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The Toronto Film Festival has unveiled another slimmed-down edition for September, with physical, drive-in and digital screenings planned for the Sept. 9 to 18 edition.
“It’s been a tough year and we’re so glad to be back,” Cameron Bailey, TIFF artistic director and co-head, said in a statement. The first wave of films unveiled for Toronto’s 2021 official selection includes Antoine Fuqua’s The Guilty from Netflix, Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast, Focus Features’ award season contender starring Caitriona Balfe, Judi Dench and Jamie Dornan; HBO’s Alanis Morissette documentary Jagged, directed by Alison Klayman; and the Naomi Watts-starrer Lakewood, directed by Philip Noyce and shot in northern Ontario.
Dune, Denis Villeneuve’s reboot of the sci-fi classic that stars Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya, will have a special event screening at a giant Imax theater in Toronto after its bow at the Venice Film Festival and ahead of a fall theatrical release.
Toronto, which anticipates around 100 movies in its official selection in September and has yet to specify which of its titles are world or North American premieres, has also booked Edgar Wright’s Last Night in Soho, which stars Anya Taylor-Joy, Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie and Matt Smith for its upcoming run.
Also headed to TIFF is Danis Goulet’s indigenous zombie thriller Night Raiders, a Canada/New Zealand co-production that bowed in Berlin; Céline Sciamma’s Berlinale competition title Petite Maman; the documentary Dionne Warwick: Don’t Make Me Over, co-directed and co-produced by Dave Wooley and David Heilbroner and to screen in Toronto after being introduced to buyers at the Cannes market; Charlotte, directed by Eric Warin and Tahir Rana; and the Ted Melfi-directed dramedy The Starling, which re-teams the filmmaker with his St. Vincent star Melissa McCarthy and has been nabbed by Netflix.
Also from Netflix and set to premiere in Toronto is Fuqua’s The Guilty thriller, whose A-list ensemble includes Jake Gyllenhaal, Peter Sarsgaard, Riley Keough, Paul Dano and Ethan Hawke. Gyllenhaal plays a 911 call operator as he tries to save a caller in grave danger, but he soon discovers that nothing is as it seems, and facing the truth is the only way out.
As fest-organizers plan a 10-day event while the Canadian city slowly emerges from a long pandemic lockdown, Toronto plans in-person screenings at TIFF Bell Lightbox, Roy Thomson Hall, the Princess of Wales Theatre and the Cinesphere Theatre at Ontario Place, and outdoor screenings at four drive-in locations on the city’s waterfront.
“Audiences will confidently be able to enjoy in-cinema screenings by maintaining a safe physical distance and wearing a mask,” Toronto organizers said in a statement. Some TIFF titles will also be available for Canadians across the country to view at home as the festival for the second year running plans more streaming than screening.
The 2021 Toronto Film Festival will effectively resemble last year’s hybrid event with limited in-person film screenings and mostly virtual red carpets, press conferences and industry events. TIFF a year ago first introduced its digital screening platform to comply with safety precautions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While Ontario has touted progress in fighting the COVID-19 outbreak, it has only begun to allow local movie theaters to reopen and has yet to permit large indoor gatherings to go ahead.
“We believe that digital access is an important part of providing accessibility to audiences and will be vital to the future of film festivals. This inclusivity across all our offerings helps to ensure that, no matter where you are located, you can participate in the festival,” Joana Vicente, TIFF executive director and co-head, said in her own statement.
At least for now, pandemic-era restrictions on travel and large gatherings has Toronto for the second year running planning for online play for press and industry screenings, the Industry Conference (set to run Sept. 10 to 14), press conferences and the TIFF Industry Selects market.
But plans may change as stringent COVID-19 protocols possibly lift in Toronto this summer. “TIFF will announce talent appearances and update accredited professionals on in-person offerings for press and industry delegates, such as press and industry screenings, in late July as government plans for reopening the city and the country are finalized,” the festival added.
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