurdity, it has us most excited.
The Current War
After directing episodes of Glee and American Horror Story with much authority, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon made his film debut in 2015 with a charming coming-of-age film, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. His second feature is set in the late 1880s pitting two electricity giants Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse to determine whose electrical system would light up the earth. Benedict Cumberbatch plays Edison, Michael Shannon takes on the role of Westinghouse while Nicholas Hoult, Katherine Waterston and Tom Holland fill up the supporting roles.
Turkish-French director Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s debut feature Mustang was a winner world over garnering accolades including a nomination in the foreign language category. Her second feature, which will also mark her English-language debut, will witness a recluse (Daniel Craig) helping a woman (Halle Berry) and her 12 foster children when riots erupt in Los Angeles in the year 1992.
Sebastián Lelio, the emerging Chilean director is adapting Naomi Alderman’s novel of the same name which follows a rabbi’s daughter who returns to her Orthodox Jewish community in Hendon, London following the death of her estranged father, and rekindles a romance with her cousin’s wife. The casting of Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams and the queer theme is bound to generate much buzz.
Wim Wenders, the old master is returning with a globe-swirling amorousness based on the book by JM Ledgard, about a water engineer and a deep-sea researcher determined to re-couple although divided by oceans, landmasses, and civil war. James McAvoy and Alicia Vikander, two beauteous actors are set to charm the heck out of us.
Based on Deborah Ellis’s popular novel, director Nora Twomey’s animated film tells the astonishing story of an 11-year-old Afghan girl who is forced by situations to be the breadwinner for her family in a war-torn Taliban-era in Afghanistan.
India at TIFF
Rajkummar Rao is really the flavour of the season with one talked about role after the other. In Hansal Mehta’s Omerta, he will be essaying the British born terrorist Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, known for his involvement in the kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002. Mehta has stated in interviews that this film is an attempt to explore what goes on in the minds of terrorists, instead of stereotypes associated with terrorism.
Anurag Kashyap is coming with a boxing tale set in Bareilly. Reportedly featuring Vineeth Kumar as the protagonist and Jimmy Sheirgill as the main antagonist, followers of the director will be expecting a lot of blood, sweat and dust. Add some pulpy music too.
A reworking of Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus set in modern-day New Delhi, Bornila Chatterjee’s The Hungry is set in the excessive settings of an Indian nuptial, discovering the role of the patriarch and corruption in Indian politics and business. The cast includes Naseeruddin Shah, Tisca Chopra, and Neeraj Kabi among others.
(The writer is a journalist, a screenwriter, and a content developer who believes in the insanity of words, in print or otherwise; he tweets @RanjibMazumder)