Photo: Festival Street, Toronto / TIFF

The 44th annual Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 5 to September 15. So, starting next week there will be more stars and spotlight in Toronto with a bulk of the entertainment to be lived out on Festival Street. Attendance on Festival Street is expected to reach around 280,000 people.

245 features, 82 shorts, and six series films will be shown during the 11-day festival. There are 133 world premieres, 25 international premieres, and 71 North American debuts to be experienced. Over 80 countries and regions are represented and 51 of the selections are Canadian films.

Screenings, parties and exclusive chats with talent will pop up at venues like the Elgin Theatre, the Princess of Wales Theatre, Roy Thomson Hall as well as Scotiabank Theatre. And main courses at TIFF Bell Lightbox will be served daily.

Stars tapped to hit the red carpet include Michael B. Jordan, Jennifer Lopez, Shailene Woodley, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Hanks, Joaquin Phoenix, Nicole Kidman, Natalie Portman, Christian Bale, Matt Damon, Kristen Stewart, and Meryl Streep.

While we may not get to awe in Scorsese’s The Irishman, there’s a strong list of blockbusters and arthouse films we’re looking at. There’s some intriguing shorts, too.


Let’s first start with the final and just released trailer for Joker, which comes with the creepiest cackle insert in it courtesy of Joaquin Phoenix who plays the villain. Joker asking: “Is it just me or is it getting crazier out there?” sends shivers and should be the tagline of today. The film is directed by Todd Phillips whose past credits include The Hangover trilogy, Old School, War Dogs and Starsky & Hutch. But this film will clearly plug a darker side and we’re all for it.

Screenings: Sept. 9 (*premium access at Roy Thomson Hall), Sept. 10 (Princes of Wales Theatre), Sept. 13 (Scotiabank Theatre)
Joker opens in theatres October 4.

The Laundromat

Then there’s The Laundromat, the film that sees Meryl Streep as a widow investigating insurance fraud and the shady workings of wealth exposed by the Panama Papers. [For a refresher on the Panama Papers head here.] The film also stars Gary Oldman, Sharon Stone, and Antonio Banderas, and it is directed by Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Erin Brockovich, The Informant!). Streep is quirky and hungry to win in what we see below and the slimy, flippant duo of Banderas and Oldman should bring digestible shenanigans to the table. A film that looks at how “15 million millionaires in 200 countries stay rich” or think they will is good theatre.

Screenings: Sept. 10 (*premium at Prince of Wales Theatre), Sept. 10 & 13 (Elgin Theatre), Sept. 13 (TIFF Bell Lightbox)
The Laundromat is set for release come September 27 and available for streaming via Netflix starting October 18.

Marriage Story

Photo courtesy: TIFF

This story around divorce is presented through characters played by Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Alan Alda, Ray Liotta and Laura Dern. The deeply personal piece comes from a real place: writer-director Noah Baumbach’s own divorce in 2010 from actress Jennifer Jason Leigh. Johansson has also been divorced twice and in an interview with Indiewire, Baumbach said “you could feel it in the movie” with her acting.


Baumbach is the guy behind a former indie dazzler The Squid and the Whale, if you recall.

Screenings: Sept. 8 (*premium at Winter Garden Theatre), Sept. 9 & 13 (Princess of Wales Theatre), Sept. 14 (Princess of Wales Theatre)
Marriage Story will be released on November 6 and streamed via Netflix come December 6.

Motherless Brooklyn

“Power is knowing that you can do whatever you want and not one person can stop you.”

Our number one must-see—one that is stacked with talent such as Alec Baldwin, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton (who’s making his directorial debut with this film), Ethan Suplee, Willem Dafoe, and Bobby Cannavale—is a crime film we’re deeply stoked about. Norton plays Lionel Essrog, a private detective with Tourette syndrome that is tasked to solve the murder of his former PI mentor Frank Minna (Bruce Willis). Essrog also blames himself for the murder and starts to follow a new set of clues. The film is based on Jonathan Lethem’s 1999 novel of the same name. And yes, that is Thom Yorke and Flea’s new song “Daily Battles” playing in the background. Just watch, this film is going to be a hit. Maybe even Oscar-worthy for Norton.

