The Conversation: 10 Most Anticipated Films – TIFF 2019
Despite its various programming cutbacks over the past several years, TIFF remains an overwhelming buffet of juxtapositions. A marvelous chance to catch up on some titles from Berlin, Cannes, Karlovy Vary and Locarno for those North Americans who may have been unable to attend certain (or any) Euro festivals, as well as a concurrent chance to see some of what’s unveiling at Venice and Telluride (not to mention the swiftly following New York Film Festival), there’s a lot going on – choices have to be made. At the same time, it’s always curious to see what titles from these previous fests don’t make the cut—major award winners are usually a good bet for inclusion (Synonyms, Parasite, The Father and Vitalina Varela, all which won the top prizes in their respective fests, are all in the program)—but it remains aggravating how TIFF programmers refuse to chance anything remotely controversial. Last year, Lars Von Trier’s The House That Jack Built was left out in the cold—this year, there are several notably absent items, such as Fatih Akin’s The Golden Glove and new films by Roman Polanski and Woody Allen which had to depend on Venice and Deauville for premieres. It’s TIFF’s lack of daring which makes the festival’s dependence its reputation for being considered the beginning of Oscar season so unsavory (after all, whatever takes home the People’s Choice Award tends to snag a Best Picture nod at the Academy Awards). And while its stellar variety remains an aficionado’s preferred festival, it’s allegiance to the status quo, reflected in this conscious avoidance of controversial filmmakers in favor of filling its increasingly limited programming slots with mainstream, celebrity studded fare, continues to be troubling, especially for a medium transitioning to a new age of consumption and access.
Here’s a list of ten new premiering titles at TIFF (with the exception of number ten, which premiered earlier this summer at a local festival) I’m most anticipating amongst the titles specific to TIFF.
#10. Knuckle City
South African’s Jahmil X.T. Qubeka is often included in TIFF’s lineup (Of Good Report and Sew the Winter to My Skin were both underrated items in past programs) and returns with boxing drama Knuckle City in the Contemporary World Cinema program.
#9. Wet Season
Anthony Chen, who won the Camera d’Or in 2013 for his lovely drama Ilo Ilo reunites with his lead actress Yann Yann Yeo for his second feature, Wet Season, which details a troubling relationship between a teacher and student. Chen will compete in the Platform program.
Director David Zonana makes his directorial debut with the Michel Franco produced drama Workforce, which deals with a construction worker who falls suspiciously to his death as his wife and brother struggle to combat his company’s cover-up of the events. Zonana will compete in the Platform program.
#7. The 20th Century
Winnipeg’s Matthew Rankin hits Midnight Madness with what promises to be a gonzo biopic of William Lyon Mackenzie King, a reimagining of the Canadian Prime Minister’s early life, styled in the tradition of Guy Maddin (and with what sounds like significant liberties/interpretations).
#6. The Other Lamb
Polish director Malgorzata Szumowska looks at a more contained social hierarchy in her English language debut The Other Lamb, which follows a body of impressive work wherein she’s explored prostitution (Elles), religious hypocrisy (Mug and In the Name Of…) and body dysmorphia (Body). Her latest deals with a young woman born into an all-female cult led by an enigmatic male leader and who begins to question his teachings as the authorities force them to relocate.
#5. The Barefoot Emperor
Belgian duo Jessica Woodworth and Peter Brosens return with fifth feature, The Barefoot Emperor, a follow-up to their sly political satire King of the Belgians (2016). Their Belgian finds himself detained in a sanatorium on a private Croatian island this time around, with a cast including formidable notables Geraldine Chaplin and Udo Kier.
#4. Dolemite is My Name
It’s been a while since we’ve seen anything notable from either director Craig Brewer or Eddie Murphy, so their collaboration on Dolemite Is My Name, which explores the life of Rudy Ray Moore, who starred as blaxploitation icon Dolemite across several features, is a definite must-see. Brewer, whose last feature was the 2011 remake of Footloose, is best known for his 2005 title Hustle and Flow, while 2006’s Black Snake Moan, a less celebrated feature, has some stellar performances and deals with racial subtexts rarely touched in contemporary English language cinema.
#3. Color Out of Space
Director Richard Stanley (Hardware, 1990) hasn’t mounted a feature since the infamously troubled production of 1996’s The Island of Dr. Moreau, which was taken over by John Frankenheimer. Over two decades later, he’s back with Color Out of Space starring Nicolas Cage, adapted from a H.P. Lovecraft short story. Stanley returns to Midnight Madness, where he debuted his first feature nearly thirty years ago.
#2. Devil Between the Legs
Iconic Mexican auteur Arturo Ripstein returns to the age-issues underlying his underrated 2015 drama Bleak Street with a portrait of geriatric sex and sparring older lovers in Devil Between the Legs, which promises to be another outrageous chapter in the filmmaker’s inimitable body of work. Ripstein premieres in the Masters program.
The third title from Alice Winocour (following Augustine and Disorder) is her English language debut, and stars Eva Green as an astronaut grappling with leaving her daughter behind as she prepares for a lengthy mission. Lars Eidinger co-stars in Proxima which will compete in TIFF’s Platform program.