The Toronto International Film Festival‘s rolling out an overwhelming number of titles for this year’s edition today. Now that the lineups are complete for the Galas and Special Presentations, here are the films slated for the Contemporary World Cinema section, with descriptions from the Festival, running from September 6 through 16:
3, directed by Pablo Stoll Ward. North American Premiere. For Rodolfo (Humberto de Vargas), life at home feels empty and cold, as if he doesn’t belong. Meanwhile, his first wife, Graciela (Sara Bessio) and their teenage daughter Ana (Anaclara Ferreyra Palfy) are living through defining moments in their lives. Subtly, Rodolfo will try to slip back into the place he once had next to them—the one he walked away from 10 years ago. 3 is a comedy about three people and the absurd fate to which they are doomed: being a family.
A Hijacking, Tobias Lindholm. North American Premiere. In A Hijacking, Tobias Lindholm turns his attention to a current topic: piracy at sea. The cargo ship MV Rozen is heading for harbour when it is boarded and captured by pirates in the Indian Ocean. Amongst the men on board are the ship’s cook Mikkel (Pilou Asbæk) and the engineer Jan (Roland Møller), who, along with the rest of the seamen, are taken hostage in a cynical game of life and death. With the demand for a ransom of millions of dollars, a psychological drama unfolds between the CEO of the shipping company (Søren Malling) and the Somali pirates.
A Werewolf Boy, Jo Sung-hee. World Premiere. Summoned by an unexpected phone call, an elderly woman visits a cottage she used to visit when she was a young girl. Half a century before, she moved to a peaceful village and discovered a “wolf boy” hiding in the darkness. She recalls teaching the boy how to wear clothes, how to speak and how to write along with other human behaviors. However, when threatened, he let loose his bestial instincts and became the subject of the villagers’ fears. In order to save the life of the boy who risked his to be by her side, she left him with a promise: “Wait for me. I’ll come back for you.”
After the Battle, Yousry Nasrallah. North American Premiere. Mahmoud is one of the “Tahrir Square Knights” who, on February 2, 2011—manipulated by Mubarak’s regime—charged against the young revolutionaries. Beaten, humiliated, unemployed and ostracized in his neighborhood near the Pyramids, Mahmoud and his family are losing their footing. It is then that he meets Reem, a young Egyptian divorcée. Modern and secular, Reem works in advertising, is a militant revolutionary, and lives in a nice neighbourhood in Cairo. Their meeting will change their lives.
All That Matters is Past, Sara Johnsen. World Premiere. Reunited after years apart, childhood sweethearts William and Janne are forced to confront the dark secrets of their past—and the menacing presence of William’s pathologically jealous brother—in this haunting story from celebrated Norwegian director Sara Johnsen.
Baby Blues, Kasia Rosłaniec. World Premiere. Polish director Kasia Rosłaniec follows her controversial, irresistibly scrappy debut Mall Girls with this edgy and disarmingly frank look at teen pregnancy. Natalia is a 17-year-old mom living with her mother and son, Antos. She wanted to have a baby because it was a “cool” thing to do, and feels she would have someone to love; someone who can love her in return. Everything changes when Natalia’s mother decides to move out, giving Natalia a chance to lead a “normal life.”
Barbara, Christian Petzold. North American Premiere. Set in East Germany in the early 1980s, the new film from renowned director Christian Petzold (Jerichow) is a suspenseful chamber piece about an accomplished Berlin physician, banished to a rural hospital as punishment, who is torn between the promise of escape across the border and her growing love for a fellow colleague—who may be planning to betray her to the secret police.
Bwakaw, Jun Robles Lana. International Premiere. An ornery old retiree—who only came to terms with his homosexuality tragically late in life—leads an isolated existence with only his faithful dog for company, until a chance encounter offers him a final chance for happiness.
Children of Sarajevo, Aida Begic. North American Premiere. Rahima, 23, and Nedim, 14, are orphans of the Bosnian war. They live in Sarajevo, a transitional society that has lost its moral compass, including in its treatment of the children of those who were killed fighting for the freedom of their city. After crime-prone adolescent years, Rahima has found comfort in Islam and she hopes her brother will follow in her footsteps. Everything becomes more difficult the day Nedim gets into a fistfight at school with the son of a local strongman. The incident triggers a chain of events leading Rahima to discover that her young brother leads a double life.
