The Toronto Film Festival filled out its slate with two Gala Premieres and 14 Special Presentations, as well as a swarm of pictures in the Masters Section. Among the films added to the roster are The Promise, the sweeping drama written and directed by Hotel Rwanda‘s Terry George about the Armenian Genocide campaign by the Turks; there is The Bleeder, the indie drama in which Ray Donovan himself, Liev Schreiber, portrays the hardscrabble heavyweight prize fighter Chuck Wepner, the man who inspired Rocky; and Voyage of Time: Life’s Journey, the long awaited Terrence Malick documentary exploration of our planetary past and a search for humanity’s place in the future, with Cate Blanchett narrating Malick’s findings. The whole roster is below:
Norman : The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall Of a New York Fixer, Joseph Cedar, USA/Israel, International Premiere.
Norman lives a lonely life in the shadow of power and money. Determined to make an impression, he uses any angle to make a connection. He finally bets on the right horse, buying a pair of expensive shoes for Micha Eshel. When Micha becomes Israel’s Prime Minister, Norman finds himself in the center of a geopolitical drama beyond anything he could have imagined and the fallout could destroy the reputation he spent his life building. Starring Richard Gere, Steve Buscemi, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Michael Sheen
The Promise, Terry George, USA/Spain, World Premiere.
Michael, a humble Armenian apothecary, leaves his village to study medicine in cosmopolitan Constantinople. Chris, an American photojournalist who has come to the country to partly cover the geopolitics, is in a relationship with the talented Ana, a Paris- educated, Armenian artist. When Michael meets Ana, their shared heritage sparks an attraction that explodes into a romantic rivalry between the two men. After the Turks join the war on the German side, the Ottoman Empire turns violently against its own ethnic minorities. Despite their conflicts, everyone must find a way to survive — even as monumental events envelope their lives. Starring Oscar Isaac, Charlotte Le Bon, and Christian Bale.
(Re)Assignment, Walter Hill, Canada, World Premiere
A revenge tale about an ace assassin who is double-crossed by gangsters and a rogue plastic surgeon operating on the fringes of society. The story becomes a trail of self-discovery and redemption against a criminal mastermind opponent. Starring Michelle Rodriguez, Sigourney Weaver, and Tony Shalhoub.
150 Milligrams, Emmanuelle Bercot, France, World Premiere
Based on the real life story of Irène Frachon, a pulmonologist who discovered a direct link between the drug ‘Mediator’ — that had been marketed for over 30 years — and a number of suspicious deaths in France. Starring Sidse Babett Knudsen and Benoît Magimel.
The Bleeder, Philippe Falardeau, USA North American Premiere
The true story of Chuck Wepner, the man who inspired the billion-dollar film series Rocky — a liquor salesman from New Jersey who went 15 rounds with the greatest boxer of all time, Muhammad Ali. In his 10 years in the ring, Wepner endured two knockouts, eight broken noses, and 313 stitches. But his toughest fights were outside the ring: an epic life of drugs, booze, wild women, incredible highs, and extraordinary lows. Starring Naomi Watts, Liev Schreiber, and Elisabeth Moss.
Brain On Fire, Gerard Barrett, Ireland/Canada
Brain on Fire follows Susannah Cahalan, a rising journalist at the New York Post who mysteriously starts having seizures and hearing voices. As weeks go by and Susannah rapidly descends into insanity, she moves inexplicably from violence to catatonia. Following a series of outbursts, misdiagnoses, and a prolonged hospital stay, a lucky, last-minute intervention by one doctor finally gives her a diagnosis and hope to rebuild her life. Starring Chloë Grace Moretz, Thomas Mann, Richard Armitage, Tyler Perry, and Carrie-Anne Moss.
Burn Your Maps, Jordan Roberts, USA/Mongolia, World Premiere
After his family suffers an unimaginable tragedy, an eight-year-old boy becomes convinced that he is actually a Mongolian goat herder. With the help of an aspiring filmmaker, he tries to convince his reluctant parents to take the long journey back to the village in Mongolia where he says he belongs. Burn Your Maps is a poignant story about family, loss, and faith. Starring Vera Farmiga, Jacob Tremblay, Virginia Madsen, Marton Csokas, and Suraj Sharma.
Christine, Antonio Campos, USA, Canadian Premiere
Always the smartest person in the room at her news station, Christine feels destined for bigger things and relentlessly pursues a promotion to a higher profile market. Plagued by self-doubt and a tumultuous home life, Christine’s diminishing hope begins to rise when an on-air co-worker initiates a friendship, which ultimately becomes yet another unrequited love. Disillusioned as her world continues to close in on her, Christine takes a dark and surprising turn. Starring Rebecca Hall, Michael C. Hall, and Tracy Letts
The Duelist, Alexey Mzgirev, Russia
Returning to Saint Petersburg after a long exile, the dashing Yakovlev, a retired army officer, makes a comfortable living by winning other people’s duels. Unbeatable, he leaves a trail of dead bodies behind him as he swirls through polite society, frequently called upon to wield a pistol as a surrogate in dawn duels. When Yakovlev meets the young, beautiful Princess Martha, the two fall in love. What transpires uncovers a series of answers about his dark past. Starring Petr Fedorov, Vladimir Mashkov, Martin Wuttke, Yuri Kolokolnikov, and Franziska Petri.
