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TIFF 2011: CWC Loaded with Lynn Shelton, Naranjo, Sion Sono, Hansen-Love, Zvyagintsev, Vigalondo

With a total of 50+1 films from around the world, the Contemporary World Cinema programme could very well be a film festival in its own right. Once again loaded in Cannes North American premieres from, the section also includes world preem titles: Xiaolu Guo’s UFO in her Eyes, Lynn Shelton’s Your Sister’s Sister (starring Emily Blunt see pic above), Nacho Vigalondo’s Extraterrestrial and Christophe Van Rompaey’s Lena. Among Cannes titles we can vouch for, which will play out in the section and happen to tell us that this world is not healthy state of affairs we have Andrey Zvyagintsev’s brilliant Elena, Gerardo Naranjo’s Miss Bala , and Markus Schleinzer’ Michael.

With a total of 50+1 films from around the world, the Contemporary World Cinema programme could very well be a film festival in its own right. Once again loaded in Cannes North American premieres from, the section also includes world preem titles: Xiaolu Guo’s UFO in her Eyes, Lynn Shelton’s Your Sister’s Sister (starring Emily Blunt see pic above), Nacho Vigalondo’s Extraterrestrial and Christophe Van Rompaey’s Lena. Among Cannes titles we can vouch for, which will play out in the section and happen to tell us that this world is not healthy state of affairs we have Andrey Zvyagintsev’s brilliant Elena, Gerardo Naranjo’s Miss Bala , and Markus Schleinzer’ Michael. Here’s the full list:

Always Brando Ridha Béhi, Tunisia World Premiere
After meeting Anis Raache, a young Tunisian actor who bears a stunning resemblance to young Marlon Brando, Tunisian master Ridha Béhi decided to write a film casting the two. Marlon Brando was interested, the two met and reworked the script. Brando died before shooting started. Always Brando chronicles Béhi‟s saga with Marlon Brando and meditates on the lure and cruelty of the art, system and its industry.

Azhagarsamy’s Horse Suseendran, India International Premiere
In a small Tamil village, a ceremonial wooden-horse statue goes missing. With a crucial holy symbol suddenly gone, the village falls into recriminations and comic chaos. At the same time, Azhagarsamy, a young man who earns his livelihood by ferrying loads on his horse, puts his marriage on hold when his horse also disappears.

Beauty Oliver Hermanus, South Africa/France North American Premiere
François, a white, Afrikaans-speaking 40-year-old family man, no longer cares about his happiness. Convinced of his ill-fated existence, he is wholly unprepared when a chance encounter unravels his controlled life.

Blood of my Blood João Canijo, Portugal World Premiere
Set in inner city Lisbon, this family saga about unconditional love – a mother‟s love for her daughter and an aunt‟s love for her nephew – chronicles the sacrifices these two women are willing to make to save their family.

Bonsái Cristián Jiménez, Chile/France/Argentina/Portugal North American Premiere
Jiménez‟ debut celebrates love, literature and botany in this portrayal of a struggling writer, Julio, who finds himself writing a book about his very first experience with love in order to keep up a lie that he has told his current lover. In need of a plot, Julio turns to the romance he had eight years earlier with Emilia when both were studying literature in Valdivia.

Colour of the Ocean Maggie Peren, Germany World Premiere
A Spanish border patrolman of Grand Canary Island, José, decides the fate of hundreds of African boat people. When Nathalie, a German tourist, gets involved, the refugee crisis threatens to spin out of control. It‟s up to José to decide what to do, but he must learn to free himself first before he can help free others.

Death for Sale Faouzi Bensaidi, Belgium/France/Morocco World Premiere
In Tetouan, at the northern edge of Morocco, three young men decide to rob a jewellery store. The heist goes awry, and their destinies part drastically. In Death for Sale, Faouzi Bensaidi draws a captivating noir portrait of a city abandoned to corrupt officials, smugglers and extremists.

Elena Andrey Zvyagintsev, Russia North American Premiere
Vladmir, an affluent man, drives his second wife Elena to desperation after he patches things up with his estranged daughter and decides to leave her all his money in the event of his death. Elena‟s son is unemployed, unable to support his own family and is constantly asking Elena for money. Elena‟s hope to financially rescue her son suddenly vanishes. The shy and submissive housewife then comes up with a plan to give her son and grandchildren a real chance in life.

