2022 Toronto Intl. Film Festival: 100 Predictions (Part I) Berger, Wilde, Mendes & Nattiv
As we enthusiastically await the make-up of the major fall film festivals there is one theory that is being advanced: the “Festival of Festivals” may look considerably different. At their pre-pandemic levels, TIFF began the slow descent from overwhelming buffet of choices to something that was double the size of any regular Sundance or Cannes edition. In 2019, there were in upwards of 200 feature films selected (with a lot of previous festival replays) but that could radically change if the fest becomes more world premiere orientated. Size indeed matters.
The five selections (Glass Onion: A Knives Out Story, Brother, On the Come Up, Bros. and The Woman King) made so far would suggest that Toronto is committed to its relationships with studio partners and audience-pleasing popular fare, but they may be shifting ever so slightly from their moniker by trimming the fat.
While I personally hope for a Platform competition section to be elevated to Palme d’Or, Golden Bear, Leopard or Lion status (how about the Golden Maple Leaf?), I’m more curious to see how the crucial film market picks up, how many acquisition titles get showcased and what film titles decide to premiere exclusively in Toronto skipping Telluride and Venice. So here we are, once again trying to predict the weather. Here are one hundred film title options (fiction only) that we believe have a better than average chance of showcasing exclusively in Toronto.:
Former TIFF Platform juror Malgorzata Szumowska (TIFF preemed Elles, The Other Lamb, Never Gonna Snow Again) has had several projects in tow, including All Inclusive – which tells the story of seven women who are going on holidays to Morocco, getting out of the hotel and confronting women from Morocco.
In one of the biggest-budget productions to ever come out of Germany, the adaptation of All Quiet on the Western Front is directed by Edward Berger and stars Daniel Bruhl – which follows a trio of teenagers who voluntarily enlist in the German army, riding a wave of patriotic fervour that quickly dissipates once they face the brutal realities of life on the front.
With a pair of noteworthy shorts in the Oscar-nominated short Marguerite (2017) and shortlisted Frimas (2019), Quebecois filmmaker Marianne Farley presents us with her feature debut Au nord d’Albany is about a single mother (Céline Bonnier) who decides to flee Montreal with her two children.
Veteran America indie film producer Mel Eslyn (2022’s Spin Me Round, The Drop) got behind the camera for her feature debut – a sci-fi movie called Biosphere. Sterling K. Brown and naturally Mark Duplass, the Duplass Brothers produce as well. Eslyn presented Alex Lehmann’s Blue Jay at TIFF in 2016.
Australian filmmaker Robert Connolly (TIFF ’12 – Underground) reunites with his The Dry (2020) star Eric Bana and works with thesps Radha Mitchell and Mia Wasikowska on Blueback. Based on the book of the same name, this is billed as a family-friendly, ecologically activist celebration of the natural world.
Canuck filmmaker Ally Pankiw teamed with Shiva Baby actress Rachel Sennott for her feature debut. Brooke & Sam is about a young stand-up comedian and au pair struggling with PTSD, who is weighing whether or not to join the search for Brooke, a missing girl she used to nanny.
Swedish helmer Björn Runge (TIFF ’17 – The Wife) looked to the semi-autobiographical book Burn All My Letters for his next project. About the impact of passion, jealousy and anger across 70 years in a relationship, involving different generations — we find Bill Skarsgård in the lead role of Sven.
Newbie director, French dancer and choreographer Benjamin Millepied got Paul Mescal, Elsa Pataky, Rossy de Palma and Melissa Barrera in the lead for Carmen. A Sony Pictures Classics project, this is a modern-day reimagining of .. you guessed it, the classical opera.
Booksmart scribe Susanna Fogel directed her third feature film which is being pitched as a Promising Young Woman type plot. Nicholas Braun and Emilia Jones star in Cat Person, which follows the brief relationship between Margot, a twenty-year-old sophomore college student, and Robert, an older man who is a regular at the movie theater where Margot works.
A comeback year for Lena Dunham with two feature films being released in the same year, the second title Catherine Called Birdy is an Amazon Studios project with a stamped (limited) September 23rd release. Based on the children’s novel, Bella Ramsey toplines the project set in medieval England, she is the daughter of a financially destitute Lord who thwarts her father’s plans to marry her off to a wealthy suitor. When the most vile suitor arrives, her parent’s love for her is tested.
CODA wins Best Picture and we’re reminded that the original film (La famille Bélier) was actually presented at TIFF in 2015. French filmmaker Eric Lartigau‘s next project is Cet été-là. Based on the graphic novel, Rose Pou Pellicer and Juliette Havelange are surrounded by Marina Foïs, Gael García Bernal, Ángela Molina and Chiara Mastroianni. This chronicles the passage from childhood to adolescence through the story of pre-teens who meet each summer as a family and share all the questions of entering adolescence. France will release the film on November 23rd.
