The Toronto International Film Festival announced the lineup for the Discovery program, highlighting 28 first and second feature films made by outstanding filmmakers from Canada and around the world. The lineup includes the international premiere of the controversial South African film OF GOOD REPORT directed by Jahmil X.T. Qubeka.
Awards presented to films in the Discovery programme include the Grolsch Film Works Discovery Award supporting an exceptional filmmaker’s next project with a $10,000 cash prize, and the International Federation of Film Critics Award (FIPRESCI Prize) determined by a jury of esteemed international film critics.
1982 Tommy Oliver, USA World Premiere
1982, a film inspired by true events at the onset of the crack epidemic in Philadelphia, tells the story of a father and his efforts to protect his gifted daughter from the insidious epidemic which has literally come home via her drug-addicted mother. As his wife becomes more distant and unreliable, he struggles to raise his daughter on his own, while still striving to help his wife become clean. In the process, he learns some hard truths about his marriage and his life, which will ultimately test him as a parent, a husband, and a man. Starring Hill Harper, Sharon Leal, Wayne Brady and young dynamo Troi Zee.
ALL ABOUT THE FEATHERS (POR LAS PLUMAS) Neto Villalobos, Costa Rica World Premiere
Chalo is a lone security guard who struggles to get his first gamecock. His job in an abandoned factory is boring and monotonous but it doesn’t seem to bother him that his life is like that as well. Once he finds his prize rooster, which he names Rocky, his life changes. Not having a proper place to raise and train Rocky triggers a series of comical events that will put Chalo’s passion and love for his new (and only) friend to the test.
THE AMAZING CATFISH (LOS INSÓLITOS PECES GATO) Claudia Sainte-Luce, Mexico North American Premiere|
22-year-old Claudia lives alone in Guadalajara. One night, she ends up in the emergency room with signs of appendicitis. There she meets Martha, lying on the bed next to her. 46-year-old Martha has four children and endless lust for life, in spite of her illness. Moved by the lonely young woman, Martha invites Claudia to come and live with her when she leaves the hospital. At first, Claudia is bewildered by the somewhat chaotic organization of the household, but soon she finds her place in the tribe. And while Martha is getting weaker, Claudia’s bond with each member of the family gets stronger day by day.
AROUND THE BLOCK Sarah Spillane, Australia World Premiere
Set in Sydney’s multicultural inner-city neighbourhood of Redfern, this is a story of revenge and triumph that follows an Aboriginal teenage boy torn between his unexpected love of theatre and his rapidly disintegrating family. With encouragement from an unconventional American drama teacher (Christina Ricci), he confronts his past and eventually takes control of his future.
BENDS Flora Lau, Hong Kong North American Premiere
Shot by iconic cinematographer Christopher Doyle, Bends tells the story of Anna (Carina Lau), an affluent housewife and Fai (Chen Kun), her chauffeur, and their unexpected friendship as they negotiate the pressure of Hong Kong life and the city’s increasingly complex relationship to mainland China.
BENEATH THE HARVEST SKY Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly, USA World Premiere
Beneath the Harvest Sky tells the story of Casper (Emory Cohen) and Dominic (Callan McAuliffe), two best friends who are fiercely loyal to one another, as they come of age in a small farming town in Maine. During their senior year of high school, Casper is drawn into smuggling drugs across the Canadian border with his outlaw father, Clayton (Aidan Gillen). Meanwhile, Dominic works his final potato harvest, hoping to earn the money he needs to buy a car and take them out of town. Their friendship and loyalty are put to the test as they are forced to mature and make adult decisions that will forever change the course of their lives.
BETHLEHEM Yuval Adler, Israel North American Premiere
Bethlehem tells the story of the unlikely bond between Razi, an Israeli secret service officer, and his Palestinian informant Sanfur, the younger brother of a senior Palestinian militant. Razi recruited Sanfur when he was just 15, and developed a very close, almost fatherly relationship to him. Now 17, Sanfur tries to navigate between Razi’s demands and his loyalty to his brother, living a double life and lying to both men. Co-written by director Yuval Adler and Ali Waked—an Arab journalist who spent years in the West Bank—Bethlehem gives an unparalleled, moving and authentic portrait of the complex reality behind the news.
