The 45th Toronto International Film Festival 2020 is underway, with 50 films slated to screen, boasting a program comprised of 46 percent women directors, up from 36 percent last year. Even though the total is nowhere near the 333 films offered at TIFF#2019, the decision to hold the festival is a triumph as SXSW, Cannes, and Telluride film festivals were canceled. TIFF#2020, for the most part, will be virtual, using digital platforms for those not in the Toronto area. All public screenings will be held for persons living in the Toronto area. To purchase digital tickets, conference tickets, or tickets to Drive-In’s, and Theaters during TIFF2020—check out the festival website: https://tiff.net/about-tiff-20.
For the press, the details are still unfolding as we plan our schedules and coverage. The virtual panel discussions, workshops, and press conferences offer big-name talent; a few female actresses are making their directorial debuts. Oscar-winner, Halle Berry, stars in “Bruised” as an MMA fighter raising a six-year-old son while trying to get back to her victories in the sport; she also directs the film. Oscar-winner Regina King’s “One Night in Miami” tells the story of a 1964 meeting between Cassius Clay (before he changed his name to Muhammad Ali), Jim Brown, Malcolm X, and Sam Cooke.
Opening night kicks off with Spike Lee’s film of David Byrne’s stage show “American Utopia” (HBO) Thursday, Sept. 10. Spike Lee has directed the film version of Byrne’s uplifting Broadway musical, based on national concern themes at the moment—race and representation in America. As a Talking Heads fan, I’m very excited to see what appears to be a joyous musical celebration.
“Concrete Cowboy is garnering buzz-worthy attention as Idris Elba stars as a Philadelphia cowboy alongside Caleb McLaughlin of “Stranger Things” as his estranged teen son. Mark Walberg loses weight for his role in a true story as Joe Bell, a father stricken with grief by the death of his bullied gay son who commits suicide. In “Good Joe Bell,” Bell honors his son by walking across America, spreading the word of the dangers of bullying. Reinaldo Marcus Green directs, with a screenplay penned by Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana. “Ammonite” stars Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan in an early 19th-century tale of two women who find comfort in each other. Mary Anning’s (Winslet) job is to catalog fossils she finds on the Dorset coast. Charlotte (Ronan), a grieving wife, is abandoned by her husband, finding solace in Mary Anning’s company.
In documentaries, this year brings Sam Pollard’s “MLK/FBI” based on newly declassified files, exploring the US government’s, namely, J. Edgar Hoover’s surveillance and harassment of Martin Luther King, Jr. is brought to the forefront. Werner Herzog takes us around the globe hunting for meteors with University of Cambridge professor Clive Oppenheimer. Herzog narrates in his distinct Bavarian accent, shining the spotlight on women scientists of the world from Mexico, South Korea, India, and the US.
An industry conference, On Documentary: The Past Is Present, Monday, Sept. 14, is one of many held on the topic of documentaries. Directors connect historical documentary films and how they have a relationship to the present. Examining the influence they can have on the future. Directors Sam Pollard (“Eyes on the Prize,” TIFF 2020 “MLK/FBI” and Shola Lynch (“Chisholm ’72: Unbought and Unbossed,” “Free Angela and All Political Prisoners”) as they discuss the lives of figures such as Shirley Chisholm, Angela Davis, Martin Luther King, Jr., and J. Edgar Hoover.
“Nomadland,” ventures to the landscape of America’s West, as director Chloé Zhao presents a portrayal of life as a modern-day nomad. Frances McDormand’s Fern says, “I’m not homeless, I’m just… houseless. Not the same thing.” Fern drives her old RV up and down the highways of America’s West, following seasonal jobs and the people she meets along the way. “Pieces of a Woman” by Hungarian director Kornél Mundruczó (“White God”) directs Vanessa Kirby, Shia LaBeouf, Molly Parker, and Ellen Burstyn in the tragic story of a couple as they encounter the loss of a baby.
The film “Beans” looks intriguing, presenting a historical gaze of a 78-day standoff between two Mohawk communities and government forces in 1990, Quebec. Writer-director Tracey Deer’s debut feature focuses her lens on a 12-year-old Mohawk girl named Beans, portrayed by Kiawentiio. Beans, a bright and talented student, is trying to find her place in her community, even though she faces several challenges. Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman star in Florian Zeller’s drama centering on a man’s slide into dementia. “The Father,” penned by Florian Zeller, is adapted from his own 2012 play. Sir Anthony Hopkins is a wealthy Londoner unwilling to admit to himself and his daughter Anne (Olivia Colman) that he is no longer able to care for himself.
A few more films that look enticing “Another Round,” directed by Thomas Vinterberg, reunites Mads Mikkelsen in a dramedy about aging, alcoholism, and friendship between men. “I Care A Lot” stars Rosamund Pike and Diane Wiest in an elderly crime caper with a twist. Naomi Watts stars in the true story of Sam Bloom, a woman who suffers a traumatic accident and then finds a rare helper to bring her out of anguish. It’s the depiction of a family finding its way through a life-altering crisis.
Stay tuned for updates throughout the festival; I’ll be checking in between all the films, Q&A’s and conferences.
Sarah Knight Adamson© September 8, 2020