60 films from countries across the globe were announced today in the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival Contemporary World Cinema program. Spotlighting work from some of the world’s finest international filmmakers, the lineup delivers an array of compelling films for Festival audiences to savor, journeying through unique and universal stories told on film.
Included in the lineup is the latest from directors Christian Zübert, Nabil Ayouch, Rúnar Rúnarsson, Alexandra-Therese Keining, Grímur Hákonarson, Erik Matti, Oliver Hermanus, Rabah Ameur-Zaimeche, Federico Veiroj, Eric Khoo, Sion Sono, Danielle Arbid, Emin Alper, and Jeremy Sims.
For the fourth year, The Toronto International Film Festival® partners with the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs on the Contemporary World Speakers series. This initiative pairs six films in the Contemporary World Cinema program with expert scholars from the Munk School. Audiences will have the opportunity to interact with filmmakers and scholars in extended discussions, following each film’s second public screening. Speakers include Stephen J. Toope, Ron Levi, Dan Brenznitz, Robert Steiner, Janice Stein, and Robert Austin. The Contemporary World Speakers series is programmed in conjunction with the TIFF Adult Learning department.
Films screening as part of the Contemporary World Cinema program include:
Leanne Pooley, New Zealand World Premiere
Award-winning filmmaker Leanne Pooley utilizes the letters and memoirs of New Zealand soldiers and nurses along with state of the art animation to tell the true story of the 1915 battle of Gallipoli. Dramatic, moving, sometimes humorous and often thrilling, the film explores an event whose resonance continues for Australians and New Zealanders to the present day.
3000 Nights (3000 Layla)
Mai Masri, Palestine/France/Jordan/Lebanon/United Arab Emirates/Qatar World Premiere
After Layal, a newlywed Palestinian schoolteacher gives birth to a baby boy in an Israeli prison, the chief warden threatens to take her baby away unless she agrees to spy on the other prisoners who are planning a major strike. 3000 Nights makes a prison into a metaphor for Palestine under occupation, exploring the complicated interplay of resilience, empathy, and psychological manipulation between women. Layal fights to survive and maintain hope.
Naomi Kawase, Japan/France/Germany North American Premiere
Sentaro runs a small bakery that serves dorayakis — pastries filled with sweet red bean paste (“an”). When an old lady, Tokue, offers to help in the kitchen, he reluctantly accepts. But Tokue proves to have magic in her hands when it comes to making “an”. Thanks to her secret recipe, the little business soon flourishes. And with time, Sentaro and Tokue will open their hearts to reveal old wounds.
The Apostate (El Apóstata) Federico Veiroj, Spain/France/Uruguay World Premiere
A young man finds himself navigating the baffling, labyrinthine bureaucracy of the Catholic Church when he attempts to formally renounce his faith, in this gently absurdist comedy from Uruguay’s Federico Veiroj (A Useful Life).
As I Open My Eyes (A peine j’ouvre les yeux)
Leyla Bouzid, Tunisia/France/Belgium North American Premiere
Tunis, summer 2010, a few months before the Revolution. Eighteen-year-old Farah is at a crossroads: to fulfill her mother’s wish and enroll in medical school or follow her passion for music. She has joined a subversive rock band, “Joujma”. As it becomes more and more visible, she does not suspect the danger of a regime that watches and infiltrates her privacy.
Yuval Delshad, Israel World Premiere
Set in northern Israel, the film tells the story of three generations of strong-willed men: Baba Joon, the patriarch who emigrated to Israel from Persia years ago; his son Yitzhak who maintains the family farm; and young Moti, who doesn’t feel beholden to Baba Joon or his father for anything.
Florin Șerban, Romania/Germany/France North American Premiere
The story by acclaimed Romanian director Florin Șerban (If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle) follows talented 19-year-old boxer Rafael, for whom a session in the ring is everything; and Cristina, an attractive 30-something mother who finds herself at a critical moment in her life. Two characters with their own secrets, two journeys, two outlooks and an intense drama that penetrates to the core.
Sandra Kogut, Brazil/France World Premiere
Eight-year-old Ygor and six-year-old Rayane were abandoned by their mother, who left them on Regina’s doorstep in Rio de Janeiro’s Ipanema neighborhood. The sudden and unexpected arrival of these children in Regina’s life and the search for their mother changes their lives.
Athina Rachel Tsangari, Greece North American Premiere (pictured above)
In the middle of the Aegean Sea, on a luxury yacht, six men on a fishing trip have decided to play a game. Things will be measured, blood will be tested. The man who wins will be the best man, and he will wear upon his littlest finger the victorious signet ring: the “Chevalier”.
A Copy of My Mind
Joko Anwar, Indonesia/South Korea North American Premiere
She gives facials in a cheap beauty salon. He makes subtitles for pirated DVDs. They find a soulmate in each other. But their love is threatened to a tragic end when she stumbles upon evidence of a corruption case linked to a presidential candidate’s closest aides.