The Exception, David Leveaux, United Kingdom, World Prmiere
May, 1940. The last German Kaiser has been living in exile in the Dutch countryside for 25 years. When the Nazis invade Holland, they send a young German officer to stop the old man from defecting to England. But the British have already installed a spy in his household. And then Himmler announces he is coming to dinner. The threads of history conspire with the recklessness of the heart to dumbfound them. Starring Lily James, Christopher Plummer, Jai Courtney, Janet McTeer, Ben Daniels, and Eddie Marsan.
I, Daniel Blake, Ken Loach, United Kington/France/Belgium, North American Premiere
British master Ken Loach brings this timely drama about an aged, ailing handyman’s battle to survive after being denied his government health allowance. Starring Dave Johns and Hayley Squires.
In Dubious Battle, James Franco, USA, North American Premiere,
In the California apple country, 900 migratory workers rise up against the landowners after getting paid a fraction of the wages they were promised. The group takes on a life of its own — stronger than its individual members and more frightening. Led by the doomed Jim Nolan, the strike is founded on his tragic idealism — on the “courage never to submit or yield.” Based on the novel by John Steinbeck. Starring James Franco, Vincent D’Onofrio, Selena Gomez, Ed Harris, Sam Shepard, Robert Duvall, Bryan Cranston, Nat Wolff, Ashley Greene and Austin Stowell.
The Long Excuse (Naga Liwake), Miwa Nishikawa, Japan
A recently widowed writer whose wife died in a bus crash impulsively offers to care for the children of a working man who lost his wife in the same accident, in this gently humorous drama from Japanese writer-director Miwa Nishikawa. Starring Masahiro Motoki, Sousuke Ikematsu, and Eri Fukatsu.
Rage, Sang-il Lee, Japan, World Premiere
A grisly unsolved murder links three seemingly unrelated stories in three different Japanese cities, in this arresting ensemble thriller from director Sang-il Lee. Starring Ken Watanabe and Aoi Miyazaki.
Voyage of Time: Life’s Journey, Terrence Malick, Germany, North American Premiere
An exploration into our planetary past and a search for humanity’s place in the future. The universe unfolds before the audience’s eyes, melding innovative effects with awe-inspiring footage in this experience for the senses, mind, and soul. Working with scientific advisors and VFX artists, Terrence Malick shows an array of never-witnessed natural phenomena — macroscopic and microscopic — immersing audiences into a poetic journey full of open questions. Narrated by Cate Blanchett.
Wakefield, Robin Swicord, USA International Premiere
Howard Wakefield’s nervous breakdown leads him to hide from his life, and his family, in his garage attic. While his prolonged absence allows him to ponder the deeper questions around his life, he comes to realize that it may not be simple to cross the driveway and go home again. Starring Bryan Cranston and Jennifer Garner.
Masters Of Cinema
After the Storm, Hirokazu Kore-eda, Japan North American Premiere During a long restless night as they wait out a typhoon, a divorced man struggles to regain his estranged family’s trust, in the latest
film from celebrated Japanese auteur Hirokazu Kore-eda.
Afterimage (Powidoki), Andrzej Wajda, Poland World Premiere
Nonagenarian director Andrzej Wajda returns with a passionate biopic about the Polish avant-garde artist Władysław Strzemiński, who battled Stalinist orthodoxy and his own physical impairments to advance his progressive ideas about art. Starring Boguslaw Linda.
The Bait (Tope), Buddhadeb Dasgupta, India World Premiere
Buddhadeb Dasgupta’s latest work is woven from three stories about a nomadic girl who is a street circus performer, a cranky postman who decides to live in a tree, and a royal descendant thriving on his long lost glories, in this exploration of how people are used as bait.
The Beautiful Days of Aranjuez (Les Beaux Jours d’Aranjuez), Wim Wenders, France/Germany North American Premiere Wim Wenders adapts long-time collaborator Peter Handke’s play for this engrossing two-handed (and 3D) conversation piece, in which the dialogue between a man and a woman elicits a reverie on love, freedom, and beauty.
Certain Women, Kelly Reichardt, USA Canadian Premiere
The lives of three women intersect in small town America. Laura is a lawyer summoned to reason with her client during a hostage situation. Gina is building her family a home where she is eager to claim a bit of history. And Jamie suddenly longs for more than her simple life when Beth passes through town. Starring Laura Dern, Kristen Stewart, Michelle Williams, James LeGros, Jared Harris, Lily Gladstone, and Rene Auberjonois.
Fire at Sea (Fuocoammare), Gianfranco Rosi, Italy/France Canadian Premiere Twelve-year-old Samuele lives on an island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. But Lampedusa is not an idyllic island setting. It is the first port of call for hundreds of thousands of African and Middle Eastern refugees hoping to make a new life in Europe. Glimpse into the daily lives of the island’s inhabitants as Samuele explores the land and attempts to master the sea.
