It’s not the opener. It’s not the closer. But today the Toronto International Film Festival announced that Taika Waititi‘s long-gestating Next Goal Wins will be part of the 2023 line-up. Leaving the choppy pandemic waters behind and moving towards what will likely be a slim festival edition with higher profile titles not competing with premium selections en route to Telluride/Venice we are expecting an emphasis placed on lassoing titles hungry for world premiere status. As we await for Locarno topper Giona A. Nazzaro’s programme unveiling (July 5th) and Alberto Barbera’s ’23 edition of Venice, we will comb over 74 titles that we feel would opt for Canada’s unofficial capitol to break bread. Head honcho Cameron Bailey has circled July 19th as key announcement date, but here are plenty of titles to whet your appetite for what could be the fabric of the upcoming 48th edition.
Last year’s edition saw Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans as the big fish catch, but Edward Berger’s All Quiet on the Western Front had the bigger bite during awards season. My golden calf prognostication is Alexander Payne‘s The Holdovers. We are predicting that it’ll bypass Telluride and Venice and what is somewhat fitting is that the Focus Features property was actually picked up at TIFF last year in a private market screening for buyers. Studio offerings Kenneth Branagh‘s A Haunting in Venice, Craig Gillespie‘s Dumb Money and Jimmy Chin & Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi‘s Nyad might all be jockeying for position as well.
Joining Next Goal Wins among Searchlight’s offerings we might also find Marielle Heller‘s Nightbitch and Laura Chinn‘s directorial debut Suncoast. Neon will likely be pushing for a huge Gala screening bypassing Venice for cinematographer Benoit Delhomme‘s debut Mother’s Instinct – it features Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Josh Charles, Caroline Lagerfelt and Anders Danielsen Lie in the remake of the 2018 film by Olivier Masset-Depasse.
The Amazon Studios could be super active in Toronto this year with the likes of Garth Davis‘ Foe a sci-fi thriller with Saoirse Ronan, Emerald Fennell‘s Saltburn with Barry Keoghan and Rosamund Pike, Alejandra Márquez Abella‘s A Million Miles Away and Michael Showalter‘s The Idea of You with Anne Hathaway. A24 will have their Venice preemed films but they could lasso Toronto for a three-prong strategy. At the top of the list we find Alex Garland‘s Civil War with Kirsten Dunst and Wagner Moura – some are tipping this as a Venice release. Daina O. Pusic‘s directorial debut Tuesday with Lola Petticrew and Julia Louis-Dreyfus looks like a safe bet and the comedy musical F***ing Identical Twins by Larry Charles would not feel out of place – its about a pair of business rivals discover that they’re identical twins and decide to swap places in an attempt to trick their divorced parents to get back together.
And going back to Edward Berger, he locked picture on the book-to-film thriller titled Conclave which features the likes of Ralph Fiennes, John Lithgow, Stanley Tucci and Isabella Rossellini. It follows Cardinal Lomeli as he oversees the group of Cardinals responsible for selecting a new Church leader while trying to uncover a secret from the late Pontiff. Saoirse Ronan could also arrive at the fest with the acquisitions friendly title by Nora Fingscheidt. In a nutshell, The Outrun is a rehab drama. Another pick-up item might be Love Me (by Sam & Andy) featuring Kristen Stewart and Steven Yeun — it’s dubbed as a love story between a satellite and a buoy.
