TIFF 2021: What’s on our radar

This year’s edition of the Toronto International Film Festival (September 9 to 18) will be a hybrid of in-person and virtual screenings and special events. Good news for those of us who prefer to be in our jammies with a bucket of fresh popped popcorn. Also good news for us who love the experience of TIFF on a larger screen and sitting amongst other film lovers in the dark (masks on, of course). The full schedule is out now and if you have a few hours, you’ll want to sift through this year’s line up. We tend to gravitate to films that may not necessarily hit the mass audiences…but then again, we are in a pandemic so who knows?

Dear Evan Hansen. Photo courtesy of TIFF

Also absolutely worth checking out is this year’s spotlight on Celebrating Alanis Obomsawin. The filmmaker, musician, visual artist tells the stories of the Indigenous in Canada. You can read more here.

As we prepare our lists, and checking it several times to see what we can fit in.  Here are a few titles that have already caught our attention at this 46th edition of TIFF…


Jagged: Directed by Alison Klayman (Canada). Alanis Morissette reflects on her 1990s rise to rock stardom, in this new documentary from Alison Klayman (Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry).

One Second: Directed by Zhang Yimou (China). Master director Zhang Yimou returns with his love letter to cinema in which a man escapes a labour camp for a glimpse of his beloved daughter.

The Middle Man. Photo courtesy of TIFF

The Mad Women’s Ball: Directed by Mélanie Laurent (France) The latest from writer-director-actor Mélanie Laurent is a chilling tale of spectral visions and institutional abuse set in 19th-century France.

Night Raiders: Directed by Danis Goulet (Canada/New Zealand) Danis Goulet’s singular thriller draws on Canada’s ugly colonial legacy for a propulsive piece of genre cinema set in a dystopian postwar future.

Dear Evan Hansen: Directed by Stephen Chbosky (USA). Julianne Moore and Ben Platt star in this adaptation of Steven Levenson’s Tony Award–winning musical about adolescence, grief, and transcendence.

Bergman Island: Directed by Mia Hansen-Løve (France). A melancholic meditation on love and creativity, French auteur Mia Hansen-Løve’s latest stars Vicky Krieps and Tim Roth as a filmmaking couple who go to the island of Fårö, where Ingmar Bergman spent the end of his life.

Last Night in Soho: Directed by Edgar Wright (UK). Edgar Wright wickedly reflects ’60s Swinging London in this kaleidoscopic psycho-thriller about two young artists entwined across time.


The Humans: Directed by Stephan Karam (USA). Steven Yeun, Beanie Feldstein, and Richard Jenkins star in Stephen Karam’s adaptation of his Tony Award–winning multi-generational family drama revealing the emotional intricacies of a working-class family bound by tradition, contention, and unshakable loyalties.

All My Puny Sorrows: Directed Michael McGowan (Canada). A touching adaptation of Miriam Toews’ beloved novel about two sisters boasts a fine cast led by Alison Pill and Sarah Gadon.

All My Puny Sorrows. Photo courtesy of TIFF

Mothering Sunday: Directed by Eva Husson (United Kingdom). Olivia Colman and Colin Firth star in this deeply affecting adaptation of Graham Swift’s bittersweet novel about secret love in post-WWI England.

The Guilty: Directed by Antoine Fuqua (USA). Jake Gyllenhaal stars in Antoine Fuqua’s thriller set over the course of a single morning in a 911 dispatch centre

The Middle Man: Directed by Bent Hamer (Norway, Canada,Germany, Denmark). In a town plagued by disaster, one man holds the job of breaking the worst news to its citizens, in director Bent Hamer’s latest oddball comedy.

The Falls: Directed by Chung Mong-Hong (Taiwan). A mother and daughter’s fraught relationship takes unexpected turns while they quarantine during COVID, in the latest from Chung Mong-Hong.

Official Competition: Directed by Mariano Cohn, Gastón Duprat (Spain, Argentina). Penélope Cruz, Antonio Banderas, and Oscar Martínez star in Mariano Cohn and Gastón Duprat’s ingenious, icy behind-the-scenes satire of moviemaking.

Official Competition. Photo courtesy of TIFF

Sundown: Directed by Michael Franco (Mexico). Tim Roth stars in writer-director Michel Franco’s chilling drama about a wealthy Briton attempting to abandon his life while vacationing in Acapulco.

The Eyes of Tammy Faye: Directed by Michael Showalter (USA). Jessica Chastain stars as flamboyant televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker in this humanizing portrait of the rise and fall of the Bakker network empire.

Violet: Directed by Justine Bateman (USA). Olivia Munn stars in writer-director Justine Bateman’s feature debut, a formally daring, psychologically incisive portrait of a woman at a crossroads.

