After a two year hiatus, the Toronto International Film Festival is back with glitz, glamour – and, of course, some of the year’s most hotly anticipated new films. To help you navigate the fest, which runs from September 8-18 (because, let’s be honest: after two years off, you’re a little rusty), the Globe’s arts staff has put together a full guide to TIFF 2022, including what films to see (if you can snag rush tickets); which famous faces to watch out for around town; and a look at how the festival was able to bounce back for its first outing in three years. Plus: news, interviews, behind-the-scenes controversies, and more! (Pro tip: Watch this space, as we’ll be updating our guide throughout the festival.)
The films you can’t miss
It’s not a filmfest without the films, and this year’s roster offers some must-see features. Here, the Globe’s Arts staff whittled the list of rush line-worthy titles down to 15:
I Like Movies: Globe and Mail film critic-turned-filmmaker Chandler Levack’s feature debut, which follows a narcissistic teenage video clerk (Isaiah Lehtinen) and his jaded mid-30s boss (Romina D’ugo) in 2002-era Burlington, Ont.
The Fabelmans: Steven Spielberg’s semi-autobiographical tale about his own childhood in 1950s Arizona. TIFF scored a huge coup by securing the film’s world premiere – the first time that Spielberg has debuted a film in Toronto.
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery: Daniel Craig returns as molasses-mouthed detective Benoit Blanc, with even more colourful supporting actors-slash-murder-suspects (Edward Norton, Janelle Monáe and Kate Hudson, for starters).
The Son: This story about a young adult’s mental health is a follow-up to Florian Zeller’s 2020 film The Father. In it, Zen McGrath plays Nicholas, a depressive adolescent whose divorced parents (Hugh Jackman, Laura Dern) are desperate to help but distracted by their own lives.
Hawa: In Maïmouna Doucouré's coming-of-age story from African Paris, 15-year-old Hawa (Sania Halifa) faces the imminent death of her beloved grandmother and sole guardian. The plucky teen has the perfect solution: Michelle Obama is visiting the city and should adopt her.
The Banshees of Inisherin: Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson reteam for a film about two lifelong friends who reach an impasse, with alarming consequences for both.
Bones of Crows: A dramatic retelling of the story of real-life Cree matriarch Aline Spears, who was subjected to residential schools and still enlisted as a code talker in the Second World War, where she saved Canadian lives by speaking the Cree that the government tried to beat out of her.
Triangle of Sadness: Ruben Östlund’s latest Palme d’Or – winning satire explores hypocrisy, greed, and thirst for power amongst the idle rich.
When Morning Comes: Kelly Fyffe-Marshall’s first feature expands her explorations into autonomy and belonging. In it, rambunctious young Jamal (Djamari Roberts) revels in his native Jamaica, but his single mother Neesha (Shaquana Wilson) thinks he may have a better life in Canada.
Butcher’s Crossing: Gabe Polsky’s film, which concentrates on the Colorado Rockies, is not what you might think: This one’s a Western, starring Nicolas Cage as a buffalo hunter who leads a Ralph Waldo Emerson-loving Harvard dropout (played by Fred Hechinger) into the mountains.
The Whale: The great Brendan Fraser comeback starts with The Whale, Darren Aronofsky’s adaptation of a stage play about a morbidly obese writing instructor who seeks to reconnect with his daughter.
The Greatest Beer Run Ever: Zac Efron and Russell Crowe star in The Greatest Beer Run Ever, about a merchant seaman who, in 1967, accepted a bet to personally deliver a case of beer from New York to his army buddies in Vietnam.
The Woman King: Viola Davis as an African warrior slashing colonizer throats. Need we say more?
Alice, Darling: Anna Kendrick stars in a psychological thriller with several Canadians at the forefront: it was written by Alanna Francis (The Rest of Us), co-stars Kaniehtiio Horn (Letterkenny), and was filmed in Toronto.
Weird: The Al Yankovic Story: Daniel Radcliffe dons ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic’s Hawaiian shirt and accordion in Eric Appel’s infectiously entertaining and hyperbolic biopic about the legendary parody songsmith.
Globe Arts staff offer their full thoughts on TIFF’s 15 must-see films.
What happened on TIFF’s opening weekend?
This year’s Toronto International Film Festival opened with The Swimmers, director Sally El Hosaini’s ripped-from-the-headlines drama about Yusra and Sara Mardini, two Syrian sisters who swam to freedom. While the film itself was, Barry Hertz writes, “a highly conventional underdog story with sociopolitical ambitions it never meets head-on,” the film was a perfect opener for the film fest: As one of nine Netflix productions playing TIFF, The Swimmers represents the latest conquer-all-festivals stake in the ground for the streaming giant.
Meanwhile, the festival’s glitzy, glamorous, packed-to-the-gills-with-parties opening weekend proved that the festival has fully mounted a successful comeback (more on that later) after two years off due to the pandemic. From Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans, which marked the director’s first foray at TIFF, to the hotly anticipated Knives Out sequel, Glass Onion (which also opened at the fest), anchored a megastar-filled weekend that ushered TIFF back to its former prominence. (And, yes: Harry Styles was there.)
