For the Toronto International Film Festival’s 40th edition three years ago, organizers introduced two new programming slates to the mix: Platform, an award-driven lineup emphasizing on-the-brink auteurs, and Primetime, focusing on the “artistic renaissance” of Peak TV. Yes, television. At a film festival.
“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,” TIFF’s artistic director Cameron Bailey said at the time. “We realized the audience for independent film is the same as those following those serial works.”
While the flood of small-screen product has overwhelmed the zeitgeist in recent years – audiences can barely go a week now without having to add a new must-binge series to their digital queues – TIFF’s Primetime lineup has not quite revolutionized the festival, or what festival audiences prioritize.
Read more: The Globe’s guide to TIFF 2018 movies
The inaugural edition included series that have stuck it out but remained under-the-radar (Hulu’s Casual, which ended last month after four seasons) and others that audiences refused to acknowledge on any sort of radar (NBC’s Heroes Reborn, which will remain the Score: A Hockey Musical equivalent of TIFF’s television efforts). Following years offered a handful of programming coups (the riotous homegrown comedy Nirvanna the Band the Show in 2016, HBO’s top-tier The Deuce in 2017), but also some head-scratchers (the diminishing returns of CBC’s Alias Grace; all eight episodes of the 2017 Czech miniseries Wasteland, which seemed like a lengthy effort to make time for during a film festival).
Perhaps some star power, though, will shift Primetime’s tides this year. On Thursday morning, TIFF revealed that 2018′s Primetime program will feature the world premiere of Amazon’s Homecoming, starring none other than Julia Roberts. The series, based on the podcast of the same name, chronicles the work of Heidi (Roberts), a caseworker at a secret government facility. Four episodes of the 10-episode series, developed by Mr. Robot showrunner Sam Esmail, will be screened during TIFF.
The Facebook web series Sorry for Your Loss will also add some celebrity to Primetime’s mix: Avengers star Elizabeth Olsen headlines the series as Leigh, a young widow who must deal with her grief while attempting to move forward. (The production co-stars Oscar nominee Janet McTeer and The Last Jedi’s Kelly Marie Tran.)
Primetime’s other selections may not feature such name-brand stars, but sound intriguing enough, including the French sci-fi series Ad Vitam, the Israeli comedy Stockholm and the six-part anthology Asian horror production Folklore: A Mother’s Love and Pob.
“Cinematic television has provided a new lane for the consumer’s experience of cinematic art,” Michael Lerman, programmer for Primetime, said in a statement. “These series not only push the boundaries of what can be presented, but also demonstrate how it can transcend culture, visual arts, and communications.”
At a festival that will now open with a film – Netflix’s Outlaw King – that will be available on small screens across the globe just two months later, perhaps that pushing and blurring of boundaries is a good thing. Or, at least, an inevitable thing.
Just don’t think about bringing a new reboot of Heroes around.
The 43rd edition of TIFF runs Sept. 6 through 16 (tiff.net)