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TIFF 2018: Michael Moore and Michael Myers, America’s twin boogeymen, land world premieres

Serial killers, extraterrestrial predators and conservative America’s ultimate boogeyman, Michael Moore, are heading to the Toronto International Film Festival this September.

Highlights of the festivals documentary program include the world premiere of filmmaker Michael Moore's much buzzed-about Fahrenheit 11/9, which looks at life under U.S. President Donald Trump. Moore is seen here with Jared Kushner at the premiere of his film Sicko in June, 2007, in New York.

Patrick McMullan/via Getty Images

On Thursday morning, festival organizers revealed the latest in TIFF’s summer-long roll-out of titles, including details on the Documentary, Midnight Madness, Short Cuts and Cinematheque programs. Highlights include the world premieres of two highly anticipated franchise reboots, David Gordon Green’s Halloween and Shane Black’s The Predator, plus the world premiere of Fahrenheit 11/9, Moore’s buzzed-about film looking at life under U.S. President Donald Trump.

Moore’s latest project, whose title is a tongue-in-cheek reference to his 2004 film Fahrenheit 9/11, about the George W. Bush administration, is reportedly so up-to-the-minute that the director is still shooting footage.

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Read more: The Globe’s guide to TIFF 2018 movies

“I’ve seen a solid cut, but I think he’s going to keep working on it until we rip it out of his hands,” says Thom Powers, TIFF’s veteran documentary programmer. “It’s a timely film in the lead-up to the U.S. midterm elections in November, but it also has a timeless quality in that it’s asking some bigger questions about American politics. More than that, I don’t want to say because one of the pleasures of watching this is being taken by surprise.”

Moore last appeared at TIFF in 2015, when he premiered Where to Invade Next, a globe-trotting satire in which he proposed bringing the best socio-cultural policies of Europe back to the United States. Yet that film and the director’s most recent project, 2016′s Michael Moore in TrumpLand, failed to elicit the audience response of Fahrenheit 9/11, which remains the highest-grossing documentary of all time. Still, Powers is confident that the director can still sway the political conversation.

“The question becomes whose minds are we talking about being swayed? The largest number of American voters are people who don’t vote, so when it comes to influencing politics, this isn’t about getting people to move from Republican to Democrat or vice versa: it’s about winning over people who’ve been apathetic,” Powers says. “In that respect, Moore is extremely influential.”

Other highlights of TIFF’s Documentary program include the world premiere of Quincy, a look at the prolific music producer Quincy Jones, co-directed by his daughter Rashida Jones, and Alan Hicks; Searching for Ingmar Bergman, from Margarethe von Trotta, who is sitting on this year’s TIFF Platform jury; and two docs on the men responsible for the current toxic state of political discourse, Alexis Bloom’s Divide and Conquer: The Story of Roger Ailes, and American Dharma, Errol Morris’s look at the rise and not-quite-fall of Trump adviser Steve Bannon.

Like last year, TIFF’s Midnight Madness lineup will be under heightened levels of scrutiny, given it is only the second slate under curator Peter Kuplowsky. The former TIFF programming associate took over the festival’s most eccentric and intense program, which comes complete with die-hard attendees, in 2017 after long-time Madness guru Colin Geddes stepped down.

“I was very satisfied with last year, almost to the detriment of my sanity this year,” Kuplowsky says. “I found myself early on working on this lineup that I was chasing last year, looking for the next Disaster Artist or Bodied. How can I feel that good again? But I also realized that you don’t want to serve the same meal every night, every year.”

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Jamie Lee Curtis returns to her iconic role as Laurie Strode in Halloween.

Photo Credit: Andrew Eccles/Univ/Universal Studios

To that end, this year’s Midnight lineup includes both high-profile horror (the aforementioned Halloween and Predator installments), plus outre cinematic provocations (Gaspar Noe’s Cannes hit Climax, Sam Levinson’s Sundance sensation Assassination Nation), experimental genre riffs (Peter Strickland’s In Fabric, Kiah Roche-Turner’s Nekrotronic), and one epic martial-arts flick (Vasan Bala’s The Man Who Feels No Pain).

“Last year, we didn’t have a martial-arts film, and there’s such a history of those in Midnight Madness,” Kuplowsky says, noting the festival’s 2003 premiere of Ong-Bak, which launched the career of Muay Thai super-star Tony Jaa. “The Man Who Feels No Pain is a real love letter to those movies, and it’s also the first Indian film to be featured in Midnight Madness, which I can’t believe because India is so rich in gonzo genre material.”

Away from the intensity and topicality of the Midnight Madness and Documentary programs, TIFF on Thursday also unveiled its Short Cuts program (36 works, including Interior from Oscar-nominated filmmaker Reed Van Dyk) and Cinematheque lineup (a 35 mm print of Ingmar Bergman’s Persona).

The festival will unveil more of its 2018 titles, including the yet-to-be-named opening-night film, next week.

The 43rd edition of TIFF runs Sept. 6 though 16 (tiff.net)

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