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TIFF Announces First Wave of Gala and Special Presentation Films

The Toronto International Film Festival launches in September for its 44th edition, and Co-Heads Cameron Bailey and Joana Vicente announced over four dozen selections this week, including several highly-anticipated world premieres. The Telluride and Venice slates have yet to be announced, but TIFF is looking again like one of the most essential film events of the year, especially given this year’s remarkable number of world premieres. Of course, there’s also a blend of films that premiered at Cannes and will bow in Italy and/or Colorado before coming to TIFF, but let’s focus on the impressive list of World Premieres, one that includes new films by Marielle Heller, Kasi Lemmons, Destin Daniel Cretton, Rian Johnson, John Crowley, Drake Doremus, and many more. Details below with synopses courtesy of TIFF:

“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” (Marielle Heller)

A jaded journalist (Matthew Rhys) reluctantly accepts an Esquire assignment to profile the children’s television host Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks), and encounters a profoundly empathetic worldview that changes his life forever.

“Abominable” (Jill Culton)

Featuring the voices of Eddie Izzard and Sarah Paulson, this spectacular animated adventure follows a clever teen girl and a Yeti as they rove the Himalayas in the hopes of reuniting the charismatic creature with his family.

Bad Education” (Cory Finley)

Hugh Jackman, Allison Janney, and Ray Romano star in this fact-based dramedy directed by Cory Finley ("Thoroughbreds"), about an infamous school-larceny scandal that rocked Long Island in the early aughts.

“Blackbird” (Roger Michell)

A terminally ill mother (Susan Sarandon) invites her family to their country house for one final gathering, but tensions quickly boil over between her two daughters (Kate Winslet and Mia Wasikowska), in Roger Michell’s ("My Cousin Rachel," "Le Week-End") remake of the award-winning 2014 Danish film "Silent Heart."

“Coming Home Again” (Wayne Wang)

A Korean American man cares for his ailing mother while trying to master her traditional cooking in the latest from Wayne Wang ("The Joy Luck Club"), based on Chang-rae Lee's New Yorker short story.

“Dolemite Is My Name” (Craig Brewer)

Eddie Murphy leads this hugely entertaining biopic from Craig Brewer ("Hustle & Flow") with his hilarious and finely honed turn as comedian Rudy Ray Moore, who became a legend in midlife with his outlandish 1970s Blaxploitation character Dolemite.

“Endings, Beginnings” (Drake Doremus)

An idealistic woman (Shailene Woodley) attempts to get her life on track financially and romantically, but gets caught in a love triangle with a free-spirited bad boy (Sebastian Stan) and his more stable, scholarly best friend (Jamie Dornan), in this tender exploration of love and heartbreak from Drake Doremus ("Like Crazy").

“The Friend” (Gabriela Cowperthwaite)

Based on the award-winning Esquire article of the same name, a man (Jason Segel) puts his own life on hold to move into the family home of his best friends (Dakota Johnson and Casey Affleck) and support them through a terminal cancer diagnosis.

“The Goldfinch” (John Crowley)

A young boy's life is forever altered following a terrorist attack at an art museum, in John Crowley's (Brooklyn) adaptation of Donna Tartt's Pulitzer Prize–winning novel. Starring Nicole Kidman, Ansel Elgort, Luke Wilson, Sarah Paulson, and Jeffrey Wright.

Greed” (Michael Winterbottom)

Festival favorite Michael Winterbottom skewers the fast-fashion industry in this scathing farce about a retail billionaire (Steve Coogan) whose lavish birthday plans are thrown into disarray by a nearby refugee camp.

“Harriet” (Kasi Lemmons)

Tony-winning Broadway actor Cynthia Erivo stars in Kasi Lemmons' inspiring biopic about renowned abolitionist Harriet Tubman, who escaped slavery and risked her life to lead others to freedom through the network of safehouses known as the Underground Railroad.

“Hope Gap” (William Nicholson)

A together-forever couple (Annette Bening and Bill Nighy) unpack the many complications of splitting up, in Oscar-nominated writer-director William Nicholson’s razor-sharp drama.

“How to Build a Girl” (Coky Giedroyc)

A working-class teenager (Beanie Feldstein) tries to reinvent herself as a hip London music critic, in this unconventional coming-of-age story based on British author Caitlin Moran’s semi-autobiographical novel. Also starring Chris O'Dowd, Emma Thompson, and Paddy Considine.

“Hustlers” (Lorene Scafaria)

Inspired by a 2015 New York Magazine article that went viral, Hustlers follows a savvy crew of former strippers who band together to turn the tables on their Wall Street clients. Starring Constance Wu, Jennifer Lopez, and Julia Stiles.

“I Am Woman” (Unjoo Moon)

This uplifting biopic tells the story of Helen Reddy, the fiercely ambitious Australian singer behind the 1971 megahit anthem that became the rallying cry of the women’s liberation movement.

