The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) opted for a hybrid model this year offering many in-person screenings with the option of digital screenings as well.
As accredited media and a cinephile, I was happy to return to the theatre to watch variou cinematic films at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, Roy Thomson Hall, and the Princess of Wales Theatre (Visa Screening Room). It almost felt like the ‘before times’. I also liked having the option of staying home to watch films in a more relaxed manner.
My TIFF coverage was somewhat more focused this year to include the following categories, themes and types of films: Documentary; Emerging Filmmakers; Black, Indigenous and people of colour stories on screen; Women in Film; and Horror. Below I give you my Top 5 films and the full list of films I was able to screen at TIFF this year.
Hye’s Top 5 TIFF Films
A trio of mercenaries navigate a mysterious region of Senegal, in Jean Luc Herbulot’s cool and kinetic genre-shifting thriller.
Dir. Bretten Hannam
Link and his brother flee their abusive father and embark on a journey where Link discovers his sexuality and rediscovers his Mi’kmaw heritage.
Cadejo Blanco (Tie for #2)
Justin Lerner wrote and directed this film which follows a working-class girl from Guatemala City who infiltrates a gang on the seaside town of Puerto Barrios and gets close to her sister’s dangerous ex to find out what happened to her.
Dirs. Shasha Nakhai & Rich Williamson
Three kids in a low-income neighbourhood find friendship and community in an unlikely place, in this adaptation of Catherine Hernandez’s award-winning book.
Memoria (Tie for #3)
Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s long-awaited new feature stars Tilda Swinton as a woman reeling from a mysterious event.
Dir. Arsalan Amiri
Investigating reports of demonic possessions in a remote village, a skeptical military officer finds his beliefs tested by an enigmatic exorcist.
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.
TIFF 2021 Films Watched
As In Heaven
Religious dogma and superstition threaten the dreams of a young 19th-century woman, in Tea Lindeburg’s period film that feels eerily contemporary.
Stanley Nelson examines the largest prison uprising in US history, conducting dozens of new interviews with inmates, journalists, and other witnesses.
Liz Garbus dives into the archives of the undersea explorer who tried decades ago to warn the world about the climate crisis.
The Box / La Caja
The latest from Lorenzo Vigas is a heartrending study of familial loyalties and a searing look at Mexico’s manufacturing industry.
Flee (Fave doc from Sundance)
In this poignant animated documentary from Danish filmmaker Jonas Poher Rasmussen, a man shares his journey as a child refugee from Afghanistan.
Blaine Thurier’s sultry, perma-stoned, ultra-modern spin on the vampire genre evokes cult-horror figures like George A. Romero and Stuart Gordon.
Javier Andrade’s dazzling and mysterious film follows a woman who comes home from a psychiatric clinic after a bout with severe postpartum depression.
Official Competition / Competencia Oficial
Dirs. Mariano Cohn & Gastón Duprat
Penélope Cruz, Antonio Banderas, and Oscar Martínez star in Mariano Cohn and Gastón Duprat’s ingenious, icy behind-the-scenes satire of moviemaking.
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.
Oscar Peterson: Black + White
Director Barry Avrich’s affectionate celebration of Canada’s greatest jazz musician situates the master pianist in the genre’s pantheon.
The Other Tom
Dirs. Rodrigo Plá & Laura Santullo
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.
The Good House
Dirs. Maya Forbes & Wallace Wolodarsky
Sigourney Weaver and Kevin Kline play ex-flames who rekindle their romance, in this drama from directors Maya Forbes and Wallace Wolodarsky.
This stirring debut feature by Manitoban filmmaker and artist Rhayne Vermette is a formally alluring examination of home by way of places and people. Features members of the filmmaker’s family and expanded Métis community.
Dir. Nathalie Biancheri
George MacKay’s wolf encounters Lily-Rose Depp’s wildcat in a radical behavioural reform institute. The film is a powerful reflection on self-determination and belonging in societies that dictate behaviour that will have audiences mewling and howling.
Wochiigii lo: End of the Peace Picture of Maple Leaf
Dir. Heather Hatch
The many environmental, social, legal and human perils of BC’s controversial Site C hydro dam project are explored in this must-watch doc. The tale is tragic and heroic, with the aforementioned bands battling deeply entrenched political interests.
You Are Not My Mother
Dir. Kate Dolan
An eerie Irish folk horror wherein a teenage girl’s mother goes missing only to return with an increasingly uncanny change in personality.
I leave you with my summary of my TIFF experience, which was a very enjoyable one.