Clandestine Childhood, Benjamín Ávila. North American Premiere. Argentina 1979. After years of exile, 12-year-old Juan and his family return to Argentina under fake identities. Juan’s parents and his uncle Beto are members of the Montoneros Organization, which is fighting against the Military Junta that rules the country. Because of their political activities, they are being tracked down relentlessly. His friends at school and the girl he loves, Maria, know him as Ernesto, a name he must not forget with his family’s survival being at stake. This is a story about militancy, undercover life and love.
Comrade Kim Goes Flying, Anja Daelemans, Nicholas Bonner and Gwang Hun Kim. World Premiere. Comrade Kim Yong Mi is a North Korean coal miner. Her dream of becoming a trapeze artist is crushed by the arrogant trapeze star Pak Jang Phil, who believes miners belong underground and not in the air. Comrade Kim Goes Flying is a heartwarming story of trying to make the impossible, possible.
The Cowards Who Looked to the Sky, Yuki Tanada. World Premiere. Based on the award-winning novel of the same name, this boldly erotic yet movingly tender portrait of a group of vulnerable, variously wounded people—a depressed housewife, her high-school-aged lover, and his best friend, who is struggling to provide for himself and his senile grandmother—whose intersecting lives yield both sorrow and a fragile, yet enduring, hope for a brighter future.
The Cremator, Peng Tao. World Premiere. Convinced that he should not die single, lonely cremator Cao resorts to marrying a dead woman when he is diagnosed with lung cancer. The plan is complicated by the arrival of a young girl at the crematorium looking for her missing sister.
Dead Europe, Tony Krawitz. International Premiere. From the producers of Shame and Animal Kingdom, Dead Europe is a tense and moody mystery set on the turbulent streets of contemporary Europe. The film follows a young photographer named Isaac (Ewen Leslie) who—while taking his deceased father’s ashes from Australia to Greece—comes to learn that something sinister happened in his family’s past. Despite an effort to distract himself with a mix of random sex and drugs, Isaac’s world begins to unravel as he realizes that he cannot escape the ghosts of the past. Marking the long awaited second feature of Australian filmmaker Tony Krawitz, with a screenplay by Louise Fox based on the epic novel by Christos Tsiolkas, the film also stars Marton Csokas and Kodi Smit-McPhee.
Dust, Julio Hernández Cordón. North American Premiere. In a small Guatemalan village where many “disappeared” during the country’s civil war, a troubled young man struggles with the memory of his murdered father—and the nearby presence of the man who turned his father in.
Eagles, Dror Sabo. World Premiere. Alienated from a society that no longer seems to have a place for them, two elderly ex-soldiers undertake a vigilante campaign against injustice and disrespect on the streets of Tel Aviv.
Fin (The End), Jorge Torregrossa. World Premiere. A group of old friends get together for a weekend in a mountain cabin. Years have gone by, and yet nothing seems to have changed between them. But lurking behind the laughter and stories is a murky episode from the past that continues to haunt them. A strange, sudden incident alters their plans, leaving them stranded and with no line of communication to the outside world. On their way for help, the group starts to disintegrate, just as a new natural order is unveiled.
The Fitzgerald Family Christmas, Edward Burns. World Premiere. Seven adult siblings from a working-class, Irish-American family must deal with their estranged father’s desire to return home for Christmas for the first time since he walked out on the family 20 years earlier. Family rifts emerge: the four oldest siblings were fully grown when the patriarch Big Jim (Ed Lauter) left, while the younger children never had a relationship with their father, and still feel the effects of his exit. Like with any family, Christmas brings a mixed bag of complicated family dynamics. Alliances form, old wounds are reopened or glossed over, and the possibility for a new hope and forgiveness emerges.
Fly With the Crane, Li Ruijun. North American Premiere. Old Ma, who believes that white cranes will carry buried dead bodies to heaven, is absolutely daunted by the idea of being cremated after death. When the government implements the practice of cremation under a mass urbanization measure, he seeks the help of his grandchildren.
Ghost Graduation, Javier Ruiz Caldera. International Premiere. Modesto is a teacher who sometimes sees dead people. Not only has this cost him a fortune at the shrink, it has also got him fired from every school he’s ever worked at. His luck changes when he lands a job at Monforte where five students have turned the prestigious school into a house of horrors. Modesto is charged with getting all five kids to pass their senior year and to get out of there once and for all… but it won’t be that easy.
