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TIFF 2009: The Road, Mother and Child and My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done and maybe, The Illusionist?

World preems (Mother and Child, L’Affaire Farewell, Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, I, Don Giovanni), Venice titles (The Road, A Single Man, The Men Who Stare at Goats, Baaria) and a Telluride pic in Werner Herzog’s My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done are part of the Gala and Special Presentations and among the last batch of titles announced for the 2009 edition of the Toronto Film Festival.

World preems (Mother and Child, L’Affaire Farewell, Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, I, Don Giovanni), Venice titles (The Road, A Single Man, The Men Who Stare at Goats, Baaria) and a Telluride pic in Werner Herzog’s My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done are part of the Gala and Special Presentations and among the last batch of titles announced for the 2009 edition of the Toronto Film Festival.

Today’s press release (see here) should have confirmed that Sylvain Chomet’s The Illusionist as part of the festival, there is a brief mention the filmmaker’s name, but we don’t find his film listed in the 19 announced, but instead there is a mention that the previously announced Bruce Sweeney’s Excited, is now a Special Presentation. Could the title have been removed at the last minute? Or is the omission – simple a mistake? More on this later.

Among the titles, we find SPC with yet another title in the festival in Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky, Agora which has yet to find a buyer from Cannes will attempt to bring more attention to its cause, helmer Derrick Borte’s directorial debut The Joneses receives a coveted slot and should have some buyers in the first official screening, Les Derniers Jours du Monde – a Locarno title I was sure that was going to be headed to TIFF is finally confirmed and Youth in Revolt receives a “North American” premiere – begging me to ask…where will it receive its World premiere if it isn’t Venice? Here are is the list of 7 Galas and 12 Special Presentations announced today.


Alejandro Amenábar, Spain
North American Premiere
In the fourth century, while Egypt was under the Roman Empire, violent religious upheaval in the streets of Alexandria spills over into the city’s famous library. Trapped inside its walls, the brilliant astronomer Hypatia (Rachel Weisz) and her disciples fight to save the wisdom of the ancient world. Among the group are the two men competing for Hypatia’s heart: the witty, privileged Orestes and Davus, Hypatia’s young slave, who is torn between his secret love for her and the freedom he knows can be his if he chooses to join the unstoppable surge of the Christians.

Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky
Jan Kounen, France
North American Premiere
Igor Stravinsky premieres The Rite of Spring at the Theatre Des Champs-Elysées, in Paris 1913. Coco Chanel is in attendance and is mesmerized. But the revolutionary work, too modern and too radical, leads to boos and jeers from the enraged audience. Seven years later, now rich, respected and successful, Coco Chanel once again encounters Stravinsky, now a penniless refugee living in exile in Paris after the Russian Revolution. The attraction between them is immediate and electric. Following an offer from Coco, Stravinsky moves into her villa in the Garches to work, with his consumptive wife and children in tow. And so begins a passionate and intense love affair between two creative giants.

I, Don Giovanni
Carlos Saura, Austria/Italy/Spain
World Premiere
Venice 1763 – writer Lorenzo da Ponte is leading a pleasure-seeking life. He was originally a priest but his numerous affairs force him to be exiled to Vienna. Supported by his friend and mentor Giacomo Casanova, da Ponte is introduced to the Emperor’s favourite composer, Salieri, and a newcomer named Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Seeing an opportunity to undermine Mozart’s ascension, Salieri tricks Mozart into hiring this unknown libertine as his librettist. But da Ponte’s own nature and sentimental wanderings in Vienna will nurture his inspiration and lead to one of Mozart’s most bold and powerful compositions: Don Giovanni.

Love and Other Impossible Pursuits
Don Roos, USA
World Premiere
Emilia Woolf (Natalie Portman) is a Harvard law school graduate and a newlywed, having just married Jack, her high-powered New York lawyer boss (Scott Cohen). Her life takes an unexpected turn when the couple loses their newborn daughter. Emilia struggles through her grief to connect with her precocious new stepson William (Charlie Tahan), overcome a rift in her relationship with her father caused by his infidelity, and cope with the constant interferences of Jack’s angry, jealous ex-wife (Lisa Kudrow). An adaptation of an Ayelet Waldman novel, this tearful and terrific tale by writer-director Don Roos proves that even with a pursuit like love, nothing is impossible.

The Men Who Stare at Goats
Grant Heslov, USA
North American Premiere
Reporter Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor) is in search of his next big story when he encounters Lyn Cassady (Academy Award® winner George Clooney), a shadowy figure who claims to be part of an experimental U.S. military unit. According to Cassady, the New Earth Army is changing the way wars are fought. A legion of “Warrior Monks” with unparalleled psychic powers can read the enemy’s thoughts, pass through solid walls and even kill a goat simply by staring at it. When the programme’s founder, Bill Django (Oscar® nominee Jeff Bridges), goes missing, Cassady’s mission is to find him in this quirky dark comedy, inspired by a real story.

Mother and Child
Rodrigo Garcia, USA
World Premiere
This moving drama follows the story of three women (Annette Bening, Naomi Watts and Kerry Washington) and the power of the unbreakable bond between mother and child. From writer-director Rodrigo Garcia (Nine Lives), executive producer Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel) and producers Lisa Falcone and Julie Lynn, the film also stars Samuel L. Jackson, Jimmy Smits, Shareeka Epps, Cherry Jones and S. Epatha Merkerson.

Phantom Pain
Matthias Emcke, Germany
International Premiere
Marc (Til Schweiger) is a passionate cyclist and urban slacker who avoids work and responsibility. Marc’s life changes from one moment to the next when he suffers a life-changing accident. He can either wallow in self-pity or tackle the beast called life with the help of love and willpower. Phantom Pain is a thought-provoking, yet light and upbeat look at a man who’s forced to turn his life around.


