TIFF Wish List: 10 Films We Hope to See at the 2024 Festival

All eyeball emojis peeled for TIFF titles

The festivals are ready to rumble! The fall circuit feels especially competitive this year with festivals releasing hot titles in fits and spurts, claiming top tickets with a public announcement before others can snap them up. First, TIFF unveiled six exciting films set to touch down in Toronto in September, including the ‘Amy Adams turns into a dog’ drama Nightbitch, which I’m really excited to see. Then there’s the documentary Elton John: Never Too Late and the animated lark The Wild Robot, which both promise great red carpets, and then the Netflix drama Rez Ball, the Korean film Harbin, and Mike Flanagan’s acquisition title The Life of Chuck for festival flavours. Then came news that the London Film Festival scored Steve McQueen’s Blitz for a world premiere on opening night. That’s a big get for a film that presumably everyone wanted—and one that must sting for TIFF given that McQueen won the People’s Choice for 12 Years a Slave and screened all his films in Toronto except for last year’s Occupied City. And then there’s last week’s news that Venice will open with Beetlejuice Beetlejuice—a bit of a ho-hum choice, to be honest, with the film opening in theatres a week later.

But all eyeball emojis are peeled for what comes next as TIFF and Venice get ready to reveal their slates. One can guess some of the Toronto tickets with the talent attending for the TIFF Tribute Awards. Names announced so far include Amy Adams, Cate Blanchett, David Cronenberg, and Sandra Oh. With the festival trickling out these names in lieu of programming picks, one can safely assume that films joining Nightbitch among the official selections include Guy Maddin’s Rumours starring Blanchett and Cronenberg’s The Shrouds, both of which already played Cannes, while Oh’s next role is in Anne Marie Fleming’s live action drama Can I Get a Witness. Fleming last appeared at the festival with the animated feature Window Horses, which also starred Oh.

Outside of those titles, one can only speculate about the films coming to the festival, but here’s one thing we do know: 2024 needs to be a big year for TIFF. The American festivals, Telluride and New York, seemed to give TIFF a bit of a beating last year with distributors forgoing the bigger affair in Toronto when industry strikes and the absence of stars made the cost/benefit analysis of a TIFF premiere awfully tricky. Big gets that went to other festivals include Maestro, Poor Things, All of Us Strangers, The Bikeriders, Ferrari, The Killer, Priscilla, and Saltburn, although notable Toronto premieres included American Fiction, The Boy and the Heron, Sing Sing, Mountain Queen, and Woman of the Hour. With the festival announcing a big market coming in 2026, it needs to prove its muscle. There’s little doubt that TIFF will rebound and with Hot Docs on the fritz, Toronto surely needs the festival to stay strong.

With fingers crossed for a strong line-up in the upcoming announcements, here are 10 films that That Shelf hopes to see at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.  – Pat Mullen

The Last Showgirl | Utopia

The Last Showgirl

Could Pamela Anderson be the comeback kid of TIFF 2024? The Canadian icon stars as a Vegas showgirl who faces the next act of her career when her gig on the strip closes and leaves her wondering what life showbiz can be like for a woman over 50. There’s a great art-imitating-life narrative that’s ripe for a press tour with Anderson, too, as she can build upon the momentum set by last year’s terrific Netflix doc Pamela: A Love Story. The film showed a vulnerable de-glammed Pam who opened up about having her career derailed by an infamous stolen sex tape, but she shared a desire to show the world who she really is as an actress. Directed by Gia Coppola (Palo Alto), The Last Showgirl could be the chance to do just that. It’s also an opportunity to be a glitzy acquisition title for TIFF after stirring excitement at the Cannes Market. Oscar winner Jamie Lee Curtis, Kiernan Shipka, and Billie Lourd are among the co-stars who could give Anderson a boost on the red carpet. -PM

 

 

Nosferatu

Robert Eggers is no stranger to TIFF. The acclaimed indie-horror director screened his film The Lighthouse at the festival back in 2019, where audiences praised the haunting atmosphere, darkly comedic tone, and eccentric performances from Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson, while the 2015 festival introduced Toronto to his bold vision with The Witch. Eggers’ latest movie, Nosferatu, a retelling of the 1922 classic gothic-horror German film, is hitting theatres this December and would be a massive win for the festival. While the original was silent, the remake will be anything but as it features a star-studded cast who would certainly attract some noise if they visited Toronto this September. Bill Skarsgård stars as the titular vampire, Count Orlok, alongside Lily-Rose Depp as the woman he’s utterly infatuated with. Nicholas Hoult, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Emma Corrin, and Willem Dafoe also star in Eggers’s modern reimagining. Needless to say, TIFF audiences would kill to sink their fangs into Nosferatu should it join this year’s film lineup. – Ethan Dayton

