It’s official. The cruelest bunch on the film festival circuit are the programmers from TIFF. Once again they make choosing what films to cover during a film festival a painstaking process. A sizeable chunk of films among the just announced Gala and Special Presentations reflect ongoing trends, heavy on world premieres of Brit offerings, red carpet bling items that will be receiving a theatrical release with weeks of the T.O premiere, and a satisfying mix of Cannes items that are definitely worth re-watching and Venice items that have been circled as must see coverage items for the IONCINEMA.com team.
Among the headliners, TIFF snatched away world premiere status from Sitges for Juan Carlos Fresnadillo’s Intruders. From the U.K we have The Awakening, the predicted prsence of what should be an audience pleaser in Hysteria and one more film starring Rachel Weisz (she’s got an impressive three at the fest) in Page Eight which is the festival’s closing night film. The fest also showcases some African American lineage with the introduction of Winnie and Violet & Daisy, while on the Euro side of things we have Rebellion, My Worst Nightmare and SPC’s In Darkness. These are joined by the previously announced in a different section Machine Gun Preacher and the odd inclusion of Trespass which is headed from a big TIFF premiere and straight to VOD.
Unless the critiques from Venice tell us otherwise, our top two must sees from the batch below include Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights (featuring newbie James Howson – see pic above) and Terraferma from Italian helmer Emanuele Crialese. Here’s the press release:
Closing Night Film
Page Eight David Hare, United Kingdom International Premiere
Johnny Worricker (Bill Nighy) is a long-serving M15 officer. His boss and best friend Benedict Baron (Michael Gambon) dies suddenly, leaving behind him an inexplicable file, threatening the stability of the organization. Meanwhile, a seemingly chance encounter with Johnny’s striking next-door neighbour and political activist Nancy Pierpan (Rachel Weisz) seems too good to be true. Set in London and Cambridge, Page Eight is a contemporary spy film which addresses intelligence issues and moral dilemmas peculiar to the new century. Also stars Ralph Fiennes and Judy Davis.
The Awakening Nick Murphy, United Kingdom World Premiere
Haunted by the death of her fiancé, Florence Cathcart is on a mission to expose all séances as exploitative shams. However, when she is called to a boys’ boarding school to investigate a case of the uncanny, she is gradually forced to confront her skepticism in the most terrifying way, shaking her scientific convictions and her sense of self to the very core. Haunting and moving in equal measure, The Awakening is a sophisticated psychological/supernatural thriller in the tradition of The Others and The Orphanage, but with its own unique and thrilling twist. Starring Rebecca Hall, Dominic West and Imelda Staunton.
Beloved Christophe Honoré, France International Premiere
From Paris in the 1960s to London’s modern days, Madeleine and her daughter Vera waltz in and out of the lives of the men they love. But love can be light and painful, cheerful and bitter. An elegy to femininity and passion with musical outbursts. Starring Chiara Mastroianni and Catherine Deneuve.
Hysteria Tanya Wexler, USA/United Kingdom World Premiere
A romantic comedy based on the surprising truth of how Mortimer Granville came up with the world’s first electro-mechanical vibrator in the name of medical science. Academy Award®-nominee Maggie Gyllenhaal and Hugh Dancy headline in this untold tale of a young Victorian doctor’s quest to figure out the key to women’s happiness. Also starring Jonathan Pryce, Rupert Everett and Felicity Jones.
Killer Elite Gary McKendry, USA/Australia World Premiere
Based on a true story, Killer Elite races across the globe from Australia to Paris, London and the Middle East in the action-packed account of an ex-special ops agent (Jason Statham) who is lured out of retirement to rescue his mentor (Robert De Niro). To make the rescue, he must complete a near-impossible mission of killing three tough-as-nails assassins with a cunning leader (Clive Owen).
Machine Gun Preacher Marc Forster, USA World Premiere
Machine Gun Preacher is an inspirational true story, about Sam Childers, a former drug-dealing criminal who undergoes an astonishing transformation and finds an unexpected calling as the saviour of hundreds of kidnapped and orphaned children. Gerard Butler (300) delivers a searing performance as Childers in Golden Globe®-nominated director Marc Forster’s (Monster’s Ball, Finding Neverland) moving story of violence and redemption.
