For its 40th anniversary last year, the Toronto International Film Festival offered something completely different. Instead of focusing solely on cinema, TIFF expanded its programming to television, or at least the type of auteur-driven television that the festival believed was sparking an "artistic renaissance" – Peak TV, essentially.
"Most of the filmmakers we love are working in television now, too: Steven Soderbergh, Jane Campion and so many others are making very strong work in long-form drama for the small screen, or any screen, really," Cameron Bailey, TIFF's artistic director, said at the time. "We realized the audience for independent film is the same as those following these serial works."
While the good intentions were there, the inaugural Primetime lineup itself could charitably be called uneven. For every straight-ahead success (the delightfully creepy French series Les Revenants or Jason Reitman's surprisingly cozy comedy Casual), there was a stumble (the merely passable Netflix doc Keith Richards: Under the Influence) or an outright head-scratcher (NBC's Heroes Reborn).
Yet this year's Primetime lineup appears, at first glance, to have learned from last year's shortcomings, or at least narrowed its focus to more sure-fire bets. Down one series from 2015's six-title lineup, this year's slate – which was unveiled Thursday morning as part of TIFF's summer-long programming rollout – includes both known quantities (Charlie Brooker's vastly entertaining anthology series Black Mirror, which will premiere two new episodes) and eagerly anticipated projects (Matt Johnson and Jay McCarrol's cult-ready Viceland series, nirvanna the band the show, which will screen three episodes).
"For year one, we did a lot of outreach, but for this year, a lot of people approached us. We had a plethora of content that we had to turn down, which was great," says Michael Lerman, Primetime's programmer and acting head of programming for TIFF. "It's always tough, and then right at the end you have to make some excruciating decisions, but you come out of it with what you think is really the best."
This year, that includes the Czech mystery miniseries Wasteland, of which TIFF will present all eight episodes; Kenya's procedural crime thriller Taku Macho, which will present two episodes; and the debut of the first three episodes of the third season of Jill Soloway's critical darling drama, Transparent.
The festival is also hoping that, like last year, there will be a strong appeal from TIFF audiences who would otherwise be preoccupied with films.
"It attracted a real strong crossover audience last year – people who came to see five movies a day at the Lightbox then popped in for a TV series, and I think it will be the same," Lerman says. "I hope that film fans will be going to see Transparent or Wasteland and then another movie afterward, and that dialogue will continue between these two mediums in a very strong way."
In addition to the Primetime program, TIFF also on Thursday unveiled its industry programming, the highlight of which will surely be its Moguls event, featuring an on-stage interview between Bailey and Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, that promises to lean toward the issues of diversity and inclusion in the Academy.
The 41st edition of the festival runs from Sept. 8 to 18.