Politically Incorrect Films Take Center Stage at Toronto
From racially charged language in Eminem-produced rap comedy 'Bodied' to the boundary-pushing dark humor of Armando Iannucci's 'Death of Stalin,' fest organizers are pushing buttons.
Prepare to be offended.
With a slew of films that veer far from polite discourse, this year’s Toronto Film Fest is shaping up to be the most politically incorrect in years. Among the films most likely to spark outrage are Joseph Kahn’s battle rap satire Bodied (think lots of racist language) and Armando Iannucci’s Soviet-era sendup The Death of Stalin (rape and murder jokes).
“The one thing that makes the movie very uncomfortable for people is I’m not picking a side. I’m roasting everything,” says Kahn of the Eminem-produced Bodied. “On some level, the movie aims to offend, but I hope that people realize that it’s aimed to start a discussion.”
Veep creator Iannucci also had a mandate when tackling scenes that will leave audiences far more squeamish than his HBO series, including poking fun at everything from abortion to genital mutilation.
“My rule [with Death of Stalin] was: If it’s not funny, it had better be interesting,” he says. “We don’t shy away from the fact that people out there lived or died according to the decisions made by these people in the Kremlin.”
Other higher-profile titles may incur the wrath of the PC police. Though the Christian Bale starrer Hostiles is receiving rave reviews out of Telluride, the 1890s-set film will agitate those who prefer Native Americans to be portrayed as wise and noble in the vein of Dances With Wolves. TIFF director Piers Handling describes Bale’s character as “much like John Wayne’s character in the John Ford classic The Searchers” and “a racist … forced to confront his own bigotry while carrying out his orders.”
Nevertheless, buyers are in hot pursuit of the Scott Cooper-helmed film, with Fox Searchlight and Annapurna Pictures said to be the frontrunners. Similarly, Bodied is another film that distributors have in their highest tier (Death of Stalin already has distribution via IFC Films).
Meanwhile, there are also foreign-language films that will push buttons. TIFF international programmer Jane Schoettle says Israeli director Samuel Maoz’ latest title Foxtrot is “confrontational”, as it deals with an affluent father floored with grief over the death of his soldier son. She adds that Foxtrot will not “go over well with the right wing in Israel.”
Then again, as Iannucci points out, it’s never certain who will be offended by challenging material. In the case of Death of Stalin, he was surprised to find that at least one country wasn’t affronted. “Well, we’ve sold it [to Russia]. And they want it as is!” says Iannucci.
Alex Ritman contributed to this report.
This story first appeared in The Hollywood Reporter's Sept. 8 daily issue at the Toronto Film Festival.