Trespass Joel Schumacher, USA World Premiere
What happens when a man with everything – a beautiful wife, a teenage daughter and a wealthy estate – is confronted with the reality of losing it all? That is what Kyle Miller must come to terms with as he and his family become the victims of a vicious home invasion. Starring Nicolas Cage and Nicole Kidman.
Winnie Darrell J. Roodt, South Africa /Canada World Premiere
This film reveals the enigma that is Winnie Mandela. A sensitive depiction, Winnie portrays her life’s journey amidst the unwavering love between her and Nelson Mandela, and their unfaltering commitment to the struggle for democracy in South Africa. Winnie takes the audience on an epic voyage of understanding – painting a vivid portrait of one of the world’s most remarkable women. Starring Jennifer Hudson, Terrence Howard, Elias Koteas and Wendy Crewson.
The Cardboard Village Ermanno Olmi, Italy International Premiere
An old priest and his church are about to be demolished. A group of clandestine immigrants seeking protection find refuge in that church. In a circumstance of crisis and discouragement, together these people will be able to find the real meaning of the word “solidarity” and realize that the church is much more than a place for liturgical ceremonies and golden altars. Starring Michael Lonsdale and Rutger Hauer.
Damsels in Distress Whit Stillman, USA North American Premiere
Damsels in Distress is a comedy about a trio of beautiful girls as they set out to revolutionize life at a grungy American university – the dynamic leader Violet Wister (Greta Gerwig), principled Rose (Megalyn Echikunwoke) and sexy Heather (Carrie MacLemore). They welcome transfer student Lily (Analeigh Tipton) into their group, which seeks to help severely depressed students with a program of good hygiene and musical dance numbers. The girls become romantically entangled with a series of men – including smooth Charlie (Adam Brody), dreamboat Xavier (Hugo Becker), the mad frat-pack of Frank (Ryan Metcalf) and Thor (Billy Magnussen) – who threaten the girls’ friendship and sanity.
Death of a Superhero Ian FitzGibbon, Germany/Ireland World Premiere
Donald is 15 and dreams of girls, sex and crazy adventures. In his fantasy world, he creates an immortal superhero who fights against all evil. And in reality? Donald is falling in love with the school rebel while fighting against a terminal illness. Starring Andy Serkis, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Aisling Loftus, Michael McElhatton, Sharon Horgan and Jessica Schwarz
The First Man Gianni Amelio, France/Algeria/Italy World Premiere
An adaptation of Albert Camus’ autobiographical last novel. Part childhood memoir, part epic narrative of Camus’ beloved Algeria and its struggle for independence from France, The First Man was left unfinished by the Nobel Prize-winner who died at age 46.
In Darkness Agnieszka Holland, Canada/Germany/Poland World Premiere
In Darkness tells the true story of Leopold Socha, a sewer worker and petty thief in Nazi-occupied Lvov, Poland. Stumbling upon a group of Jews in the sewers, he agrees to hide them for a price. What starts out as a straightforward business arrangement becomes something unexpected, as they all try to outwit certain death during 14 months of intense danger. Starring Robert Wieçkiewicz and Benno Fürmann.
Intruders Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, Spain World Premiere
Juan and Mia, two children who live in different countries, are visited every night by a faceless intruder – a terrifying being that wants to get hold of them. These presences become more powerful and start ruling their lives as well as their families’. Anxiety and tension increase when their parents also witness these apparitions. Starring Clive Owen.
Life Without Principle Johnnie To, Hong Kong North American Premiere
What do a bank teller, a small-time thug and a police inspector have in common? Nothing. Not until a bag of stolen money worth $10 million crosses their paths and forces them to make soul-searching decisions about right and wrong and everything in between on the morality scale.