Among the mix of buzzy, star-powered, mostly English language acquisition and award friendly titles we find Thea Sharrock‘s comedy Wicked Little Letters with Olivia Colman and Jessie Buckley (who we saw separately in The Lost Daughter). If The Pot au Feu has its Canadian premiere at the fest perhaps it’ll be accompanied by another foodie-themed film in La Cocina by Alonso Ruizpalacios with Rooney Mara. These films could be washed down with Clicquot by director Thomas Napper – with Haley Bennett toplining – this is the story behind the Veuve Clicquot champagne family and business that began in the late 18th century. The international cast friendly The Movie Teller by Lone Scherfig should be a strong contender — it stars with Daniel Brühl, Antonio de la Torre and Berenice Bejo. Sally El Hosaini opened TIFF last year and could return with James Krishna Floyd for Unicorns. Anand Tucker‘s The Critic with Ian McKellen, Gemma Arterton, Mark Strong, Lesley Manville and Romola Garai looks like a fun blackmail schtick, while Benedict Cumberbatch fans will want to keep tabs on Mahalia Belo‘s debut The End We Start From which also features Jodie Comer, Mark Strong and Katherine Waterston. A pair of Anthony Hopkins features are also on our radar – Aisling Walsh‘s One Life with Johnny Flynn, Helena Bonham Carter, Lena Olin, Jonathan Pryce and Romola Garai tells the story of the “British Oskar Schindler,” while Sony Pictures Classics sees Hopkins pair with Matthew Goode for Matt Brown‘s Freud’s Last Session. Jonathan Kent‘s directorial debut Long Day’s Journey Into Night (an adaptation of Eugene O’Neill’s Pulitzer prize-winning play) lined up Jessica Lange, Ed Harris and Ben Foster. Michael Gracey‘s Better Man is a title that could aim for a 2024 launch but could be given serious consideration for Toronto then London premiere showcase. It’s the Robbie Williams biopic. Another bio-film titled Dance First by TIFF veteran James Marsh features Gabriel Byrne in the shoes of the Parisian bon vivant, World War II Resistance fighter, Nobel Prize-winning playwright, and philandering husband and recluse Samuel Beckett.
From Australia we see three titles as possible options. First we have Elizabeth Banks front and center in Christine Jeffs‘ latest A Mistake – tells the tale of a surgeon who finds herself fighting for her career and reputation following the death of a patient. The Dry and Blueback filmmaker Robert Connolly could easily return to Toronto with Force of Nature: The Dry 2 – once again featuring Eric Bana and the unforgiving countryside. We could also find Kitty Green‘s The Royal Hotel (a Neon project) with Jessica Henwick, Julia Garner, Hugo Weaving and Toby Wallace served as a Midnight screening.
Jordan Scott could return to Toronto with Berlin Nobody – a thriller inspired by the novel – features Sadie Sink, Eric Bana, Sylvia Hoeks and Jonas Dassler. Oorlagh George‘s directorial debut (also a thriller) The Sniper’s Daughter with Ellie Bamber could be in this festival buffet as well. Other English language title items – we see Chris Pine bringing his directorial debut Poolman, Josh Margolin‘s Thelma with June Squibb, Zelda Williams might see her debut Lisa Frankenstein (Focus Features film) settle here instead of Sundance and finally Michael Keaton could premiere his last directorial effort in Knox Goes Away. Shira Piven‘s The Performance (based on an Arthur Miller short story) stars Jeremy Piven and Robert Carlyle and is about a second-generation Jewish American dancer whose troupe is on tour in Europe and is scouted for a special performance for Adolf Hitler. Sticking with performances, Simon Verhoeven‘s Girl You Know It’s True looks at the R&B duo out of Munich who became global stars in the 1980s. Spanish director Guillem Morales could return to TIFF with The Wasp – a psychological thriller starring Naomie Harris and Natalie Dormer.
Among the French language items, France has three alluring TIFF type items in crime-caper Voleuses by Mélanie Laurent (with Laurent, Isabelle Adjani and Adèle Exarchopoulos) Thomas Bidegain‘s Soudain, seuls (with Gilles Lellouche and Melanie Thierry) and in current creative overdrive, Guillaume Nicloux has Fabrice Luchini, Mara Taquin and Maud Wyler surrounding La petite – a tale about accidents and fate. Five films from Belgium appera on paper to be contenders. We got Funny Birds by Marco La Via and Hanna Ladoul in a Los Angeles based mystery film with Catherine Deneuve. We have Joachim Lafosse‘s Un silence with Emmanuelle Devos and Benoît Poelvoorde. We have a directorial debut by Delphine Girard — Le plus vivant possible which features Veerle Baetens. We have opus Wil – a WWII drama by Tim Mielants and actress turned director Yolande Moreau‘s La Fiancée du poète – a dramedy about breaking up routine.
