The Toronto International Film Festival wants to remind you that it's still in the game of selling auteurs to the world. On Thursday, organizers revealed the 12 films in the festival's inaugural Platform slate, a juried program designed to trumpet "artistically ambitious" films – all of which will be available for distribution rights in North America.
The past two editions of TIFF have arguably been overshadowed by the festival's mini-feud with Colorado's Telluride Film Festival, and by extension, its ever-shifting place in the Oscar race. As a result, the fact that Toronto is a strong market for buying and selling under-the-radar films has become something of a muted talking point.
The Platform lineup, which will premiere a wide range of international films that otherwise lack splashy publicity machines, is one way of heating up the sales conversation.
"This puts the media and buyers in the room with the public, which is what everyone seems to want," TIFF artistic director Cameron Bailey told Indiewire this summer, when the program was first announced.
This year's slate features new works from directors Fabienne Berthaud, Sue Brooks, Diastème, Eva Husson, Joachim Lafosse, Martin Zandvliet, Gabriel Mascaro, Pablo Trapero, David Verbeek, He Ping, Ben Wheatley and Canadian director Alan Zweig. All the films will play the Visa Screening Room at the Elgin Theatre, one of TIFF's most desirable venues.
"There are films that come to the festival that are fantastic and don't get the same profile they used to, for a variety of reasons," TIFF director and chief executive Piers Handling told The Globe and Mail after Thursday's announcement. "This is a way to make sure these challenging, bolder works are found, and not just by a small group of cinephiles, but by the industry and media, too."
Critics and buyers alike will want to keep an eye on Wheatley's intense-sounding High-Rise, starring Tom Hiddleston and Sienna Miller; Berthaud's uneasy love story Sky, with Diane Kruger, Lena Dunham and Norman Reedus; and Zweig's documentary Hurt, which follows the Terry Fox-like saga of Steve Fonyo, a one-legged cancer survivor who successfully completed a cross-Canada run in the '80s, only to spend three decades mired in crime and addiction.
In addition to attention from distributors, the dozen films will be vying for a $25,000 award.
"We are not a competitive festival, but we decided that the time was right," Handling said of the decision to add a jury. "You're responding to the environment of what's going on in the marketplace, what's going on with our own festival, and the coverage that certain films are getting and others aren't getting."
The jury for this year's program includes France's Claire Denis, Poland's Agnieszka Holland and China's Jia Zhang-ke, whose 2000 film Platform partly inspired the initiative.
"We know them all really well; they're personal friends who have been coming to the festival for many years," Handling said. "These are not strangers, they are people we deeply admire."
The 40th edition of TIFF runs Sept. 10 to 20.