 

Canada’s Best International Feature Submission

Canada has the biggest platform and launchpad heading into award season, but let’s be real: we don’t properly utilize TIFF when it comes to our Oscar bid. We’ve picked some great films lately, but they’ve had no realistic chance of going the distance with relatively little industry momentum to drum up support and attention. The missed opportunity is especially egregious when one considers that we now announce the selection in August, whereas pre-pandemic years usually revealed a well-received contender post-TIFF. There’s no reason why Canada doesn’t have a dedicated slot in the press and industry schedule to screen our submission—even if it’s not an official TIFF selection—when there are so many journalists, awards bloggers, and voters looking to see contenders. Many writers, myself included, make a point of catching as many submissions, or presumed submissions, at the festival. One could add that international writers would find an incentive to nab a Canadian headline to TIFF clippings for good politics. At this point in 2024, the only realistic new contender is Matthew Rankin’s Persian-language Cannes sensation Universal Language. It’s widely expected to screen at the festival, and would really make a smart choice with Guy Maddin’s Rumours also on the circuit providing intriguing angles to explore the distinctive wackiness of Winnipeg’s film scene. Other contenders include last year’s TIFF prizewinner Kanaval and some terrific documentaries, although I doubt we’ll send three in a row, while two Berlinale titles that could have North American premieres at TIFF are Philippe Lesage’s Who by Fire (Comme le feu) and Meryam Joobeur’s Who Do I Belong To.  Upcoming films that could be wild cards with the right launch include Berger/Shepherds by Sophie Deraspe, who represented Canada with 2019’s submission Antigone. [Update: Sherpherds was announced in TIFF’s latest quintet of titles released shortly after this article was posted.] – PM

 

In Cold Light

Maxime Giroux previously represented Canada in the Oscar race with Felix and Meira, and follows his solid financial drama Norbourg with the English-language crime flick In Cold Light. The film, written by Patrick Whistler, is garnering strong word of mouth from industry peers and could bring a star-studded splash to Toronto. The drama stars Maika Monroe, Allan Hawco, and Oscar winners Helen Hunt and Troy Kotsur alongside a cast of up-and-coming Canadians. Monroe leads the drama as a formerly incarcerated woman who tries to go straight, but finds herself on the run after witnessing the murder of her twin sister. The film has Canadian distribution with Entract Films for Quebec and Elevation for the rest of Canada, so a strong festival showing could help the film land a U.S. partner to give it a boost. Capitalizing on Kostur’s enormously popular Oscar win would be smart too, although a Sundance premiere could prove equally beneficial given that CODA’s triumphant run began in Park City (virtually). Sundance boasts a smaller line-up that could help it stand out, too, which could be attractive. – PM

 

Maria | Photo by Pablo Larraín

Maria

How do you solve a problem like Maria? You screen it in Toronto! The third film in Pablo Larraín’s “women in heels” trilogy that began with TIFF selections Jackie (2016) and Spencer (2021) ends with this portrait of opera diva Maria Callas. Angelina Jolie stars as perhaps the most famous female opera singer of all time, and early word says this performance could be a major contender. Both Natalie Portman and Kristen Stewart scored Oscar noms for Jackie and Spencer, respectively, and Jolie is an industry favourite long overdue for a return to the podium. Moreover, Larraín helped give TIFF’s Platform competition a boost with a win for Jackie (over favourite Moonlight), so festival politics make this a smart choice. The film’s also looking for a distributor, which makes Maria almost an inevitable contender to do the Venice-Telluride-Toronto trifecta and use buzz from the earlier fests to seal a deal at TIFF. – PM

 

Piece by Piece

Just when you thought that celebrity biopics and music docs had all resigned themselves to formula comes a Pharrell Williams movie made out of LEGO. Directed by Oscar winner Morgan Neville (20 Feet from Stardom), Piece by Piece looks like it could be the most innovative American studio film of the year. The animated movie tells Pharrell’s life story in his own words and music with some help from the same building blocks that brought LEGO Batman miraculously to life. The film features a who’s who of celebrity voices, including Kendrick Lamar, Gwen Stefani, Snoop Dogg, Jay-Z, Busta Rhymes, Justin Timberlake, Timbaland, and Daft Punk—and it honestly looks like a total riot. Neville’s fall releases usually screen at the festival and distributor Focus Features typically gives its awards contenders a TIFF berth (see: The Holdovers, Dallas Buyers Club, The Danish Girl, Harriet), so it seems like a smart ticket to kick off a run for Best Animated Feature ahead of the film’s October release—unless it does a New York FF premiere instead. – PM