Charlie Vundla, South Africa World Premiere
Smanga is a successful assistant professor whose life suddenly unravels when his wife leaves him. He spirals into an alcohol, marijuana and sex-fuelled tail spin that places the status of his sanity, career and house in jeopardy. However, with the emergence of a long lost former classmate Jon, he finds the support to fix his life.
Embrace of the Serpent (El Abrazo de la Serpiente)
Ciro Guerra, Colombia/Venezuela/Argentina North American Premiere
A tale of the first encounter, approach, betrayal and life-transcending friendship between an Amazonian shaman, last survivor of his people, and two explorers that become the first men to travel the Northwest Amazon in search of ancestral knowledge.
The Endless River (La Rivière sans fin)
Oliver Hermanus, South Africa/France North American Premiere
A fierce crime drama set against an unforgiving landscape, The Endless River is a story about morality, love, revenge and forgiveness.
The Fear (La Peur)
Damien Odoul, France World Premiere
Gabriel, an introverted young man, finds terror and appalling carnage in the hell-on-earth of the trenches between 1914 and 1918. At the end of his horrifying interior journey through the conflict — full of sound, fury and blood — he will discover his own humanity
Emin Alper, Turkey/France North American Premiere
In the new film from award-winning Turkish writer-director Emin Alper, an ex-con, just released after serving a 15-year sentence, is recruited as a police informant as political violence grips Istanbul.
*Stephen J. Toope, Director of the Munk School of Global Affairs and an officer of the Order of Canada, is an international scholar on law, human rights, and global affairs. He will speak about Frenzy in a Q&A session following the second public screening of the film.
Alexandra-Therese Keining, Sweden World Premiere
Kim, Bella and Momo, three bullied teenage girls, are going through the throes of finding themselves. Surrounded by a dark world of teenage violence, marginalization and sexual confusion, the girls have only each other. They come across a curious magical plant that, when consumed, transforms the girls temporarily into boys. Not only does their gender change, the world around them, and their response to it, is altered.
Granny’s Dancing on the Table
Hanna Sköld, Sweden World Premiere
Thirteen-year-old Eini grows up isolated from society with her violent father, a man afraid of the world, who keeps her very close. The brutality that Eini is exposed to pushes her to almost lose her sense of self — but through the power of her own imagination she is able to create a world from which she can draw strength to survive.
A Heavy Heart (Herbert)
Thomas Stuber, Germany World Premiere
Director Thomas Stuber (winner of the Student Academy Award) tells the story of an aging boxer from the former East who learns he has limited time to try to rectify the mistakes of his past.
Homesick (De nærmeste)
Anne Sewitsky, Norway Canadian Premiere
When Charlotte, 27, meets her half-brother Henrik, 35, for the first time as an adult, it becomes an encounter without boundaries, between two people who don’t know what a normal family is. How does sibling love manifest itself if you have never experienced it before? Homesick is an unusual family drama about seeking a family, and breaking every rule to be one.
Hong Kong Trilogy: Preschooled Preoccupied Preposterous
Christopher Doyle, Hong Kong World Premiere
This is a story of Hong Kong told by three generations. The voices you hear onscreen come from real life interviews. The film is a dream as well as a document, as each generation wonders how to live, here and now.
Honor Thy Father
Erik Matti, Philippines World Premiere
An idyllic family’s life crumbles when the couple, Edgar and Kaye, discover that the investment scheme Kaye runs is one big scam. With friends turning against them and murderous big-time investors at their heels, Edgar is forced to return to his dark roots to save his family.
Lawrence Fajardo, Philippines/Japan International Premiere
Invisible essays the story of four Filipino migrant workers in Japan, in a crucial encounter that mirrors the difficult challenges that confront the “Pinoy” diaspora. The main characters in the film include Linda, a mail-to-order-bride who married a Japanese “salaryman”; Benjie, an illegal migrant worker who has been jumping from one odd job to another in the last 17 years; Manuel, an overstayer who now works as a male entertainer in a bar in the red light district; and Rodel, a newcomer who works as a day laborer
in a logging company.
In the Room
Eric Khoo, Hong Kong/Singapore World Premiere
In The Room deals with love, life and lust. Eric Khoo’s latest film is a tapestry of stories, all of which unfold in a hotel room over several decades. The common thread is sex. That hotel room is Room 27 at the Singapura Hotel, which started out as a ritzy establishment in the 1940s but has, over the decades, lost its sheen of respectability. For some, Room 27 is a nameless numbered room, a place which
provides a cloak of anonymity, where one could indulge in indiscretions and the forbidden, where their trespasses will be forgiven once they return the key and sign the bill.