Veteran television director Stephen Williams takes us back in time (1745 to be exact) with Chevalier. Chevalier de Saint-Georges was the illegitimate son of an African slave and a French plantation owner. He rose to improbable heights in French society, dazzling as both a violinist and composer and a champion fencer. An ill-fated love affair with a French noblewoman and a falling out with Marie Antoinette and her court led to his untimely downfall. Lucy Boynton plays Marie Antoinette and Kelvin Harrison Jr. is in title role. A little bit of a holdover title, Searchlight Pictures have not yet stamped this with a release date.
A sophomore project will a lot of built-in hype, word on the street is that Don’t Worry Darling is definitely up for contention for the big September three. Olivia Wilde lassoed Florence Pugh, Chris Pine and Harry Styles for a set in the 1950s tale about a housewife living with her husband in a utopian experimental community but begins to worry that his glamorous company may be hiding disturbing secrets. This is tagged with a September 23rd release date.
The long time producer and now third time feature filmmaker Bill Pohlad (TIFF ’14 – Love & Mercy) got behind another music-themed project musical with an ensemble that includes Casey Affleck, Beau Bridges, Zooey Deschanel, Walton Goggins, Jack Dylan Grazer, Noah Jupe and Chris Messina. This follows the real-life story of musical duo Donnie and Joe Emerson, whose family leveraged their farm in the 1970s in order to produce the brothers’ record, Dreamin’ Wild. The album, an eclectic mix of rock, soul, R&B, country and funk, went on to be wildly unknown until it was rediscovered nearly thirty years after the release.
Actress Frances O’Connor‘s connection to TIFF dates back to 1999’s Mansfield Park. She moved into directing with a passion project where Emma Mackey plays Emily Brontë and Fionn Whitehead plays Branwell Brontë. This will focus on the life the world of author Brontë in the years leading up to the creation of her seminal novel “Wuthering Heights.” We’re thinking that Bleecker Street would want Emily to do a Toronto / BFI London Film Fest double dip.
A possible Oscar bait item and Gala selection, Sam Mendes has a history with TIFF as this was the launchpad for Best Picture winning American Beauty back in 1999. Could this be round two? Starring Olivia Colman, Micheal Ward, Colin Firth, Toby Jones, Crystal Clarke and Tanya Moodie, Empire of Light is not a sure bet as they are probably still putting the final touches in post and Searchlight Pictures have stamped this with a late December 9th release. This is a love story set in and around a beautiful old cinema in the 1980s.
While most of the focus will be on her perf in L’immensità, Penélope Cruz also toplined Argentine-Spanish actor turned director Juan Diego Botto‘s debut film. En Los Márgenes is told over the course of one day, and will follow interweaving stories, including that of a woman (Cruz) who has 24 hours to prevent herself and her family from being evicted from their home by a bank intent on repossessing it. Luis Tosar will play a passionate lawyer and activist. A domestic Spain September 30th release is planned.
Actress turned filmmaker Eva Longoria might give us a one-two punch this year with La Guerra Civil (Sundance ’22) and a faux biopic titled Flamin’ Hot. This is the tale of a Frito Lay janitor who channelled his Mexican American heritage and upbringing to turn Flamin’ Hot Cheetos into a snack that disrupted the food industry and became a global phenomenon. Jesse Garcia toplines.
Spanning to the mid-90s, the Spanish filmmaker Álex de la Iglesia has delivered film items such as El dia de la Bestia, Perdita Durango, Witching and Bitching and The Last Circus. Four’s a Crowd tells the story of a 50-year-old divorced man who starts using an app to share his car with strangers and especially Lorena, a young woman with whom Julian wanted to share more. This stars Alberto San Juan, Blanca Suárez, Ernesto Alterio and Rubén Cortada. This is currently set for an October 28th release in Spain.
Quebecois helmer Guy Édoin (TIFF’11 Wetlands / TIFF’15 Ville-Marie) reunites with actress Pascale Bussières for Frontières – a drama set in rural French Canada. A family tragedy in the form of an accident and a possible ghost element overlap pushing the mother to seek out a reunion with the clan based in Florida.
Recently selected as a competition film at San Sebastián, Jaime Rosales‘ Girasoles silvestres stars Anna Castillo and Oriol Pla in a tale about 22-year-old Julia, a mother of two who falls in love with Oscar, with whom she initiates a powerful and tortuous relationship. However, Julia begins to have doubts about how appropriate a male role model Oscar is for her children before an incident sparks a headlong flight in search of a better future.
Israel’s Prime Minister Golda Meir gets the biopic treatment and some Helen Mirren love with Golda by filmmaker Guy Nattiv‘s (TIFF’18 – Skin – Fipresci Critics Prize winner). This focuses on the intensely dramatic and high-stakes responsibilities and decisions that the ‘Iron Lady of Israel’ faced during the Yom Kippur War. Bleecker Street have pegged this for an end of the year release.
Toronto made some room in 2018 for Halloween essentially kickstarting David Gordon Green‘s franchise trilogy and perhaps he’ll close out the final chapter — maybe in the Midnight Madness section. Halloween Ends (Universal – October 14th) is the climax film and would be a return for Green who has also showcased Joe (2013), Manglehorn (2014), Our Brand Is Crisis (2015), Stronger (2017).
