Aliens, ghosts, zombies and American cinema’s ultimate gonzo bogeyman, Nicolas Cage, are heading to the Toronto International Film Festival this September.
TIFF organizers continued their summer-long rollout of programming announcements on Thursday morning, revealing the slates for the 2019 festival’s Documentary, Discovery and Midnight Madness programs. The latter series, a celebration of all things extreme and envelope-pushing, will be home to the aforementioned creature-and-Cage features, with this year’s selection placing a heavy emphasis on first-time filmmakers.
“This year’s selections challenge the traditional parameters of genre and shock cinema, but – most excitingly – half of the lineup’s wicked provocations are courtesy of filmmakers making their feature-film debut,” said Peter Kuplowsky, Midnight Madness’s lead programmer, in a statement. “I’m ecstatic to have the privilege to introduce so many transgressive, innovative and galvanizing new voices."
This year’s rookie filmmakers include Spanish director Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia, who is bringing his dystopian sci-fi film The Platform; Britain’s Rose Glass, whose psychological thriller Saint Maud stars Jennifer Ehle; American Keith Thomas, director of the supernatural horror film The Vigil; and American Andrew Patterson, whose Twilight Zone-esque The Vast of Night impressed audiences at Slamdance this past January. Meanwhile, Canada’s Jeff Barnaby (Rhymes for Young Ghouls) takes a dive into genre filmmaking with his second feature, the Mi’kmaq reserve-set zombie horror Blood Quantum, which will open the Midnight Madness program and was previously announced by organizers last week.
The emphasis on fresh talent marks a decisive departure from 2018′s lineup, which featured two massive Hollywood franchises (The Predator, Halloween) and work from veteran provocateurs (Gaspar Noé’s Climax, Peter Strickland’s In Fabric). Yet this year’s Midnight Madness, the third that Kuplowsky has taken the lead on since long-time series guru Colin Geddes stepped down after 2016′s edition, is not exactly short on familiar faces, either. Japan’s Takashi Miike, a long-time Midnight Madness staple who has made his mark with everything from 2001′s notoriously nauseating Ichi the Killer to the zany 2004 superhero comedy Zebraman, is back this year with the action-comedy First Love. And South African director Richard Stanley, whose cyborg-runs-amok movie Hardware played TIFF in 1990, returns to Toronto almost three decades later with Color Out of Space, an H.P. Lovecraft adaptation starring the ever-busy Cage.
On TIFF’s documentary front, matters are almost equally terrifying, with this year’s selections highlighting a world of real-life horrors. The section will open with the world premiere of Feras Fayyad’s The Cave, which focuses on an underground hospital in Syria, and will also include films about hostages in Iran (Barbara Kopple’s Desert One), sexual misconduct (Eva Orner’s Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator), and deportation (Andrew Renzi’s Ready for War).
“This year’s program captures characters you’ll never forget: lovers, fighters, dancers, athletes, despots, rebels, hustlers and heroes,” Thom Powers, TIFF’s seasoned documentary programmer, said in a statement. “We’ll be talking about these films for a long time to come.”
That was certainly the case for last year’s docs program, though for different reasons. While TIFF 2018 featured the intense rock-climbing epic Free Solo, which won the TIFF’s People’s Choice Documentary Award before going on to claim the Oscar for best documentary, it also featured a curious pair of political docs that elicited different levels of chatter: Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 11/9, which premiered to shrugs, and Errol Morris’s eyebrow-raising Steve Bannon doc American Dharma, which only this week secured U.S. distribution, nearly a year after its Toronto debut.
Finally, organizers for TIFF’s Discovery lineup unveiled 37 films from 35 different countries – a selection that represents a slight revamp of the program to focus only on world or international premieres (the latter being a premiere anywhere outside a film’s country of origin).
“TIFF has long held a space for first- and second-time directors, acting as a springboard for launching the international careers of cinematic giants such as Yorgos Lanthimos, Maren Ade, Christopher Nolan, Alfonso Cuarón and Jafar Panahi," Dorota Lech, lead programmer for Discovery, said in a statement. "As in previous years, it is a place to find work that could be poetic, bold or challenging, but that is always passionate.”
The move to include 33 world and four international premieres in this year’s Discovery lineup is a slight walk-back from TIFF’s language this past February, when the organization noted that the program “will be tightened to feature world premieres – exclusively.”
The 44th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival runs Sept. 5 to 15.