Low Life Nicolas Klotz, Elisabeth Perceval, France North American Premiere
After making love, the youngsters slipped happily into dreamland… but when they opened their eyes the world appeared joyless, and stomach-wrenchingly old. And so they quickly sank back into their happy world, where all sleepers are equal. This is the place they called Low Life.
Mausam (Seasons of Love) Pankaj Kapur, India World Premiere
Mausam is a story of timeless love in the face of political hostilities and religious conflict, between a proud Punjabi air force officer and an innocent Kashmiri refugee. Set against a landscape that transcends decades and spans continents, Mausam is a classic journey that transports one into a world of indestructible bonds of love enveloped by the roulette of destiny. Starring Shahid Kapur, Sonam A Kapoor and Anupam Kher.
My Worst Nightmare Anne Fontaine, France/Belgium World Premiere
Agathe doesn’t realize to what extent her life is going to be turned upside down when she takes in Tony, the best friend of her son Adrien. Tony’s father, Patrick, leads Agathe down a merry path of existential chaos, which just may deliver her from herself. Starring Isabelle Huppert.
Rebellion Mathieu Kassovitz, France World Premiere
April 1988, Ouvea island, New Caledonia, a French colony. Thirty policemen are kidnapped by locals fighting for their independence.
Three hundred members of the French army special forces unit are immediately sent on a mission to fix the situation. An encounter of two cultures: Philippe Legorjus, head of the unit, versus Alphonse Dianou, head of the rebels. Together, they’ll fight to resolve the situation through mutual trust and dialogue over violence. Except that they’re at the heart of the most-tense presidential elections in French history – when issues at stake are purely political, rules of law and order are not exactly moral.
Sleeping Beauty Julia Leigh, Australia North American Premiere
“You will go to sleep: you will wake up. It will be as if those hours never existed.” Death-haunted, quietly reckless, Lucy is a young university student who takes a job as a Sleeping Beauty. In the Sleeping Beauty Chamber, old men seek an erotic experience that requires Lucy’s absolute submission. This unsettling task starts to bleed into Lucy’s daily life and she develops an increasing need to know what happens to her when she is asleep. Starring Emily Browning and Rachael Blake.
Terraferma Emanuele Crialese, Italy International Premiere
Terraferma is the story of an uncontaminated Sicilian island inhabited by fisherman. Still barely touched by tourism, the islanders have begun to alter their mentality and behaviour as they realize the economic potential of this new industry. At the same time, they deal with illegal aliens flooding the island and a new law requiring them to turn back undocumented peoples seeking aid.
That Summer Philippe Garrel, France/Italy/Switzerland North American Premiere
A couple living together in Paris – he’s a painter, she’s a film actress – befriends a couple of film extras who fall in love with each other. All four go to Rome where their relationships undergo profound changes as emotions shift and change.
Violet & Daisy Geoffrey Fletcher, USA World Premiere
Violet & Daisy, the whimsical story of a teenager’s surreal and violent journey through New York City, follows Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan (Hanna, Atonement, The Lovely Bones) as Daisy. With her volatile partner-in-crime Violet, played by Alexis Bledel (Sin City, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, The Gilmore Girls), the two young assassins face a series of opponents, including one unusually mysterious man (James Gandolfini), in a life-altering encounter. The film, written and directed by Oscar-winning screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher (Precious), also stars Oscar nominee Marianne Jean-Baptiste and Danny Trejo.
Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale Wei Te-Sheng, Taiwan North American Premiere
Wei Te-Sheng’s epic film Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale reclaims an extraordinary episode from 20th-century history which is little-known even in Taiwan. It’s a story of the encounter between a people who believe in rainbows and a nation which believes in the sun. It takes the form of a heroic battle in defence of faith and dignity.
Wuthering Heights Andrea Arnold, United Kingdom North American Premiere
A Yorkshire hill farmer on a visit to Liverpool finds a homeless boy on the streets. He takes him home to live as part of his family on the isolated Yorkshire moors where the boy forges an obsessive relationship with the farmer’s daughter. Starring James Howson and Kaya Scodelario.