TIFF went heavy on Canadian cinema for the ’22 edition and we should find more of the same this year. At the top of the list we don’t think Denis Villeneuve will be ready, but they’ll have the Denys Arcand with Testament. Sophie Dupuis‘ Solo, Chloé Robichaud‘s Les jours heureux (aka Days of Happiness), Anne Émond‘s La meute (aka Wolf Pack), Louise Archambault’s Irena’s Vow (with Sophie Nélisse), Fawzia Mirza‘s debut The Queen of My Dreams (fka Me, My Mom & Sharmila), Nicole Dorsey‘s Balestra, Naomi Jaye‘s The Incident Report (might be going by another title) are all strong contenders. The RKSS collective of Anouk Whissel, Yoann-Karl Whissel and François Simard have two in post-production so perhaps We Are Zombies grabs a spot in the Midnight section – the same can be said for hometown girl Caitlin Cronenberg with Humane which stars Jay Baruchel and Emily Hampshire. Charles-Olivier Michaud‘s Ru (which sees Karine Vanasse as a supporting player) looks like a good contender as well as the Canadian financed The Braid by Laetitia Colombani.
In terms of Scandi film offerings, we think Ole Christian Madsen‘s Boundless (a crime-thriller with Ulrich Thomsen) and Mikael Håfström‘s Stockholm Bloodbath (which looks at a political power struggle in 1520 between Sweden and Denmark that culminates in a mass execution) are possible selections. Fan favorite Mads Mikkelsen could shore up with Nikolaj Arcel‘s Bastarden – the story of Ludvig Kahlen who pursued his lifelong dream: To make the heath bring him wealth and honor. Per Fly‘s Hammarskjöld is set during the Cold War in 1961, and follows the story of diplomat and economist Dag Hammarskjöld, who boards a plane in a desperate attempt to negotiate a ceasefire from his enemies after he leads UN troops into their first wartime operation. Baltasar Kormákur traveled to London, Japan and Iceland for the romantic drama based on a novel by Ólafur Jóhann Ólafsson – Touch stars Egill Olafsson. Together 99 by Lukas Moodysson is a sequel to his popular film Together.
And finally, among TIFF alumni filmmakers that could come back to the fest we believe that Brazilian filmmaker Carolina Markowicz has a shot with social drama Pedagio, we have Hong Kong helmer Soi Cheang with action epic Twilight Of The Warriors: Walled In, we have a rural, decade-spanning drama in Above The Dust from Wang Xiaoshuai, and Austrian Barbara Albert‘s gut wrenching Die Mittagsfrau. From Spain we could possible see Manuel Martín Cuenca‘s family drama El amor de Andrea, and Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia‘s Rich Flu which stars Jonah Hauer-King and Mary Elizabeth Winstead sci-fi film about a strange disease threatens to kill anyone with any sort of fortune. Add to this the tale about a girl who wakes up from a coma after being struck by lightning in Lucia Puenzo‘s Los impactados, and the long-awaited Wonderland – a Netflix financed studio item by Kim Tae-yong.
Stay tuned next week for our complete 2023 Venice Film Festival predictions!
Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist and critic at IONCINEMA.com (founded in 2000). Eric is a regular at Sundance, Cannes and TIFF. He has a BFA in Film Studies at the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013 he served as a Narrative Competition Jury Member at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson's This Teacher (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022 he served as a New Flesh Comp for Best First Feature at the 2022 Fantasia Intl. Film Festival. Current top films for 2022 include Tár (Todd Field), All That Breathes (Shaunak Sen), Aftersun (Charlotte Wells).