How to talk to the stars
f you’re in Toronto for the festival, the chances are high (well, higher than they usually are) that you’ll spot a famous face around town. If that’s the case, Anne T. Donahue has some handy don’ts for what to say to some of the festival’s most notable celebs, including:
Don’t: Confuse him with Austin Butler, star of Elvis
Don’t: Offer anything but unmitigated praise! He’s a national treasure.
Don’t: Speak. Trust us.
Don’t: Miss the chance to quote from The favourite.
- Plus: all the stars coming to TIFF 2022, including Taylor Swift, Oprah Winfrey, Laura Dern, and more.
How did TIFF swing it, after two pandemic years off?
In September, 2020, when the world was depressing (um …) and the foreseeable future grim (yeah, about that …), Barry Hertz made a bold prediction: When we finally emerged from the Bad Time, the Toronto International Film Festival would host the biggest bash that the movie world has ever seen. Whether we’re out of the woods or not today seems to be a matter of perspective, but it is safe to say that TIFF is preparing an 11-day celebration that screams, with mask-free vigour, “comeback.”
“I thought that we had to keep doing this,” TIFF head Cameron Bailey said. “We have the best cinemas in the country and we can’t waste them. We had to find a way back. But it took a lot.”
To operate in the film industry, especially the Canadian sector, is to live in eternal, stubborn hope. Which is just how TIFF survived its darkest days, when 31 full-time staff positions were cut, revenue projections were slashed in half, and the doors to cinemas were shuttered for longer than any other region in North America. Matters were so uncertain that even moments of relative success were tinged with sadness.
Days ahead of its 2022 launch, which will include the world premieres of such hotly anticipated titles as Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery and Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans, this year’s festival looks fuller than full. Hertz has the full report on how TIFF mounted its triumphant comeback for 2022.
… but it’s not without controversy
While TIFF has successfully come back with a vengeance, the industry-shaking tensions between movie-theatre owners and streaming services have spilled over into the Toronto International Film Festival, once again.
Canadian theatre giant Cineplex Entertainment has confirmed to The Globe and Mail that, while two of Netflix’s films will screen at Cineplex’s Scotiabank Theatre during this year’s festival, the majority will not. This is due to the exhibitor’s long-standing disagreement with streamers over how long streaming services keep their films in theatres before they are made available to subscribers at home.
The situation is a direct echo of the controversy that surfaced during the film festival’s 2019 edition. (The 2020 and 2021 hybrid editions of TIFF did not use the Scotiabank as a venue, due to significantly smaller programming lineups and drastically reduced in-person attendance.) Here’s the full story of how this year’s Toronto International Film Festival is ground zero for tensions between movie streamers, and Cineplex.
Now that you’re all up to speed on what’s going on behind-the-scenes, here’s what’s happening in front of the camera:
It took four years for Chandler Levack, a Globe and Mail film critic, to get her feature film I Like Movies off the ground – two of which took place in the middle of the pandemic. Now, the film is premiering at TIFF. In a first-person essay for the Globe, Levack explains why she dedicated the first half of her 30s to making a microbudget indie drama about working at a suburban Blockbuster.
The TIFF 2022 interviews
From Buffy Sainte-Marie to Kelly Fyffe-Marshall, this year’s filmfest is a celebration of some of the country’s top talent, both in front of the camera and behind it – and the Globe’s arts writers will be speaking to those personalities throughout the fest.
The film: Brother
His role: Director
The quote: “When I started, there weren’t many BIPOC filmmakers, we were one of the few. Of course there’s been progress since, but I don’t think that progress is a steady, straight line up. There is progress, and there are setbacks.”
The film: Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On
Her role: Subject
The quote: “I wasn’t Paul Simon. I didn’t think like a professional, I didn’t think about elbowing others out of the way, and I didn’t think about having a big, big career.”
The film: When Morning Comes
Her role: Director
The quote: “It was important to me to give over space to this character to live beyond how we normally see Black women represented onscreen. I thought about my mother and all of the things that she had to do for our family. This film was not just a love letter to Jamaica, but also a love letter to her.”
The film: This Place
Her role: Director
The quote: “A lot of people have been displaced to this land and on this land. So to call it This Place was intentional.”
The film: The Maiden
Her role: Director
The quote: “I didn’t want to tell a story that was misanthropic. I wanted to show a different side of Alberta that hadn’t been depicted before.”
The film: Queens of the Qing Dynasty
Her role: Director
The quote: “I have made a commitment to being [in Nova Scotia], it’s where I want to be, where I will be based as a filmmaker, where I find my inspiration. It’s become a circular process. It is where I spend my time and encounter my world, which feeds my projects. There is a specificity that’s involved in my work. Making Queens somewhere else, there would be so much texture and authenticity lost.”
The big anniversary
Two and a half decades ago, Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan put himself on the global cinematic map with The Sweet Hereafter, his deeply poetic, emotional film about a small-town school bus accident that kills 14 children. But to hear those involved with the movie tell it, the film almost never got made. Brad Wheeler talked to Egoyan, plus Russell Banks, the author of the novel on which the film was based; stars Bruce Greenwood and Sarah Polley; and Egoyan himself about how the cast and crew overcame one obstacle after another to produce the heart-wrenching Academy Award nominee.
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