Graduation (Bacalaureat), Cristian Mungiu, Romania Canadian Premiere On the day before her final exams, Eliza is assaulted in an attack that could jeopardize her entire future. Now her father, Romeo, has to make a decision. There are ways of solving the situation, but none of them using the principles he, as a father, has taught his daughter.
Hissein Habré, A Chadian Tragedy Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, France/Chad North American Premiere
When former Chadian dictator Hissein Habré was arrested in Senegal in 2013, it marked the end of a long fight for the survivors of his regime. Director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, accompanied by the Chairman of the Association of the Victims of the Hissein Habré Regime, meets the survivors of the tragedy who still bear the horrific scars on their bodies and in their souls. Through their courage and determination, the victims accomplish an unprecedented feat in the history of Africa — bringing a head of state to trial.
J: Beyond Flamenco (JOTA), Carlos Saura, Spain World Premiere
Experience the joy and strength of the Spanish dance and music called la Jota. As with flamenco, tango, and fados, Jota has evolved from traditional folkdance to new artistic dimensions. With his own personal style, director Carlos Saura continues to distill the magic and explore the boundaries of art in its purest state.
Julieta, Pedro Almodóvar, Spain North American Premiere
Spanish maestro Pedro Almodóvar adapts three stories from Canadian Nobel Prize winner Alice Munro for this time-tripping tale about the relationship and eventual rupture between a Madrid teacher and her beloved daughter. As the mother struggles to survive uncertainty, the film explores fate, guilt complexes, and the unfathomable mysteries that lead us to abandon the people we love, erasing them from our lives as if they had never meant anything, as if they had never existed.
Land of the Gods (Dev Bhoomi), Goran Paskaljević, India/Serbia World Premiere After a long exile, Rahul returns to his village in the Himalayas. It causes commotion amongst the villagers, who have never forgiven him for his sins in the past. He must face the isolated world full of old prejudices, gender inequalities, and caste-based injustices.
Ma’ Rosa Brillante Ma Mendoza, Philippines North American Premiere To make ends meet for her family, Ma’ Rosa sells drugs as a side business from the small convenience store she owns with her husband in a poor Manila neighborhood. When the couple is arrested, Ma’ Rosa and her four children are ready to do anything
to secure their freedom from the corrupt police. Starring Jaclyn Jose, winner of the Best Actress Award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
The Net (Geumul), Kim Ki-duk, South Korea North American Premiere In the new film from provocative Korean auteur Kim Ki-duk, a poor North Korean fisherman finds himself an accidental defector, and is groomed to be a spy by an ambitious South Korean military officer.
Never Ever (À jamais), Benoît Jacquot, France/Portugal North American Premiere A prolific filmmaker and a much younger woman meet, fall instantly in love, and hastily marry. Months later, he dies in a motorcycle accident and his wife is left alone in a big secluded house by the sea to experience the manifestations of grief and mourning.
Starring Mathieu Amalric, Julia Roy, Jeanne Balibar, and Victoria Guerra.
Once Again (Pinneyum), Adoor Gopalakrishnan, India International Premiere In his first feature film in eight years, director Adoor Gopalakrishnan explores love and relationships as an extended family gets drawn into the vortex of a crime, not realizing how it will change their lives forever.
Personal Shopper, Olivier Assayas, France North American Premiere Kristen Stewart reunites with director Olivier Assayas for this artful ghost story about a young woman trying to reconnect with the spirit of her departed brother.
A Quiet Passion, Terence Davies, United Kingdom/Belgium North American Premiere Cynthia Nixon stars as the legendary poet Emily Dickinson in this luminous biopic.
Safari, Ulrich Seidl, Austria American Premiere
Documentary filmmaker Ulrich Seidl explores the world of trophy hunting in the wild expanses of Africa, where bushbucks, impalas, zebras, gnus and other creatures graze by the thousands. German and Austrian tourists drive through the bush and lie in wait, to stalk their prey. A vacation movie about killing and human nature.
Sieranevada, Cristi Puiu, Romania North American Premiere
Somewhere in Bucharest, a 40-year-old doctor attends his father’s wake, which turns into a full-on family brawl. Forced to face his fears and his past, and obliged to reconsider his place in the family, the man is left with no choice but to tell his version of the truth.
Sweet Dreams (Fai bei sogni), Marco Bellocchio, Italy North American Premiere Italian master Marco Bellocchio adapts the popular biographical novel by Massimo Gramellini, about an accomplished journalist haunted by the memory of his mother who died mysteriously during his childhood.
The Unknown Girl (La Fille inconnue), Luc Dardenne and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Belgium/France North American Premiere Jenny, a young GP, feels responsible for not having answered the door of her practice to a young girl who is found dead shortly afterwards. From the moment she learns from the police that they have no way of identifying her, Jenny has only one goal: to discover the name of the young girl so that she will not be buried anonymously — so that she will not disappear as if she had never lived.
Yourself and Yours (Dangsinjasingwa dangsinui geot), Hong Sang-soo, South Korea World Premiere Painter Youngsoo and his girlfriend Minjung navigate the twists and turns of a modern romance with arguing, hearsay, mistaken identity, and infidelity in Hong Sang-soo’s latest work.