Incident Light (La Luz Incidente)
Ariel Rotter, Argentina/France/Uruguay World Premiere
Since the car accident where both her husband and brother died, Luisa has not been able to put her life back together, until she meets a seductive stranger who forcefully proposes starting over. The new man’s overwhelming energy may be hiding warning signs about his character. But Luisa is confused, and the desire she feels for the new man merges with the absence of the man she lost — the possibility of rebuilding a family blurring with her own inability to accept her husband’s death.
Tolga Karaçelik, Turkey Canadian Premiere
Trapped at anchor due to a legal dispute, the skeleton crew of a cargo ship come into potentially deadly conflict with one another, in this slow-burning psychological thriller from Turkish writer-director Tolga Karaçelik.
Elisabeth Scharang, Austria North American Premiere
One winter’s night a girl freezes to death after suffering brutal injuries. Jack is convicted of her murder. When he is released from prison 15 years later, he goes from being a jailbird poet to a real ladykiller and darling of Vienna’s society. Can a man change so fundamentally? Or is it a case of once a murderer, always a murderer?
Journey to the Shore (Kishibe no tabi),
Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Japan/France North American Premiere
Mizuki’s husband drowned at sea three years ago. When he suddenly comes back home, she is not that surprised. Instead, Mizuki is wondering what took him so long. She agrees to let him take her on a journey. A touching ghost story from Japanese master Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Tokyo Sonata, Pulse).
The Kind Words (Hamilim Hatovot)
Shemi Zarhin, Israel/Canada International Premiere
At the death of their mother, three siblings are shocked to discover that their “real” father may not be their biological father, and he in turn may be an Algerian Muslim. The Kind Words is a warm, sometimes humourous, and often dramatic story about identity and love.
*Dan Breznitz, Director of Research and Professor at the Munk School of Global Affairs, is an expert on innovation-based growth and how we respond to global changes. He will speak about The Kind Words in a Q&A session following the second public screening of the film.
Ivan Ostrochovský, Slovakia/Czech Republic North American Premiere
This subtle fusion of documentary and fiction follows a young Roma boxer as he embarks on a tragicomic return to the ring in order to pay for his girlfriend’s abortion. Koza features Peter Baláž, who competed at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, and Ján Franek, Olympic medallist from Moscow 1980, as his coach. Featuring the outstanding performances of non-professional actors and blurring the lines between representation and presence, Koza is a powerful and haunting challenge to the concept of authenticity.
Yared Zeleke, Ethiopia/France/Germany/Norway North American Premiere
After his mother dies and draught hits his village, Ephraïm, a young Ethiopian boy, has to go live with relatives at the other end of the country. He takes his mother’s lamb with him, it is his only source of comfort. One day, his uncle announces that he will have to sacrifice the lamb for the upcoming religious feast, but Ephraïm is ready to do anything to save his only friend and return home.
Last Cab to Darwin
Jeremy Sims, Australia International Premiere
Rex drives a cab and has never left Broken Hill in his life. When he discovers he doesn’t have long to live, he decides to drive across the heart of the country to Darwin, where he’s heard he will be able to die on his own terms; but along the way he discovers that before you can end your life you’ve got to live it, and to live it you’ve got to learn to share it.
*Robert Steiner, Director of the Fellowships in Global Journalism Program, is a writer and award-winning former foreign correspondent now teaching journalism at the Munk School. He will speak about Last Cab To Darwin in a Q&A session following the second public screening of the film.
Let Them Come (Maintenant ils peuvent venir)
Salem Brahimi, France/Algeria World Premiere
Algeria, at the end of the 1980s: against the background of mounting violence from a radical Islamist opposition repressed by the army, compelled by his mother, Noureddine marries Yasmina. As the conflict becomes more pronounced, he and his family have to defend themselves from the onslaught of pervasive barbarity. A chilling foray into a very contemporary drama, and remarkable adaptation from the novel with the same title by Arezki Mellal.
*Janice Stein, founding Director of the Munk School of Global Affairs and member of the Order of Canada, is an internationally renowned expert on conflict management. She will speak about Let Them Come (Maintenant ils peuvent venir) in a Q&A session following the second public screening of the film.
Salvador del Solar, Peru/Argentina/Colombia/Spain International Premiere
While driving his cab, Magallanes unexpectedly meets Celina, a woman he first met more than 20 years ago, under completely different circumstances. In what would turn out to be a personal quest for redemption, Magallanes will do everything within his power to help her overcome her difficulties, only to find out that Celina would much rather give up everything she owns than accept his help.
Mekko Sterlin Harjo, USA International Premiere
Mekko, starring Rod Rondeaux and Zahn McClarnon, tells the story of a homeless Native American parolee who discovers a chaotic yet beautiful community living on the streets of Tulsa. He also uncovers an old-world darkness that threatens to destroy them from within, one he must fight before it’s too late.