Screenings: Sept. 10 (*premium at Princess of Wales Theatre), Sept. 11 (Princess of Wales Theatre), Sept. 15 (Scotiabank Theatre)
Motherless Brooklyn will be out November 1.

Knives Out

A murder mystery that riddles with humour is good fun for this time of year. Daniel Craig leads the cast in Knives Out, another anticipated world premiere to catch at TIFF. It also stars Chris Evans, Toni Collette, Christopher Plummer, Michael Shannon, Lakeith Stanfield, and Jamie Lee Curtis. Director-writer Rian Johnson’s (Star Wars: The Last Jedi, The Brothers Bloom) new flick goes like this: there’s a sudden death in the family and all are under close watch. Everyone is a possible suspect, but does anyone have the time to care? The trailer feels like an episode of HBO’s Succession, which frankly Christopher Plummer should be in—they all could be.

Screenings: Sept. 7 (*premium at Princess of Wales Theatre), Sept. 8 (Elgin Theatre)
Knives Out opens in major theatres on November 27.

Black Conflux

“The tip of the tongue, the teeth, the lips” is a well-known way for actors, singers, vocalists, in general, to get their mouths in check, and is the exit phrase to this curiously eerie trailer—-but why? Canadian filmmaker Nicole Dorsey’s debut feature film, which runs 100 minutes long, is set in small-town Newfoundland in 1987. It’s a coming-of-age tale with Jackie (played by Ella Ballentine) and Dennis (played by Ryan McDonald) as two disturbers figuring it out. This is one we’re not missing; it looks moving.

Screenings: Sept. 6, 8 & 14 (Scotiabank Theatre)

A Topography of Memory

The Wavelength program, which snuggles a more avant-garde aesthetic to creation, offers 37 features and shorts this year with A Topography of Memory being a leading favourite. The 30-minute film from Burak Çevik hears audio from a family voting in the 2015 Turkish General Elections and this is scissored with CCTV footage of Istanbul the following morning.

Other films to note are Blake Williams’ 3D wonder 2008 and (tourism studies) by Joshua Gen Solondz.

All the above films will be shown on Saturday, September 7 at TIFF Bell Lightbox.

Heimat is a Space in Time

An arthouse film to note is Heimat is a Space in Time. This cinematic essay that’s both biographical and historical follows director Thomas Heise’s exploration of his bewildering homeland (“heimat”) during 20th century Germany—those that come together and those that disappear. A wave of letters, sounds and imagery ensues. But do prepare for over three-and-a-half hours of watch time here.

Screenings: Sept. 6 (TIFF Bell Lightbox), Sept. 15 (Jackman Hall)

Other Canadian picks include Atom Egoyan’s Guest of Honour, the world premiere of David Foster: Off the Record, and award-winning documentarian Alan Zweigh’s Coppers, which looks into retired police officers.

The Twentieth Century

And anyone looking for a trippy take on former Canadian prime minister William Lyon Mackenzie King should not miss the 90-minute world premiere of The Twentieth Century from Winnipeg’s Matthew Rankin. His work has been compared to fellow Winnipeger, Guy Maddin. (Side: If you haven’t seen My Winnipeg by now, and you’re Canadian, you really should try to.)



Guest of Honour Screenings: Sept. 10 (Ryerson Theatre), Sept. 12 & 14 (Scotiabank Theatre)
David Foster: Off the Record Screenings: Sept. 9 (*premium at the Elgin Theatre), Sept. 14 (Scotiabank Theatre)
Coppers Screenings: Sept. 7, 12 & 14 (Scotiabank Theatre)
The Twentieth Century Screenings: Sept. 10 (Ryerson Theatre), Sept 12 & 14 (Scotiabank Theatre)

Both Meryl Streep and Joaquin Phoenix will be honoured at the festival’s inaugural Tribute Gala, each being awarded a first-time TIFF Tribute Actor Award for their achievements.

Some past TIFF coverage can be found here.

For the full lineup of films and more head to