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TIFF 2021: 20 Films to Watch at the Toronto International Film Festival

On September 9th, the “Festival of Festivals” returns as the Toronto International Film Festival stages its 46th edition. And with more than 100 films on offer, TIFF 2021 is slowly rebuilding to its pre-COVID heyday. This year, the festival will be held in a hybrid format of in-person and virtual screenings, ranging from star-studded world premieres to indie discoveries. As always, the lineup can be intimidating for even the most seasoned of festival-goers. With that mind, here’s a sampling of 20 anticipated films to add to your watchlist.

BUZZY PREMIERES

The Eyes of Tammy Faye

With awards season fast approaching, a number of films will make their first appearances at TIFF, vying for the People’s Choice Award and the associated Oscar buzz. One obvious contender is Michael Showalter‘s The Eyes of Tammy Faye, a biopic about the eponymous televangelist (which Joey has already seen). Jessica Chastain‘s transformative role will surely make a play for Best Actress trophies, much like Jake Gyllenhaal‘s Best Actor-contending performance in The Guilty (a remake of 2018 Danish Oscar submission). And if Tammy Faye doesn’t do the trick, Chastain will also feature in the ensemble cast of The Forgiven, directed by John Michael McDonagh. Based on a novel, this thriller explores the fallout of a wild weekend in Morocco, with Chastain co-starring alongside Ralph Fiennes and recent Cannes awardee Caleb Landry Jones.

Also of interest are Stephen Karam‘s adaptation of the Tony-winning play The Humans and Theodore Melfi‘s The Starling, a dramedy featuring Melissa McCarthy, Chris O’Dowd and Kevin Kline.

GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES

Titane

In addition to the high profile Hollywood premieres, TIFF is also a great place to catch up some of the most exciting non-English language films from around the world. Some of these titles will likely be talked about as potential Oscar nominees for Best International Feature Film. Notably, most of the big winners at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival will be making a stop in Toronto. These include the latest work from arthouse fave Asghar Farhadi, who brings A Hero to the festival alongside Juha Kuosmanen‘s Compartment No. 6, after both films shared the Grand Prix in France. Another pair of joint winners will screen in the form of Jury Prize winners Ahed’s Knee and Memoria from Nadav Lapid and Apichatpong Weerasethakul respectively.

For the top prize, however, there was one film that stood out above the rest. Namely, Julia Ducournau hopes to light up the Midnight Madness section with her delirious Palme d’Or winner Titane. Joey just screened it yesterday and apparently, it lives up to the hype.

TOP DOCS

Attica

Reliably one of the most high quality sections of the fest, TIFF Docs unveils another exciting selection of non-fiction works for its audiences. One of the most anticipated titles will be The Rescue, from former People’s Choice Award winners Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin. It recounts the harrowing true story of the rescue operation to save a Thai soccer team trapped in a cave for 16 days. Another award-winning filmmaker to watch is Liz Garbus with Becoming Cousteau, which follows the life of the explorer Jacques Cousteau, who was one of the earliest to sound the alarm about the impending climate crisis.

The talented Stanley Nelson Jr. will also be in the spotlight with his new film Attica, examining the historic prison uprising. And those who missed the Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s Flee at Sundance should definitely want to catch up with this poignantly animated documentary about an Afghan refugee’s extraordinary personal story. On a lighter note, foodies will especially relish Julie Cohen and Betsy West‘s Julia, a biographical documentary about the iconic chef and TV personality Julia Child.

RISING STARS

Earwig

Though it’s more commonly known for the feverish atmosphere surrounding its glamorous movie stars, TIFF is also festival of discovery for upcoming talent. Most notably, the Discovery and Platform sections include promising titles such as the Canadian coming-of-ager Scarborough and Lucile Hadžihalilović‘s Earwig, an intriguing tale about a young girl with ice cubes for teeth. American indie cinema will also be on display with the likes of Steve Pink‘s marriage drama The Wheel and Justine Bateman‘s Violet, a unique psychological drama starring Oliva Munn in a career-best performance. Finally, another filmmaker to watch is Brazilian-American Alexandre Moratto, who follows up his Indie Spirit award-winner Socrates with 7 Prisoners, a Netflix acquisition looking at modern-day slavery in Brazil.

Be sure to follow Awards Radar for coverage of these and more titles at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival.

Shane Slater is a passionate cinephile whose love for cinema led him to creating his blog Film Actually in 2009. Since then, he has written for AwardsCircuit.com, ThatShelf.com and The Spool. Based in Kingston, Jamaica, he relishes the film festival experience, having covered TIFF, NYFF and Sundance among others. He is a proud member of the African-American Film Critics Association.

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Written by Shane Slater

Shane Slater is a passionate cinephile whose love for cinema led him to creating his blog Film Actually in 2009. Since then, he has written for AwardsCircuit.com, ThatShelf.com and The Spool. Based in Kingston, Jamaica, he relishes the film festival experience, having covered TIFF, NYFF and Sundance among others. He is a proud member of the African-American Film Critics Association.

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