Extraterrestrial Nacho Vigalondo, Spain World Premiere
Julio and Julia don’t know each other, but they wake up in the same bed horribly hungover and with no memory of the night before. He falls in love with her almost immediately – she does not. The last thing they expect to discover is that an alien invasion has taken place. Vigalondo melds science fiction, romance and black comedy in his latest feature about the darkly fascinating aspects of the human psyche.

Footnote Joseph Cedar, Israel North American Premiere
This story chronicles the outcome of a great rivalry between a father and son, both professors in the Talmud department of Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

The Forgiveness of Blood Joshua Marston, USA/Albania/Denmark/Italy North American Premiere
The lives of a teenage boy and his younger sister are thrown into turmoil when a fatal dispute over land pulls their northern-Albanian family into a bloody feud.

Free Men Ismaël Ferroukhi, France International Premiere
Set in German-occupied Paris in 1942, Younes, an Algerian black marketer, is arrested by the police and agrees to spy on a Parisian mosque suspected of helping resistance fighters and Jews. Witnessing the horrors of the Nazi regime, Younes stops collaborating to become a freedom fighter.

From Up on Poppy Hill Goro Miyazaki, Japan International Premiere
Anime director Goro Miyazaki follows a group of Yokohama teens in their quest against a wrecking ball that threatens to destroy their school’s clubhouse in preparation for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

A Funny Man Martin P. Zandvliet, Denmark International Premiere
Opening in the seductive style of the 1960s, A Funny Man uncovers the perennial loneliness that comedian Dirch Passer (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) has found himself in after a fast-track rise to fame, despite being surrounded by a mélange of wealth, women, alcohol and infamy.

Future Lasts Forever Ozcan Alper, Turkey/France/Germany World Premiere
A young ethnomusicologist leaves Istanbul and heads to the southeast of Turkey to work on her masters thesis, gathering a collection of Anatolian elegies and stories. During her stay in Diyarbakir, she finds herself having to confront an agony from her own past in the middle of the ongoing „unnamed war.‟

Good Bye Mohammad Rasoulof, Iran North American Premiere
This is a story of a young lawyer in Tehran and her pursuit of a visa to leave the country.

Goodbye First Love Mia Hansen-Løve, France/Germany Canadian Premiere
It‟s Spring 1999 and Camille, 15, and Sullivan, 19, love each other passionately. Following the progression of this young, first love, the affair evolves from initial rapture to heartbreak as Sullivan decides he wants to travel the world before settling down. Driven to despair, Camille suffers deep emotional turmoil and must learn to deal with his absence.

Guilty Vincent Garenq, France North American Premiere
This true story documents the Outreau case. In 2011, Alain Marécaux and his wife were arrested, along with twelve other people, for horrible acts of paedophilia they never committed.

Gypsy Martin Šulík, Slovakia North American Premiere
Gypsy tells the story of Adam, a 14-year-old Roma boy, who is forced into a life of crime following his father‟s mysterious death. He encounters racial, social and cultural prejudices and comes into conflict with the unwritten laws of his own community.

Heleno José Henrique Fonseca, Brazil World Premiere
This film is a non-chronological and in-depth account of the life of Heleno de Freitas (1920 to 1959), a controversial and mythological Brazilian football player. Also known as „Gilda‟ due to his wild temper with teammates and referees, Heleno was the prince of the 1940s golden age in Rio de Janeiro when the city was a dream setting, steeped in glamour and promise. Handsome and charming, Heleno had no doubt he was going to be the biggest Brazilian footballer of all time, but the war, syphilis and a turbulent life would steer him from that destiny, down a road of glory and tragedy.

Himizu Sion Sono, Japan North American Premiere
The story is about a teenager who aspires to be „ordinary‟ within a world of chaos. Following an incident that can never be erased from his life, his wish becomes something impossible to achieve, turning him into a person obsessed to sanction evil people in society.

Hotel Swooni Kaat Beels, Belgium International Premiere
Six lives, 24 hours, and a hotel in the middle of a heat wave. Anna and Hendrik have it all: a great son, a good job, a lovely house – but the wedding they witness in the hotel forces them to reflect on the choices they have made. Violette wants to reconcile with her daughter Vicky before she dies, but Vicky struggles to let go of a hurtful past. Meanwhile, a young African refugee hides out in the hotel from the police. The lives of all these people become irrevocably intertwined until the heat breaks and the rain offers some relief.