BOBÔ Inês Oliveira, Portugal International Premiere
Sofia lives a strangely isolated life in the old apartment where she grew up in Lisbon. Mariama arrives from Guinea-Bissau, having been hired by Sofia’s mother to help take care of the house and her son. The appearance of Bobô, Mariama’s younger sister, awakens in Sofia the desire to take a stand. The forced cohabitation between Sofia and Mariama forces them to confront their own private ghosts.
BORDER Alessio Cremonini, Italy World Premiere
Two sisters, Aya and Fatima, live in Syria, at the epicenter of the fighting between police and Shabiha. Shady, Fatima’s husband, deserted the family and joined the rebels of the Syrian Free Army. The only chance the sisters have to survive is to cross the Turkish border.
CANOPY Aaron Wilson, Australia World Premiere
It is wartime in Singapore, 1942. An Australian fighter pilot shot down in combat awakens suspended in the treetops. As night devours day, he must navigate through dangerous jungle in search of sanctuary. With minimal dialogue and showcasing a remarkable soundscape, Canopy is an immersive, beautifully shot cinematic experience about the collisions of war and nature and its subsequent toll on humanity.
FAT Mark Phinney, USA World Premiere
Addicted to food, and in bad health, Ken (Mel Rodriguez) is headed to an early grave. Despite advice from his friends, he is stubbornly set in his ways—but a chance encounter might just give him the motivation he needs. Based on Mark Phinney’s own experiences and writings on the subject, Fat deals with food addiction in a gritty, authentic way, revealing the deep emotional roots of Ken’s struggles. Shot in Boston (and financed through crowdfunding), Fat peers into the darkness of depression and obesity, with no apologies.
GIRAFFADA Rani Massalha, France/Germany/Italy/Palestine World Premiere
Yacine is the veterinarian of the only zoo remaining in the Palestinian West Bank. He lives alone with his 10-year old son, Ziad, who has a special bond with the two giraffes in the zoo. After an Israeli air raid, the male giraffe dies and his mate, Rita, won’t survive unless the veterinarian finds her a new companion. The only zoo that might provide this animal is located in Tel Aviv. Giraffada is the uncanny story of a heist… of a giraffe.
I AM YOURS (JEG ER DIN) Iram Haq, Norway International Premiere
I Am Yours is a portrait of Mina, a young Norwegian-Pakistani single mother. Mina is constantly looking for love however none of her relationships bear any hope of lasting very long. Then Mina meets Jesper, and her fortunes seem to change…
ILO ILO Anthony Chen, Singapore North American Premiere
Teresa, a Filipino immigrant, is hired as a live-in-maid by a family in Singapore. After some initial trouble, she forms a unique bond with grade-schooler Jiale, which in turn alters the relationship between her and the other members of the family, as between Jiale and his overstressed parents.
THE MILITANT (EL LUGAR DEL HIJO) Manolo Nieto, Uruguay World Premiere
A university student involved in militant leftist activism is faced with some difficult decisions when his father suddenly dies, leaving him in charge of their troubled ranch and forcing him to take on the role of a middle class landowner.
MIRACLE (ZÁZRAK) Juraj Lehotsky, Slovakia/Czech Republic International Premiere
Miracles is the story of 15-year-old Ela who is sent to a re-education centre. She yearns for love, but is not allowed to love. Despite all the restrictions, she decides to live her life to the fullest.
MY LOVE AWAITS ME BY THE SEA (HABIBI BISTANANI AND IL BAHAR) Mais Darwazah, Germany/Jordan/Palestine/Qatar World Premiere
My Love Awaits Me by the Sea is filmmaker Mais Darwazah’s personal journey of self-discovery to “a place that only exists in your mind”. Retracing the last steps of late artist Hasan Hourani — a lover whom she has never met — she meets characters and visits their intimate worlds in search of ‘the dream’, and sees how it is still alive within modern day Palestine, even amidst a very different reality of the outside world of occupation.