 

Queer

Luca Guadagnino is already 2024’s MVP with Challengers leading the slate as the year’s best film so far, and he could pull a Steven-Soderbergh-circa-2000 with the release of Queer on the festival circuit. The film reunites him with Challengers scribe Justin Kuritzkes in an adaptation of William S. Burroughs’ sweaty, pulpy, poetically worded take on the his complicated relationship with Lewis Martin (allegedly). The film stars Daniel Craig as Burroughs’ surrogate Lee and Love, Simon’s Drew Starkey as Allerton, Martin’s stand-in. The hypnotic and highly readable book serves as a passion project for Guadagnino and with the reportedly very sexy film looking for a distributor, it would be smart to show up and TIFF (possibly after a Venice premiere given Challengers’ original premiere date), but the director’s work surprisingly hasn’t screened as much in Toronto as it should have with only I Am Love and Call Me By Your Name playing the festival. If Queer plays though, we won’t get a Challengers reunion since the Josh O’Connor drama The History of Sound, directed by Oliver Hermanus and co-starring Paul Mescal, is said to be out for fall festivals. – PM

Ariel

TIFF members who missed out in the battle royal for free tickets to the MDFF screening of Samsara last month didn’t get a chance to see the kind of truly revelatory cinema that should be at every festival. The hybrid film by Lois Patiño does the impossible by allowing audiences to experience the journey between death and a new life. Patiño teams up with Matías Piñeiro after their TIFF 2020 Shakespeare-inspired short Sycorax for this audacious spin on the Bard’s greatest play, The Tempest. The film offers such stuff as dreams are made of as an actress arrives on an island to perform in a production of The Tempest, only to find no theatre and no company men and yet a play that’s already underway. The film marks Patiño first foray into full-stop fiction after bending the boundaries in his previous works, although word is that the film draws upon non-actors and the power of the Azores islands to make a Shakespeare film unlike any before it. Ariel is generally tipped for a Locarno premiere given that Patiño and Piñeiro usually have their premieres there, but it’s exactly the kind of film that could enliven TIFF’s Wavelengths crowd. – PM

 

The End 

Anyone who caught The Act of Killing at TIFF 2012 knows that Joshua Oppenheimer can stage a good musical sequence. His fantastic sense of direction helped make Killing a game-changer for documentary and hybrid cinema. Oppenheimer’s back from a long winter’s nap with his first film in 10 years after Killing follow-up The Look of Silence. This dramatic feature debut, The End, is described as an apocalyptic musical set in an underground bunker as a wealthy family deals with the end of the world—for which they may be responsible. The cast includes Tilda Swinton, George MacKay, Moses Ingram, and Michael Shannon. Although Neon already has distribution for the USA, The End is the sort of movie that could do well by building some buzz on the festival circuit. (And, if not, we’ll catch it later in theatres!) – PM

Frederic Batier, X-Filme Creative Pool

The Light

With the restoration of Run Lola Run getting our adrenaline pumping this summer, cinephiles should be running circles to get tickets for a new Tom Tykwer film. The German director is back with The Light, a contemporary drama in which a German family confronts the politics of the present following an encounter with a Syrian woman. The film whipped up some interest in reports from the European Film Market earlier this year and could use a TIFF berth to drum up support for North American distribution ahead of its October release in Germany. Tykwer was last at the festival as a co-director with the Wachowskis’ on Cloud Atlas,  while his 2016 film A Hologram for a King was….let’s politely say, “a Tribeca premiere.” He’s been busy with the series Babylon Berlin but deserves a rebound on the film side.  – PM

 

And, of course, obvious picks like Mike Leigh’s Hard Truths, Walter Salles’ I’m Still Here, Julian Schnabel’s In the Hand of Dante, the Pedro Almodóvar/Julianne Moore/Tilda Swinton collab The Room Next Door, the buzzy Canadian co-pro Bonjour Tristesse, Kazik Radwanski’s Matt & Mara, Audrey Benac’s return to the archives in Opus 28, the Nicole Kidman drama Babygirl, the Lady Gaga show Joker: Folie à Deux, and all the goodies from Cannes.



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