Finnish filmmaker JP Valkeapää (TIFF’14 – They Have Escaped, TIFF’19 Dogs Don’t Wear Pants) once again moves into the comedy terrain but instead of a Scandi backdrop we got the warmer climate of Spain. Set in Costa del Sol, Hit Big is about a Finnish family abandoned by a crime boss take their own back by stealing the haul of a major heist. The cast includes Outi Mäenpää, Ilkka Heiskanen, Johannes Holopainen, Jari Pehkonen, Jukka-Pekka Palo, Pääru Oja, Besir Zeciri.
Milčo Mančevski‘s connection to the fest dates back to 1994 with the launch of Before the Rain, and he peppered the fest with Shadows (2007) and Mothers (2010). Perhaps his seventh feature will mark his return. Titled Kaymak (which refers to a traditional Balkan dairy product similar to soft cheese), this tells the story of two families living next to each other. The cast is toplined by players (in his previous film Willow) Sara Klimoska and Kamka Točinovski.
The prolific Spaniard Adrían García Bogliano (TIFF’12 – Here Comes the Devil) sets actress María Evoli in the fright fest role of Ofelia. La Exorcista is about a young nun recently arrived at the town of San Ramon, she is forced to perform an exorcism on a pregnant woman. Just when it looks like the possession has ended, she discovers that the evil presence has not vanished. This would be a possible Midnight Madness entry followed by showings in Fantastic Fest and Sitges.
Veteran actress and now seven-time filmmaker Noémie Lvovsky (TIFF’03 – Les sentiments) purposes a musical comedy with the likes of Denis Podalydès, Sergi López, François Morel, Judith Chemla and herself with La grande magie. This is about a couple whose relationship is put to the test when the wife vanishes during a magician’s act.
Nicaragua-born filmmaker Laura Baumeister de Montis has had a lengthy amount of time in post with her debut feature, La hija de todas las rabias. Nine-year-old María is left at a recycling factory in Nicaragua by her struggling mother, joining a workforce of other children. Torn between anger and hope, María resorts to her vivid imagination in order to come to terms with her mother’s absence and make sense of a chaotic world. The filmmaker had shorts films premiere in Cannes and Rotterdam.
Most likely joining the North American premiere for Carla Simón’s Alcarràs, Pilar Palomero just saw her sophomore film get selected for the prestigious San Sebastian Film Fest comp section. Starring Carla Quilez, Ángela Cervantes and Jordan Angel Dumes, La Maternal centers around 14-year-old Carla – a wild and rebellious adolescent. Living in a modest restaurant on the outskirts of town with her young single mother, she skips school and passes the time with her friend Efraín. The teenage world mixes with that of the adults.
A possible Platform or Discovery selection, Ecuadorian filmmaker Ana Cristina Barragán‘s sophomore feature visited the Sundance Screenwriters Lab and received some Guadalajara Film Festival post-prod coin. La Piel Pulpo tells the story of Iris and Ariel (14-year-old twins) who live with their mother and their older sister Lia on a beach filled with mollusks and reptiles. Their relationship goes beyond the limits of common intimacy.
Currently, on film number seven, Algerian-born French filmmaker Rabah Ameur-Zaïmeche (TIFF’08 – Dernier maquis / TIFF’19 – South Terminal) enlisted Jacques Nolot, Sara Forestier, Vincent Rottiers, Slimane Dazi and Olivier Gourmet for a crime thriller. Le Gang Des Bois Du Temple follows a US private investigator and a retired loner from the Temple Woods housing project who get caught in a conflict between a gang of robbers, and the henchmen of a wealthy prince the gang has attacked.
French filmmaker Jimmy Laporal-Trésor moved from a pair of short films directly into his feature film debut in a story set in the outskirts of Paris in 1984 where the immigrants, the undesirables of the Republic dwell. Local gang The Rascals intend to get all they can out of life. Titled Les Rascals, this is a youth portrait of rebellion and social injustice. It drops domestically in France in mid-November.
A project that has been scarce in terms of info is indeed ready for a 2022 film fest launch. Koji Fukada‘s (TIFF’16 – Harmonium / TIFF’19 – A Girl Missing) Love Life is a character-driven film revolving around Taeko and her husband, Jiro, who are living a peaceful existence with her young son, Keita. When a tragic accident brings the boy’s long-lost father, Park, back into her life, Taeko throws herself into helping this deaf and homeless man to cope with the pain and guilt. Fumino Kimura toplines.
Spanish filmmaker Carlos Vermut (TIFF’14 – Magical Girl) lassoed Nacho Sánchez and Clara Hails for his fourth feature film. Mantícora follows Julian, a successful video game designer tortured by a dark secret. When Diana appears in his life, Julian will begin to see a chance at happiness. This will likely shore up at either San Sebastian or Sitges.
Part II tomorrow!