OF GOOD REPORT Jahmil X.T. Qubeka, South Africa International Premiere
Schoolteacher Parker Sithole (Mothusi Magano) has arrived in a rural South African township with no local connections, but his unassuming disposition inspires trust and sympathy, and he is deemed “of good report” with a glowing recommendation from his previous employer. But when he falls in love with a young woman only to discover that she is one of his new pupils, their love story goes awry, and secrets and obsession tear them apart. Controversial and uncompromising, Of Good Report is not your typical crime of passion.
PALO ALTO Gia Coppola, USA North American Premiere
Teddy, April, Fred and Emily are teens left largely to their own devices due to parental foolishness and neglect. They seek diversion and connectedness in each other’s company, wandering through the homes, parks and playgrounds of their tree-lined suburb. But communication is so very difficult. They struggle to articulate their feelings. Their parties may be wild and raucous… but they are alone. Starring James Franco, Emma Roberts, Jack Kilmer, Nat Wolff and Zoe Levin.
PARADISE (PARAISO) Mariana Chenillo, Mexico World Premiere
Overweight childhood sweethearts Carmen and Alfredo have re-located from the suburbs to the city. Feeling out of her element and subconscious about her body, Carmen joins a weight loss program and asks her husband to join. Ironically, he sheds the pounds and the distance between them grows, putting their relationship to the test.
SALVATION ARMY (L’ARMÉE DU SALUT) Abdellah Taïa, France North American Premiere
The story of Abdellah’s coming of age in two parts — first as a teenager in Morocco, the second as a university student in Geneva. Inspired by the filmmaker’s own autobiographical novel that carries the same title, Salvation Army is as much a film about inhibition, hypocrisy, brutality, and shame as it is about desire, love, dignity and survival.
SOUTH IS NOTHING (IL SUD È NIENTE) Fabio Mollo, France/Italy World Premiere
Grazia lives in a small town on the Strait of Messina (Southern Italy) with her father, Cristiano, who sells dried fish. She was 12 when her older brother Pietro emigrated to Germany and never came back. One day, Cristiano says that Pietro is dead and he never wants to talk about it again.
THE STAG John Butler, Ireland World Premiere
At his fiancée’s urging, a very modern Irish groom-to-be reluctantly agrees to a stag weekend with his friends, camping in the western wilderness of Ireland. Much to their chagrin, these modern men are joined by the brother of the bride, a crazy, unpredictable alpha male known as “The Machine”, and an explosive Id to their collective Ego. The Machine is a force of nature, and under his leadership, the men—stripped of modern comfort, convenience and, finally, clothing—must begin their journey into the wild.
THE SUMMER OF FLYING FISH (EL VERANO DE LOS PECES VOLADORES) Marcela Said, Chile/France North American Premiere
Manena is a very determined teenager, and the darling daughter of Pancho, a rich Chilean landowner who devotes his vacations to a single obsession: the extermination of carp fish that invade his artificial lagoon. As he resorts to more and more extreme methods, Manena experiences her first love, deception, and discovers a world that silently co-exists alongside her own: that of the Mapuche Indian workers who claim access to these lands… and who stand up to her father.
TRAP STREET (SHUYIN JIE) Vivian Qu, China North American Premiere
Li Qiuming is a young trainee at a digital mapping company. One day while out surveying, Qiuming has a brief encounter with an attractive woman who disappears into a quiet alley. He soon learns that the data he collected of this alley cannot register in his company’s mapping system. He goes back to the area for a second survey…
Canadian films previously announced in the Discovery programme include: Gia Milani’s All the Wrong Reasons, Jeff Barnaby’s Rhymes for Young Ghouls and Chloé Robichaud’s Sarah Prefers to Run.