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Angelina Jolie, who is bringing her Cambodian genocide pic First They Killed My Father and the animated Afghan drama The Breadwinner to the Toronto Film Festival, is joining the lineup of keynote speakers to appear at the Sept. 7-17 event.
Keynotes will also be delivered by Javier Bardem, Helen Mirren and Gael Garcia Bernal, organizers said Tuesday. As Toronto programmers rounded out their 2017 edition lineup, they added Discovery program titles that include the sidebar opener, the Argentine film Tigre, by directors Silvina Schnicer and Ulises Porra Guardiola, and the closer Human Traces by New Zealand director Nic Gorman.
Also booked into the Discovery section is Anders Walter’s I Kill Giants, an adaptation of Joe Kelly’s graphic novel about a misfit girl battling real and imagined monsters in her life that stars Zoe Saldana, Madison Wolfe and Imogen Poots, and the Evan Rachel Wood-starrer A Worthy Companion, by directors Carlos and Jason Sanchez.
Other new Discovery titles include Australian director Stephen McCallum’s 1%, written by and co-starring Arrow and Barracuda actor Matt Nable, and Ilian Metev’s 3/4, his follow-up to Sofia’s Last Ambulance. The latest titles bring the 2017 TIFF lineup to 339 films, comprising 244 features and 84 shorts, down sharply from last year’s 397 films, including 296 features.
Toronto programmers made good on a promise to shrink their movie offering by 20 percent, or around 60 films. Cameron Bailey, artistic director at TIFF, said the 2017 edition, always challenged to satisfy many masters, including Hollywood studios and an informal film sales market, should be less cluttered as Toronto competes against Venice and Telluride for world premieres and awards-season bragging rights.
Toronto last year had to deal with eventual awards-season winners like Lionsgate’s La La Land and A24’s Moonlight launching in Venice or Telluride, where critics quickly touted those films’ Oscar potential on social media as the final credits rolled, before those titles got glitzy red-carpet screenings in Toronto.
Bailey told The Hollywood Reporter Toronto is still the bigger film festival where award-season contenders can be aimed at ordinary moviegoers around red carpets and packed houses, and not just an industry audience. “We have a lineup that has got both the deepest and the broadest selection of the key films of the year,” Bailey said.
He pointed to films like the Sundance hit Call Me by Your Name that will likely contend during the upcoming awards season, as will Toronto world premieres like Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut Molly’s Game, the Benedict Cumberbatch-starrer The Current War and The Mountain Between Us, starring Idris Elba and Kate Winslet.
“I think we have the films that people will want to pay attention to, and there’s no other single place where you can find all those films together,” he added. So TIFF festgoers will still see star-driven pics like Darren Aronofsky’s Mother!; Alexander Payne’s Downsizing, which is set to launch Venice; Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird; George Clooney’s Suburbicon; Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; Wim Wenders’ Submergence; and Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water, which will screen in the Elgin Theater in which it was partially shot.
They’ll just see those movies as Canadian or international premieres as the titles start their Oscar runs in Venice or Telluride, or both festivals, an axis of convenience for American studios and distributors to build buzz elsewhere before arriving in Toronto to officially launch an Oscar campaign.
Toronto also slimmed down this year in recognition star-driven titles increasingly arriving here each September already with U.S. deals attached, having been bought up at Cannes or Sundance, so film buyers already have fewer pickings. Toronto festival CEO Piers Handling said the September event doesn’t have much escapist fare this year, and instead reflects more serious, challenging titles including Payne’s Downsizing, Aronofsky’s Mother! and an Indonesian film, Kamil Andini’s The Seen and Unseen, about a 10-year-old girl retreating to a fantastical dream space to deal with the impending loss of her twin brother.
“It’s one of the great films about children,” Handling said, before adding this year’s crop of filmmakers in Toronto are reflecting to audiences a changing and chaotic world.
“Increasingly as we move into this millennium, starting with 9/11, and finishing where we are presently with terrorism attacks on people’s mind, the disruption of a new administration south of the border and the uncertainty that’s generated, a lot of the films that we’re seeing onscreen are full of a sense of an unsettled world that’s there’s no clear direction around us, sifting sands, so it’s very much a reflection of how people are feeling right now,” Handling said.
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