Islands Stefano Chiantini, Italy World Premiere
This story takes shape under the roof of a parsonage on the Tremiti islands. An eastern European bricklayer looking for work is befriended by a young woman who has retreated into silence and lives with a middle-aged priest. The priest is at war with his sister, the young woman is running from her past and the bricklayer is simply trying to survive. As their lives intermingle, emotions bubble to the surface.

Juan of the Dead Alejandro Brugués, Spain/Cuba World Premiere
The zombie world has yet to witness one last stand – Cuba. An outbreak hits the island on the anniversary of the revolution, so Juan and his friends set out to conquer the undead who, according to government reports, are unruly Americans continuing their quest of undermining the regime.

Land of Oblivion Michale Boganim, France/Germany/Poland/Ukraine North American Premiere
April 26, 1986: Anya and Piotr are celebrating their marriage when an accident occurs at the Chernobyl power station. As a fireman, Piotr leaves to extinguish the flames – but he never returns. Ten years later, after Chernobyl has become a no man‟s land and a tourist attraction, Anya is still there, working as a guide. Split between two lovers, she tries to accept the hope of a new life.

Last Days in Jerusalem Tawfik Abu Wael, France/Israel/Palestine/Germany North American Premiere
A lens into the emotional upheaval of a Palestinian couple‟s last moments before leaving their native city, Jerusalem, to forge a brighter future in Paris. Iyad is a surgeon at the top of his game; Nour is a young actress with an intellectual bourgeois background –attractive, independent and whimsical. On the way to the airport, a news report of a terrible accident means Iyad must return to work, delaying their departure. Abandoned by her husband once again, Nour starts to question the move and their marriage.

Last Winter John Shank, Belgium/France North American Premiere
Somewhere on an isolated mountainous plain, Johann has taken over his father‟s farm, devoting all his time and energy to his work. Surrounded by a struggling community and a natural landscape that has taught him all he knows, his heritage is his entire life. As autumn goes and winter comes, a barn burns to the ground and jeopardizes the fragile balance of the farm‟s survival. This is a story of a man trying to love the world he belongs to one last time, as hard as he can, before it sinks into darkness.

Lena Christophe Van Rompaey, The Netherlands/Belgium World Premiere
Seventeen-year-old Lena is overweight, shy and allows others to take advantage of her. She puts up with an overbearing mother, an egotistical best friend and belittling mates. When she meets Daan, a charming, good-looking young lad, it could either be too good to be true or the well-deserved beginning of a happier life. To find out, she must find the inner strength and beauty she didn‟t know she had.

Lipstikka Jonathan Sagall, Israel/United Kingdom North American Premiere
Lara is a Palestinian woman who came to London to begin a new life. She got married and now lives a comfortable, but somewhat loveless, life with her husband and 7-year-old son James. One morning, Inam, her childhood friend from Ramallah, shows up on her doorstep. Triggered by her sudden appearance, Lara‟s orderly life begins to crack.

Lucky Avie Luthra, South Africa/United Kingdom World Premiere
Lucky, an AIDS orphan, is forced to leave his native village to live with his uncle in Durban. He learns about life the hard way, but forges an unlikely bond with an elderly Indian neighbour in spite of racial prejudice and language barriers. Together they go on a journey to find him a new life and family.

Man on Ground Akin Omotoso, South Africa World Premiere
This portrayal of rising xenophobia in South Africa tells the story of a young Nigerian man living in the African refugee tenements of Johannesburg, who disappears against the background of animosity against immigrants flaring into violent rioting. In the span of a single night, his brother, on a short visit from London, tries to uncover the mystery.

Michael Ribhu Dasgupta, India World Premiere
Michael, an ex-cop, lives with his 11-year-old son and works in a theatre as a projectionist pirating DVDs for a living. When he starts receiving death threats for his son from someone in his past, he gets caught up in a complex web of his own impending blindness comprised of his insecurities. First-time director Ribhu Dasgupta teams up with India‟s guru of independent cinema, producer Anurag Kashyap, and veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah for this character-driven, psychological drama.

Michael Markus Schleinzer, Austria North American Premiere
A mousy insurance salesman keeps an under-aged boy locked in his basement, while doing his best to appear ordinary to the outside world.

Miss Bala Gerardo Naranjo, Mexico North American Premiere
Laura, a young aspiring beauty queen, finds her dream turned against her when she unwillingly gets involved with a criminal group at war. This film explores the many extremes of modern Mexican society when the world of beauty pageants and current drug war collide.