Giuseppe Tornatore, Italy
International Premiere
From the acclaimed director of Cinema Paradiso comes an epic saga of life and death, love and hatred in a vibrant Sicilian town in the first half of the twentieth century. Following the life of Peppino Torrenuova (Francesco Scianna) from his upbringing as a high-spirited cowherders’ son, to his forbidden romance and marriage to the beautiful Mannina (Margareth Madè) and culminating in his tumultuous and comical political career and home life, Baaria is a humourous and often heartbreaking tale of small-town family dynamics.

L’Affaire Farewell
Christian Carion, France
World Premiere
In 1981 Moscow, a KGB colonel, disgusted with what Soviet policy has become, decides to break with the system. With the help of a French engineer he will play a part in one of the key events in world history: the collapse of the Soviet bloc.

The Joneses
Derrick Borte, USA
World Premiere
In the comedic drama The Joneses, Kate Jones (Demi Moore) and Steve Jones (David Duchovny) are a picture-perfect couple who, at first glance, are the embodiment of the American dream. When they move their family into suburbia, the Joneses immediately become the envy of the residents around them with their luxury cars and their gorgeous home. But little do their neighbours realize that this family isn’t what it appears to be, and everyone is about to find out that keeping up with the Joneses isn’t as easy as it seems.

Les Derniers Jours du Monde
France/Spain/Taiwan, Arnaud Larrieu and Jean-Marie Larrieu
North American Premiere
A global apocalypse is about to destroy all mankind. In a final quest, Robinson (Mathieu Amalric) sets out on a journey from France to Spain, searching for Laetitia, the woman he once loved, even if it means heading back to the centre of the danger zone. But as the world is turning upside down, most people – through their blind panic – have decided to simply enjoy their last days on the planet abandoning themselves to a few final moments of pleasure and lust.

My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done
Werner Herzog, USA
Canadian Premiere
Inspired by true events, My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done, is a story of ancient myth and modern madness. Brad Macallam, an aspiring actor performing in a Greek tragedy, commits the crime he is to enact in the play by killing his mother. The mystery unfolds in a series of flashbacks displaying the psychological destruction of the killer set off by an ill-fated white-water kayaking trip in a distant land. 

The Road
John Hillcoat, USA
North American Premiere
In this epic post-apocalyptic tale of the survival, a father (Academy Award® nominee Viggo Mortensen) and his young son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) journey across a barren America that was destroyed by a mysterious cataclysm. From author Cormac McCarthy (No Country For Old Men) comes the highly anticipated big screen adaptation of the beloved, best-selling and Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Road, also staring Charlize Theron, Robert Duvall and Guy Pearce.

Road, Movie
Dev Benegal, India/USA
World Premiere
Vishnu, a restless young man, rejects his father’s faltering hair oil business and hits the road with a travelling cinema. Colourful and full of unforgettable characters, Road, Movie celebrates India’s open road and the pure love of movies.

A Single Man
Tom Ford, USA
North American Premiere
Set in Los Angeles in 1962, A Single Man is the story of George Falconer, a British college professor (Colin Firth) who is struggling to find meaning in his life after the death of his long-time partner, Jim (Matthew Goode). We follow George through a single day, where a series of encounters, ultimately leads him to decide if there is a meaning to life after Jim. George is consoled by his closest friend, Charley (Julianne Moore), a 48-year-old beauty, and is stalked by one of his students, Kenny (Nicholas Hoult). The story is an adaptation based on a novel by Christopher Isherwood and is directed by Tom Ford.

The Traveller
Ahmed Maher, Egypt/Italy
North American Premiere
The Traveller follows one man’s journey through time and space, from youth and adulthood to old age. Hassan’s life is encapsulated in three crucial days during which he moulds his own sensitivity and character. Through a twist of fate he will be forced to learn the meaning of love, jealousy and betrayal and have the opportunity to question his own meanings of fatherhood and kinships. The film features Omar Sharif.

The Waiting City
Claire McCarthy, Australia
World Premiere
An outwardly happy Australian couple (Radha Mitchell, Joel Edgerton) journey to Kolkata, India to collect their adopted baby, but on arrival finds that the arrangements at the agency have yet to be finalized. They have no option but to wait in this place that, to them, is chaotic and foreign. But as the intoxicating mystic powers of the Indian city pull them each in separate and unexpected directions, the vulnerability of their marriage begins to reveal itself.

He Ping, China
International Premiere
In the Kingdom of Zhao, all the men have left for war and Lady Li (Fan Bingbing), wife of the absent lord, says victory will soon bring their men back home. When two enemy deserters invade the kingdom they pretend to be Zhao soldiers and improvise a tale for Lady Li describing Zhao’s victory. Word of the supposed victory spreads rapidly throughout the town, causing misplaced optimism among the women until the truth is revealed and despair and horror emerge.

Youth in Revolt
Miguel Arteta, USA
North American Premiere
Youth in Revolt is an outrageous and heartwarming tale of Nick Twisp (Michael Cera), and his quest to win the heart of Sheeni (Portia Doubleday) and hopefully lose his virginity along the way. The film is based on C.D. Payne’s cult-hit novel of the same name, directed by Miguel Arteta (The Good Girl) and features an all-star ensemble cast including Steve Buscemi, Ray Liotta, Justin Long, Jean Smart, Ari Graynor, Fred Willard, Zach Galifianakis and Mary Kay Place.

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury 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 was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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