God Loves Caviar, Iannis Smaragdis. World Premiere. This majestic epic tells the true-life, stranger-than-fiction tale of 18th-century Greek pirate turned merchant Ioannis Varvakis, who rose from humble beginnings to become the head of one of the largest mercantile empires in Europe.
Gone Fishing, Carlos Sorin. World Premiere. Marco is a traveling salesman and a recovering alcoholic who decides to change the direction of his life after a stay at a detox center. His counselor suggests he take up a hobby as part of his treatment and Marco decides to try fishing. He then heads to Puerto Deseado during shark fishing season to find his estranged daughter, Ana.
The Great Kilapy, Zézé Gamboa. World Premiere. Zézé Gamboa’s sardonic historical drama follows a good-hearted, apolitical con man who, on the eve of Angolan independence in the mid-1970s, pulls off a massive swindle at the expense of the Portuguese colonial administration—and soon after finds himself hailed as a hero of the national liberation struggle.
Him, Here, After, Asoka Handagama. North American Premiere. Returning to his community after defeat in the Sri Lankan civil war, a former Tamil rebel known only as “Him” faces hostility, suspicion and bitter recriminations in Asoka Handagama’s beautifully elegiac meditation on the aftermath of war.
The Holy Quaternity, Jan Hřebejk. World Premiere. Two ostensibly ordinary middle-aged couples, Marie and Vitek, and Dita and Ondra, are linked by more than just a lifelong friendship, a shared house in a small town and same-aged adolescent children: they are linked by love. Both men, Ondra and Vitek, who are work colleagues, sincerely love their wives, but they both also harbour a secret yearning for the other’s wife. When, by a stroke of fortune, the foursome finds themselves on an almost uninhabited island in the Caribbean, it’s just a matter of time before their long-suppressed feelings come out.
Imagine, Andrzej Jakimowski. World Premiere. Ian, a new instructor at a well-known Lisbon clinic for the visually impaired, starts to teach spatial orientation to his international group of blind patients. For him, the key to getting around and living a fulfilling life lies in the mind and the imagination—and not sensory perception. However, his methods—although successful—may prove to be too challenging.
In the Fog, Sergei Loznitsa. North American Premiere. In this eerie, dreamlike World War II drama from Sergei Loznitsa (My Joy), a partisan suspected of being a traitor is apprehended by his comrades and taken out into the woods to be executed—but as the night fog closes in, the difference between darkness and light (and innocence and guilt) becomes ever more murky.
In the Name of Love, Luu Huynh. World Premiere. In this dark love triangle that proceeds with the inexorable logic of a Greek tragedy, a dedicated wife in a small Vietnamese fishing village secretly turns to another man when her husband is unable to give her the child they both crave—but the surrogate father’s crazed jealousy will have fateful consequences.
Jackie, Antoinette Beumer. International Premiere. Twin sisters Sofie and Daan, 33, have been raised by their two fathers. When they receive an unexpected phone call from their hitherto unknown biological mother Jackie (Holly Hunter) in the United States, they embark on an amazing adventure that alters their assumptions about everything they once believed to be true. The trip with the strange and ill-adjusted Jackie will change Sofie’s and Daan’s lives for good.
Jump, Kieron J. Walsh. International Premiere. Jump follows the lives of four 20-somethings whose lives collide one fateful New Year’s Eve in a night of fast talk, accidents and intrigue. At its heart it is a story of impossible love, a Brief Encounter for our times.
Just the Wind, Bence Fliegauf. North American Premiere. A Romani family struggles to continue their simple daily routine amid the anxiety of a series of suspected racially-motivated murders of their neighbors. Just the Wind is inspired by real events, a powerful social statement from the acclaimed director of Womb, Dealer and Milky Way.
Juvenile Offender, Yikwan Kang. World Premiere. Ji-gu is a 15-year-old juvenile offender under probation who lives with his ailing grandfather. When he is caught committing a crime, he is sent to the juvenile reformatory. Upon his grandfather’s passing, Ji-gu is reunited with his mother—whom he believed to be dead. Together they set out to make up for lost time.
Key of Life, Kenji Uchida. North American Premiere. When Kondo, a wealthy contract killer accidentally hits his head in a bathhouse, an unemployed actor named Sakurai switches their locker keys. Sakurai takes on Kondo’s identity, while Kondo, who is suffering from amnesia, assumes the impoverished life of Sakuria. The reversal of fortune becomes complicated when Sakurai finds himself embroiled in a hit gone wrong, while Kondo meets the lovely Kanae, an ambitious magazine editor who is looking for a simple, honest man to be her husband.