“Jojo Rabbit” (Taika Waititi)  

Taika Waititi directs a riotous cast—including Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johansson, Rebel Wilson, Thomasin McKenzie, and newcomer Roman Griffin Davis—in this daring, touching, and comedic satire about a young German boy who discovers a Jewish girl hiding in his home and consults with his imaginary best friend, Adolf Hitler (Waititi).

“Just Mercy” (Destin Daniel Cretton)

A civil-rights defense attorney (Michael B. Jordan) fights to free a wrongfully convicted death-row inmate (Jamie Foxx), in this true-life courtroom drama from Destin Daniel Cretton ("Short Term 12," "The Glass Castle").

“Knives Out” (Rian Johnson)

Director Rian Johnson ("Star Wars: The Last Jedi," "Looper") assembles an all-star cast—Daniel Craig, Toni Collette, Jamie Lee Curtis, Ana de Armas, Chris Evans, Don Johnson, Michael Shannon, and LaKeith Stanfield—in this intelligent whodunit about a famed southern detective (Craig) who joins forces with local police to investigate a group of eccentric suspects following the murder of a wealthy crime novelist (Christopher Plummer).

“Military Wives” (Peter Cattaneo)

With their partners away serving in Afghanistan, a group of women on the home front form a choir and quickly find themselves at the centre of a media sensation and global movement, in this feel-good story from Peter Cattaneo ("The Full Monty").

“Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band” (Daniel Roher)

Directed by Daniel Roher ("Ghosts of Our Forest") and executive produced by Martin Scorsese, Brian Grazer, and Ron Howard, the feature documentary follows Robertson from his early life in Toronto and on the Six Nations of the Grand River reserve, in Southern Ontario, to the creation of legendary roots-rock group The Band.

“The Other Lamb” (Malgorzata Szumowska)

A girl (Raffey Cassidy) born into an all-female cult led by a man in their compound (Michiel Huisman) begins to question his teachings and her own reality, in this haunting, English-language debut from acclaimed Polish director Malgorzata Szumowska ("The Body," "Mug").

“The Personal History of David Copperfield” (Armando Iannucci)

Director Armando Iannucci ("The Death of Stalin") brings his sardonic wit—and a stellar cast that includes Dev Patel, Tilda Swinton, Hugh Laurie, Gwendoline Christie, Peter Capaldi, and Ben Whishaw—to Charles Dickens' classic autobiographical novel.

“Radioactive” (Marjane Satrapi)

Based on Lauren Redniss’ award-winning graphic novel, Marjane Satrapi’s ("Persepolis") biopic stars Rosamund Pike as two-time Nobel Prize–winning scientist Marie Curie, highlighting the groundbreaking discoveries she made with her husband, Pierre (Sam Riley).

“The Sky Is Pink” (Shonali Bose)

Twenty-five years in the relationship of a mother (Priyanka Chopra) and father (Farhan Akhtar) is told from the perspective of their recently deceased teenage daughter, in this poignant, affecting, and unexpectedly humorous love story from director Shonali Bose.

“The Song of Names” (François Girard)

Tim Roth and Clive Owen star in François Girard’s ("Hochelaga," "Land of Souls") latest sweeping historical drama, about a man searching for his childhood best friend—a Polish violin prodigy orphaned in the Holocaust—who vanished decades before on the night of his first public performance.

“True History of the Kelly Gang” (Justin Kurzel)

A fictionalized re-telling of the life and crimes of infamous 19th-century Australian outlaw Ned Kelly, based on Peter Carey’s Booker Prize–winning novel. Starring Russell Crowe and Nicholas Hoult.

“Western Stars” (Thom Zimny, Bruce Springsteen)

The incomparable Bruce Springsteen performs his critically acclaimed latest album and muses on life, rock, and the American dream, in this intimate and personal concert film co-directed by Thom Zimny and Springsteen himself.

“While at War (Mientras Dure La Guerra)” (Alejandro Amenábar)

Set in the first months of the Spanish Civil War, this riveting and timely chamber drama from acclaimed writer-director Alejandro Amenábar ("The Others") tracks the country’s slide into nearly four decades of fascism under dictator Francisco Franco.

Films that will play at TIFF after premiering at other festivals include “Ford v Ferrari,” “Joker,” “Ema,” “Frankie,” “Honey Boy,” “Clemency,” “The Laundromat,” “The Lighthouse,” “Marriage Story,” “Motherless Brooklyn,” “Pain and Glory,” “Parasite,” “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” “The Report,” “The Two Popes,” and “Uncut Gems.”


Brian Tallerico

Brian Tallerico is the Editor of, and also covers television, film, Blu-ray, and video games. He is also a writer for Vulture, The Playlist, The New York Times, and Rolling Stone, and the President of the Chicago Film Critics Association.

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