TIFF: Honey, they shrunk the festival!

By Liam Lacey

This year’s Toronto International Film Festival has slimmed down by about 20 percent to accommodate media and industry demands. Still, there’s a surfeit of choice for filmgoers at the festival’s 42nfd edition (Sept. 7-17).

Tuesday morning the festival unveiled 47 films - about a quarter of the festival line-up - including films from Darren AronofskyGeorge Clooney, Guillermo del Toro, Angelina Jolie, Alexander Payne, Stephen Frears and Wim Wenders.

The announcements covered Special Presentations (high profile features and leading directors) and Galas (movie stars and popular movies) programs. They were announced Tuesday by TIFF’s CEO and director Piers Handling and Artistic Director Cameron Bailey at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.

Bel Powley, Elle Fanning, Douglas Booth, Tom Sturridge in Mary Shelley

Bel Powley, Elle Fanning, Douglas Booth, Tom Sturridge in Mary Shelley

Among the buzz films are:

-Payne’s Downsizing, starring Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig as a couple who decide to shrink themselves to four-inches tall, to save money and the planet.

-Aronfsky’s horror film, mother! starring Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem and Michelle Pfeiffer

-Hany Abu-Assad’s plane crash drama, The Mountain Between Us, with Idris Elba and Kate Winslet

-Haiffa Al Mansour's Mary Shelley, starring Elle Fanning as the Frankenstein author

-And del Toro’s Toronto-shot Cold War fantasy, The Shape of Water, with Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon and Octavia Spencer.


Reality-based dramas, often favoured at awards time, include Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris’s comedy, Battle Of The Sexes. It stars Steve Carell and Emma Stone in the story of the much-hyped 1973 tennis match at the Houston Astrodome between Bobby Riggs and Billy Jean King.

Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour stars Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill, and StrongerDavid Gordon Green’s Boston Marathon bombing drama, stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Tatiana Maslany.

In a timely case of cross-over between summer blockbuster and fall serious drama, Special Presentations will offer Angela Robinson’s Professor Marston & The Wonder Women, the background story to a kinky menage-a-trois that informed the Wonder Woman comic book.

Also among the galas is this year’s Palme d’Or winning film, The Square, an art-world satire from Swedish filmmaker Ruben Östlund and Long Time Running, Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier’s documentary on the Tragically Hip’s mortality-shadowed 2016 summer tour leading up to their ostensible final show in Kingston.

One trend is that of actors moving to the director’s chair. The list includes Angelina Jolie’s First They Killed My Father, a drama set against the background of the Cambodian genocide; Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut, Lady BirdGeorge Clooney’s Suburbicon, from a script written by the Coen brothers; Andy Serkis’ Breathe, starring Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy, in the true story of polio victim turned disability advocate Robin Cavendish. And French star, Melanie Laurent (Inglorious Basterds) brings Plonger (Dive) about a photographer who takes up deep-sea diving.

Finally, in a case of full-circle TIFF evolution, there’s the gala “Untitled Bryan Cranston/Kevin HartFilm,” a Hollywood remake of Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano’s hit 2011 French comedy The Intouchables, about a rich paraplegic who hires an unemployed “street” hustler to be his personal assistant.

Meanwhile, Nakache and Toledano will also be at TIFF, with the closing gala, the wedding comedy C’est La Vie!

For the full list of 14 galas and 33 special presentations and ticket packages, check out tiff.net.

Liam Lacey

Liam Lacey is a former film critic for The Globe and Mail, as well as contributor to various other media outlets over the past 37 years.. He recently returned to Canada from Spain because he forgot about the weather