Kinshasa Kids, Marc-Henri Wajnberg. North American Premiere. Kinshasa, Congo. About 30,000 children are accused of witchcraft and expelled from home. Living on the street, little José and his fellow friends, along with a crazy impresario called Bebson—all considered to be witch children—decide to form a music band to ward off bad luck. Together, they will rock Kinshasa!
The Land of Hope, Sion Sono. World Premiere. In a typical Japanese village, Yoichi Ono lives with his wife, Izumi and his parents. The Ono family lives a frugal but happy life as dairy farmers in the peaceful village. One day, the worst earthquake in history strikes, causing a nearby nuclear power station to explode. Their neighbors, who live within the range of the nuclear power station, are forcibly ordered by the government to evacuate. But the Ono family, whose property sits half in and half out of the designated range, must decide whether or not to leave their home.
Middle of Nowhere, Ava DuVernay. International Premiere. What happens when love takes you places you never thought you’d go? Winner of the Best Director Award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, Middle of Nowhere chronicles a young woman caught between two worlds, and two men, in the search for herself. Ruby, a bright medical student, sets aside her dreams when her husband is incarcerated. This new life challenges her to the very core. Her turbulent path propels her in new, often challenging, directions of self-discovery.
Museum Hours, Jem Cohen. North American Premiere. A Vienna museum guard befriends a foreign visitor who has been called to Austria because of a medical emergency. The grand Kunsthistorisches Art Museum becomes an enigmatic crossroads which sparks explorations of their lives, of the city, and of the ways artworks reflect and shape the world.
Once Upon a Time Was I, Verônica Marcelo Gomes. World Premiere. This film follows the reflections of Verônica, a recently graduated medical student going through a time of uncertainty. She questions not only her career choices, but also her most intimate bonding and even her ability to cope with life in contemporary urban Brazil.
Paradise: Love, Ulrich Seidl. North American Premiere. Perennial provocateur Ulrich Seidl (Dog Days, Import/Export) explores the politically charged issue of sex tourism in the sun-kissed “paradise” of Kenya, where a middle-aged Austrian voraciously samples the wares of the local meat market while searching for true love—the one commodity that’s not for sale in this neo-colonial bazaar.
The Patience Stone, Atiq Rahimi. World Premiere. In a country torn apart by a war, a beautiful woman watches over her husband in a decrepit room. He is reduced to a vegetative state because of a bullet in the neck. One day, the woman starts a solitary confession to her silent husband. She talks about her childhood, her frustrations, her loneliness, her dreams and her desires.
Penance, Kioshi Kurosawa. North American Premiere. Fifteen years ago, tragedy struck a small town when a young elementary school girl Emili (Hazuki Kimura) was abducted and killed by a stranger. Four girls who had been playing with Emili at the time were the first to discover her body. The abductor is never found and the crime goes unsolved. Crazed with grief, Emili’s mother Asako (Kyoko Koizumi) condemns the four girls, none of whom can remember the abductor’s face. She tells them, “Do whatever you have to do to find the killer. Otherwise, you can pay a penance that I approve.” Deeply affected by Asako’s condemnation, the four girls become adults burdened with the curse of “penance,” which eventually triggers a chain of tragic events.
Peripeteia, John Akomfrah. World Premiere. British filmmaker John Akomfrah imagines the lives of a black man and woman who appear in a 16th-century drawing by German Renaissance master Albrecht Dürer.
Road North, Mika Kaurismäki. International Premiere. Timo is an esteemed concert pianist whose personal life is on the rocks. One day Timo finds an older, shabby-looking man at his door. The man, Leo, turns out to be his father who left the country when Timo was three—and hasn’t been in touch in 35 years. Leo, an eternal trickster with a positive outlook on life, had to leave his homeland thanks to a series of messy entanglements. Now he’s come back to hand over a rather mysterious legacy to his son and to answer questions regarding the past. To do this, the two will have to embark on a trip together and hit the road north.
Shores of Hope Toke, Constantin Hebbeln. International Premiere. In this vivid historical drama set in 1980s East Germany, two dockworkers and best friends who dream of escaping the repressive regime are forced to choose their loyalties when the state police promise them safe passage out of the country—if they inform on their co-workers and union leader.
