TORONTO, ON — In our initial preview story last week, we listed a few of the major players heading north Sept. 5-15 with their movies for the 44th annual Toronto International Film Festival.
Now we add a few more. First there’s Zazie Beetz, who, by last count, is one of only two performers with a whopping three – count ‘em 3 – films on display during North America’s largest cinematic showcase.
If you don’t know the name, Beetz is so far probably best known for her Emmy-nominated role on FX’s “Atlanta,” as well as her Marvel-ous, scene-stealing turn as Domino in last year’s “Deadpool 2.” In Toronto, she’ll surely be noticed again with Joaquin Phoenix in Todd Phillips’ heavily buzzed “Joker”; alongside Natalie Portman as an astronaut in Noah Hawley’s “Lucy in the Sky,” and opposite Kristen Stewart, who plays the title role in Benedict Andrews’ biopic of ill-fated actress (Jean) “Seberg.”
Also seemingly all over the place this year will be actor/filmmaker Gael Garcia Bernal, a major TIFF regular who just about soared into festival lore early this century in four classic films helmed by award-winning auteurs: “Amores Perros” (Alejandro G. Inarritu), “Y Tu Mama Tambien” (Alfonso Cuaron), “Bad Education” (Pedro Almodvar) and “The Motorcycle Diaries” (Walter Salles).
This year, the versatile Bernal stars as a choreographer in the Pablo Larrain drama “Ema”; then with Penelope Cruz and Edgar Ramirez in Olivier Assayas’ political thriller, “Wasp Network”; directs his own second feature, the reportedly audacious “Chicuarotes”; and is the on-stage subject of a free retrospective, “Gael Garcia Bernal: The Craftsman, In Front of and Behind the Camera.”
Also, during a TIFF extravaganza whose movies represent 84 countries; delivers 36 percent of its titles created by women (as part of the festival’s ongoing “Share Her Journey" initiative); unreels 25 documentaries; once again features an outrageous “Midnight Madness” package, and shows offs its wares on a whopping 27 different screens, someone actually has the chutzpah to direct two of its more than 330 offerings.
That would be young South African Jahmil X. T. Qubeka (“Of Good Report”), who returns to the fest with “Knuckle City,” a hard-hitting boxing story, and “Sew the Winter to My Skin,” based on the true ’50s tale of a Robin Hood-like outlaw.
Whew! Somehow, we’ll try to cover much of it all right here during the next two weeks, and the good news is we’ll have professional help. At least three northeast Ohio movie stalwarts will be glued to Toronto screens again searching for strong product to exhibit back home.
Artistic director Bill Guentzler and Director of Programming & Projection Mallory Martin will spend 10 days scouting for films to consider for our own 44th annual Cleveland International Film Festival, set for March 25-April 2, 2020, at Tower City Cinemas downtown. (By the way, new mom Mallory will bring a special guest to TIFF opening weekend, with 7-month-old Oliver making his first international trip. After all, the festival is always a family affair.)
Says Guentzler, who will be attending his 18th straight Toronto pow-wow: “We’re really looking forward to catching up with a lot of our industry contacts and friends, since TIFF is like a family reunion. It truly is the most important festival we attend each year.”
Meanwhile, way-back-when CIFF founder Jonathan Forman also returns to Toronto for at least a 40th year, currently as the longtime president of the six-location, 40-screen Cleveland/Pittsburgh Cinemas.
We’ll certainly be leaning on tips from Jon, Bill and Mal and will tell you about their choices along the way. Finally, speaking of locals, be sure to check back here Thursday – TIFF Opening Day – when we hope to take our annual look at a few festival recommendations from Toronto film critics. For anything else, visit tiff.net.