Drive My Car: Directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi (Japan). Adapted from Haruki Murakami’s short story, Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s film follows two lonely people who find the courage to face the past.

Dune. Photo courtesy of TIFF

Dune: Directed by Denis Villeneuve (USA/Hungary). The much-anticipated retelling of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi epic stars Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, and Zendaya.

I’m Your Man: Directed by Maria Schrader (Germany). Maria Schrader’s unlikely sci-fi rom-com explores human relationships through the inquisitive eyes of a cyborg. Starring Dan Stevens and Maren Eggert.


Spencer: Directed by Pablo Larrain (UK/Germany). Kristen Stewart stars in Pablo Larraín’s haunting chamber drama that imagines a tumultuous Christmas in the life of Diana, Princess of Wales.

Spencer. Photo courtesy of TIFF

Memoria: Directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Colombia, Thailand, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Mexico). A long-awaited new feature stars Tilda Swinton as a woman reeling from a mysterious event.


The Hill Where Lionesses Roar: Directed by Luàna Bajrami (Kosovo/France). In a remote Kosovar village, three young women who feel their dreams have been stifled go on a quest for independence.

Nobody Has to Know: Directed by Bouli Lanners (France, Belgium, UK). An engrossing drama about one man’s amnesia and the love story that rewrites his past.

Medusa: Directed by Anita Rocha da Silveira (Brazil). A gang of young women in Brazil try to control everything around them, including other women, in this genre-hopping film about internalized misogyny.

The Other Tom: Directed by Rodrigo Plá, Laura Santullo (Mexico/USA). A mother risks losing custody of her son when she refuses to continue medicating his ADHD, after an accident alerts her to the drugs’ side-effects.


Oscar Peterson: Black and White: Directed by Barry Avrich (Canada). A celebration of Canada’s greatest jazz musician situates the master pianist in the genre’s pantheon.

Oscar Peterson: Black & White. Photo courtesy of TIFF

The Devil’s Drivers: Directed by Mohammed Abugeth, Daniel Carsenty (Qatar, France, Lebanon, Germany). This film has the intensity of a 1970s chase film as it follows Palestinian smugglers on high-speed trips to help workers cross the border between Israel and Palestine.

Wochiigii lo: End of the Peace: Directed by Heather Hatch (Canada). Environmental, social, legal and human perils of BC’s controversial Site C hydro dam project are explored in this Haida filmmaker’s must-watch doc.


Snakehead: Directed by Evan Jackson Leong (USA) A woman rises through the ranks of the gang that smuggled her into New York City, in Evan Jackson Leong’s fact-based debut feature.

Quickening: Directed by Haya Waseem (Canada). Debut feature from writer-director Haya Waseem explores the life of a young woman of colour navigating love, heartbreak, and family turmoil.

Quickening. Photo courtesy of TIFF

Learn to Swim: Thyrone Tommy (Canada). The feature debut from Toronto’s Thyrone Tommy (Mariner, TIFF ’16) charts the stormy romance between two very different contemporary jazz musicians.

Lo Invisible: Directed by Javier Andrade (Ecuador/France). A dazzling and mysterious film follows a woman who comes home from a psychiatric clinic after a bout with severe postpartum depression.


A Night of Knowing Nothing: Directed by Payal Kapadia (India/France). An electrifying debut feature is a fever dream of impossible love tied to a broader reflection on contemporary India.


Fanmi: Directed by Sandrine Brodeur-Desrosiers, Carmine Pierre-Dufour (Canada) Already reeling from a breakup, a woman contends with further disruptions when her mother makes an unexpected visit. Captured with great sensitivity and warmth, these characters’ time together is a precious opportunity to truly connect.

Together: Directed by Albert Shin (Canada). A remarkable drama about two strangers who convene at a seaside motel in South Korea with very particular intentions in mind.

Together. Photo courtesy of TIFF

Little Bird: Tim Myles (Canada) Mi’kmaw filmmaker and actor Tim Myles pays a deeply moving yet often humorous tribute to his mother and his heritage, in this semi-autobiographical story of a young man fleeing his late mother’s wake as he attempts to come to terms with his new reality.

Meneath: The Island of Ethics: Terril Calder (Canada) This filmmaker, artist, and animator returns to Short Cuts with what may be her most powerful and intricately designed work to date: a stop-motion animation that charts a challenging journey for Baby Girl, a precocious Métis girl contemplating her path to Hell.

Saturday Night: Directed by Rosana Matacki (Canada). A dance is so much more than just a dance in Rosana Matecki’s supremely elegant look at the refuge a warm ballroom provides to lonely Latin American immigrants during a harsh Montreal winter.



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