Sleeper’s Wake, Barry Berk. International Premiere. John Wraith, a man in his mid-40s, regains consciousness in hospital. His wife and daughter were killed in a car accident because he fell asleep at the wheel. He retreats to a remote coastal hamlet to heal, but finds himself embroiled in a dangerous relationship with a beautiful and unpredictable 17-year-old girl.
Smashed, James Ponsoldt. International Premiere. Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Charlie (Aaron Paul) are a young married couple whose bond is built on a mutual love of music, laughter and drinking. When Kate’s drinking leads her to dangerous places and her job as a school teacher is put into jeopardy, she decides to join AA and get sober. With the help of her friend and sponsor Jenny (Octavia Spencer), and the vice principal at her school—the awkward, but well intentioned, Mr. Davies—Kate takes steps toward improving her health and life. But sobriety isn’t as easy as Kate had anticipated. Her new lifestyle brings to the surface a troubling relationship with her mother, the lies she’s told her employer, and calls into question whether or not her relationship with Charlie is built on love or is just a boozy diversion from adulthood.
The Thieves, Choi Dong-hoon. North American Premiere. Bullets fly, barbs are traded and old scores are settled when a Korean master criminal and his crew hightail it to Macao to join his treacherous former partner on a $20-million jewel heist, in this full-throttle action caper from South Korean director Choi Dong-hoon.
The Tortoise, An Incarnation, Girish Kasaravall. International Premiere. In Girish Kasaravalli’s gently philosophical character piece, a humble, low-level civil servant cast as the lead in a popular TV serial chronicling the life of Gandhi finds uncanny echoes between his own life and that of the legendary leader—and sets out to correct their mutual failings.
Three Kids, Jonas d’Adesky. World Premiere. Best friends Vitaleme, Pierre and Mikenson are 12 years old and live in a home in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Vitaleme is haunted by his memories as a child servant and obsessed by the idea of freedom. When the town is struck by an earthquake, they find themselves on the street and have to get by on petty crime.
Three Worlds, Catherine Corsini. North American Premiere. Al, a young man from a modest background is about to marry his boss’s daughter and succeed him as the head of a car dealership. One night, he is guilty of a hit-and-run accident. The next day, a remorseful Al decides to inquire about his victim, not knowing that Juliette, a young woman, has witnessed the accident.
Thy Womb, Brillante Mendoza. North American Premiere. Shaleha Sarail is a barren woman who believes that to fulfill her husband’s greatest wish of having a son is tangible proof of Allah’s grace. She resolves to find the woman who will bear her husband a child.
Underground, Robert Connolly. World Premiere. Set in 1980s Melbourne, Underground is a riveting thriller that focuses on the teenage years of one of the most controversial figures of modern times—Wikileaks founder Julian Assange (newcomer Alex Williams in his first major role). The film follows Assange and his gang of close friends—the International Subversives as they call themselves—as they wage a battle from their bedrooms, trying to break into the computer systems of the world’s most powerful organizations. In the process, they are forced to battle authorities and eventually one another. Written and directed by Robert Connolly, the film also stars Anthony LaPaglia, Rachel Griffiths and Callan McAuliffe.
Virgin Margarida, Licinio Azevedo. World Premiere. Veteran filmmaker Licinio Azevedo drew on the stories of real women who endured the Mozambican “re-education camps” for this dramatic and inspiring elegy to the insurgent spirit of women across nations, histories and cultures.
Watchtower, Pelin Esmer. World Premiere. Haunted by guilt over the death of his family, a man takes a job as a fire warden in a remote tower in the wilderness, and is inexorably drawn towards a young woman with a dark, terrible secret of her own.
What Richard Did, Lenny Abrahamson. World Premiere. A high school rugby star’s life is irrevocably changed when a senseless act of violence leads to a sudden, shocking tragedy.
When I Saw You, Annemarie Jacir. World Premiere. Jordan, 1967: displaced in a refugee camp after the occupation of their West Bank village, an 11-year old boy and his mother enact the emancipating dream that every refugee has imagined countless times.
Zabana!, Saïd Ould-Khelifa. World Premiere. Zabana! is an impassioned, meticulously researched account of the short life of Algerian freedom fighter Ahmed Zabana, whose execution in 1956 by French colonial authorities ignited the “Battle of Algiers”—and the crucial phase of Algeria’s struggle for independence.