This week marks the second week of TIFF announcing their 2019 lineup, and we have a way to celebrate that occasion. Today, then, marks my first time writing about such announcements, and this is media coverage the way I do it. The way I do it is sporadic and esoteric. My sincere apologies for not writing about the galas sooner. But yes, I am excited for that program and for Daniel Roher’s Once We Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band.
The Galas have A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, which I hope brings Oscar gold for Marielle Heller and Tom Hanks. There’s also Shonali Bose and Nilesh Maniyar’s The Sky is Pink. That’s because of Priyanka Chopra and I want to see her in more films, regardless of genre. The Special Presentations will bring us Chris Evans using inappropriate language in Rian Johnson’s new non-franchise film Knives Out.
But this is an international fest after all. And that diverse program will bring us Stellan Skarsgard in Vaclav Marhoul’s The Painted Bird. The Painted Bird depicts a Jewish boy in hiding in WWII. As much as audiences might tire of that genre, I’m not since this shows the perspective of the the people who lived in the lands where soldiers fought those battles. European cinema also depicts contemporary life like Katrin Gebbe’s Pelican Blood does. Nina Hoss stars in this film as a woman who adopts a child who seems to have no empathy.
But on to this week’s announcement, when the festival announced the new films that our homegrown talent has to offer. Before I get to individual titles though, they also announced that 46% of the full length features have female directors. The Canadian shorts boast much more than that. Because out of the 25 shorts, 54% of them have female directors and co-directors. That’s an increase from 34% in 2018. Last year, directors like Heller and Stella Meghie had films playing at the fest. Last year, total gender parity seemed like a five year plan, but it might come this year or the next. Nothing makes me happier than watching talented women getting money while telling the stories they need to tell the world.
The festival distributes this local Canadian content in their different programs like Contemporary World Cinema or their Special Events program. Contemporary World Cinema is home to Elle-Maija Tailfeathers and Kathleen Hepburn’s film The Body Remembers When The World Broke Open. Long titles are a trend at this festival but I bet that what we’ll see in here is equally memorable. Tailfeathers also stars as Aila, who has a fateful meeting with another Indigenous woman on the run, Sophie (Violet Nelson). I’m excited for this because of the tense little scene that the fest showed the media in a press conference.
Another exciting film is Jeff Barnaby’s Blood Quantum, which is already making waves in social media because of its cool imagery. A part of Peter Kuplowsky’s Midnight Madness program, Blood Quantum also starts Tailfeathers and Forrest Goodluck, two Mi’gMaq people who, just like their reserve, is immune to the zombie apocalypse. Their immunity, of course, attracts the non-zombie settlers. Sounds like real life. This is, from my memory, the second zombie film dealing with Indigenous issues, but those issues are finally at the forefront here.
The Special Events brings another mouthful of a title with Zacharias Kunuk’s One Day in the Life of Noah Piugattuk. Kunuk is back after three years, this time around showing us Inuit life of his old titular character (Apayata Kotierk). Shock waves from the settler world of the early 1960s permeate through Noah’s life. It’s always fascinating to see ordinary people deal with large moments in history.
I can’t wait for what kind of films TIFF will announce next week. And because I’m me, I can’t wait to see films that reflect me as well as the people who make up the Toronto I know. The festival will announce more genre stuff, sure, but it would be lovely to see those intersect with more Asian, LGBT, and neuro divergent representation.
The 44th Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 5-15. You can find full details on the announced features and shorts here. You can also tell me what TIFF films you’re excited about @paolocase.