Mr. Tree Han Jie, China North American Premiere
Shu (Wang Baoqiang) – whose name translates to “tree” in Mandarin – is a clownish mechanic who resides in a small mining village in Northern China. Shu has a reputation as a slacker, a drunk and a danger to himself and others. He is haunted by dreams and hallucinations, yet when one of his visions manifests as real, his fellow villagers come to regard him as a prophet. Set against the backdrop of sweeping social changes, the film is a subtle commentary on rampant urbanization in China and the relocation of entire villages. Produced by master filmmaker Jia Zhang-ke.

Omar Killed Me Roschdy Zem, France North American Premiere
February 2, 1994: Omar Raddad, a Moroccan gardener, is sentenced to 18 years for the murder of a wealthy widow in Marseille, France. Convinced of Raddad‟s innocence, a journalist sets out to defend his case.

Restoration Yossi Madmony, Israel Canadian Premiere
Yaakov Fidelman (Sasson Gabai, The Band’s Visit) hangs on with all his might to the antique restoration workshop that has been his life’s work. After his partner passes away, Fidelman rejects his son‟s idea to close the business and build on the site. Will he understand that his only hope for redemption is to learn to let go?

Rose Wojciech Smarzowski, Poland International Premiere
Summertime 1945: the end of the war brings continued chaos and violence for Polish inhabitants of the former East Prussia. Rose is Polish and her German husband has been killed in the war, leaving her alone on their farm. A Polish army officer tries to conceal his identity as he helps protect her from suspicious Soviet soldiers and foraging people circling the farm.

Rough Hands Mohamed Asli, Morocco World Premiere
Mustafa is an illiterate hairdresser who lives with his blind mother. He runs an underground trade as a middleman facilitating favours in exchange for money – among them is Zakia who wants to immigrate to Spain. Unable to realize her Spanish dream, she remains in her country and marries Mustafa.

A Separation Asghar Farhadi, Iran North American Premiere
When Simin‟s husband Nader refuses to grant her a divorce, she returns to her parents‟ home. Nader hires a young woman to assist in his wife‟s absence, hoping his life will return to normal. However, after discovering that the new maid has been lying, he realizes there is more on the line than just his marriage.

The Silver Cliff Karim Aïnouz, Brazil North American Premiere
A phone message from her husband propels Violeta into the streets of Rio until sunrise. Telling their teenage son that a last minute trip has come up, she sets out to find her husband. Rio at night is her sole companion as she struggles to face his abrupt and sudden change of heart, but the beach also provides renewal, unexpected meetings and a window to a whole other world.

Sons of Norway Jens Lien, Norway International Premiere
Nikolaj moves to Rykkin where his father has helped design the new satellite town. His father is a playful, self-declared free spirit, who firmly believes that a new community soul will flourish the Norwegian town. Nikolaj tries to make sense of life under the thumb of his optimistic and energetic father. They‟re a happy little alternative family – until his mother is suddenly killed in a traffic accident.

Superclásico Ole Christian Madsen, Denmark North American Premiere
Christian (Anders W. Berthelsen) owns a wine store approaching bankruptcy – and he is just as unsuccessful in about every other aspect of life. His wife Anna (Paprika Steen) leaves him and finds work as a successful football agent in Buenos Aires, living a life of luxury with Juan Diaz, a star football player. One day, Christian arrives under the false pretence of finalizing divorce papers, but his real motives involve winning his wife back.

Think of Me Bryan Wizemann, USA World Premiere
Angela, a single mother, struggles to make ends meet for her daughter. Beneath the Las Vegas neon glow, her life hits a breaking point, presenting her with an impossible choice: keep trying to make things work, or let it all go for the promise of something better.

UFO in her Eyes Xiaolu Guo, Germany World Premiere
Kwok Yun leads a simple peasant’s life in the peaceful village mountains. She lives with her grandfather and works as a labourer. Following a countryside tryst with a married man, she spots a UFO – a giant glowing object in the shape of a dumpling. Later that same day, she helps a snake-bitten American businessman who disappears as mysteriously as the UFO. Using the unexpected events for political gain, the ambitious village leader, Chief Chang, stimulates tourism with UFO tours and gets the local economy roaring, despite the dangers such radical change can bring, especially to the environment.

Union Square Nancy Savoca, USA World Premiere
Union Square chronicles the reluctant reunion of two estranged sisters: one on the verge of marriage, the other on the brink of a nervous breakdown.

Your Sister’s Sister Lynn Shelton, USA World Premiere
Still mourning the recent death of his brother, a bereft and confused man finds love and direction in a most unexpected 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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