A Month of Sundays
Matthew Saville, Australia World Premiere
Real estate agent Frank Mollard won’t admit it, but he can’t move on. Divorced but still attached, he can’t sell a house in a property boom — much less connect with his teenage son. One night Frank gets a phone call from his mother. Nothing out of the ordinary. Apart from the fact that she died a year ago. A Month of Sundays is about parents, children, regrets, mourning, moments of joy, houses, homes, love, work, television, Shakespeare and jazz fusion; about ordinary people and improbable salvation — because everyone deserves a second chance.
Nabil Ayouch, Morocco/France North American Premiere
The heat of Marrakesh’s night, money flows freely to the rhythms of lusts satiated and humiliations suffered. Noha, Randa, Soukaina, and Hlima sell pleasures of the flesh. They share an apartment and form a makeshift family, united in their womanhood, full of light, dignity and joy, they manage to keep their spirits and dreams alive. Their families depend on them, and as they move from one embrace to the other, they always go home loveless. A hard-hitting but luminous drama from Moroccan director Nabil Ayouch.
*Ron Levi, Deputy Director of the Munk School and Director of the Master of Global Affairs Degree, is an expert on how people respond to crime and violence in a global context. He will speak about Much Loved in an extended Q&A session following the second public screening of the film.
Murmur of the Hearts
Sylvia Chang, Taiwan/Hong Kong North American Premiere
Legendary Taiwanese actress and filmmaker Sylvia Chang directs this magical story of estranged siblings whose shared memories of their mother’s fairy tales begin to draw their lives together once again.
One Breath (Ein Atem)
Christian Zübert, Germany World Premiere
One Breath is the story of two women from different backgrounds but with the same desire: happiness. Elena, young, well-educated and with no perspective in her home country, Greece, is trying to pursue a better life. And Tessa, a 30-something mother and successful manager in Germany, is torn between happiness as an individual and a mother. These two women meet and their encounter changes both their lives forever.
*Robert Austin, Associate Professor at the Munk School’s Centre for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies, is an expert on East Central and Southeastern Europe and coordinates the Hellenic Studies Program. He will speak about One Breath in a Q&A session following the second public screening of the film.
One Floor Below (Un Etaj mai Jos)
Radu Muntean, Romania/France/Germany/Sweden North American Premiere
After being the sole unfortunate witness to a domestic quarrel that ends up in a murder, Sandu finds himself at odds with two very close neighbors. One is the bizarre murderer, the other is his very own conscience.
Parisienne (Peur de rien)
Danielle Arbid, France World Premiere
The new film from Lebanese director Danielle Arbid follows a young Arab immigrant in Paris, whose encounters with three men reveal different facets of her new country, and of herself.
Paths of the Soul (Kang Rinpoche)
Zhang Yang, China World Premiere
Director Zhang Yang blurs documentary and fiction in this account of a band of pilgrims who make a 2,000-kilometre journey on foot to Lhasa, the holy capital of Tibet and beyond.
THE PEOPLE vs. FRITZ BAUER (Der Staat gegen Fritz Bauer)
Lars Kraume, Germany North American Premiere
Germany, 1957. Attorney general Fritz Bauer receives crucial evidence on the whereabouts of SS-Obersturmbannführer Adolf Eichmann, the man responsible for the mass deportation of the Jews. Because of his distrust in the German justice system, Bauer contacts the Israeli secret service Mossad, thereby committing treason.
Price of Love
Hermon Hailay, Ethiopia North American Premiere
A young Addis Ababa taxi driver’s cab is stolen when he gets caught up in the dark side of love. He finds himself stuck in a relationship with a prostitute, making him confront his past and discover the price of love.
Grímur Hákonarson, Iceland Canadian Premiere
Winner of the Un Certain Regard prize at this year’s Cannes festival, Grímur Hákonarson’s stunningly shot drama focuses on two Icelandic sheep farmers whose decades-long feud comes to a head when disaster strikes their flocks.
Schneider vs. Bax
Alex van Warmerdam, Netherlands/Belgium North American Premiere
Schneider, a hit-man, is given a task: before the night has passed he must kill the writer Ramon Bax.
Song of Songs (Pesn pesney)
Eva Neymann, Ukraine North American Premiere
1905. A Jewish Shtetl. Shimek and Buzya are two 10-year-olds. Of course, she is a princess and he is a prince. They live in the same yard, in neighbouring palaces. Years later Shimek begins to understand what Buzya really means to him when he receives the news that she is about to be married.
Rúnar Rúnarsson, Iceland/Denmark World Premiere
Sparrows is a coming-of-age story about 16-year-old Ari, who has been living with his mother in Reykjavik and is suddenly sent back to the remote Westfjords to live with his father Gunnar. There, he has to navigate a difficult relationship with his father, and he finds his childhood friends changed. In these hopeless and declining surroundings, Ari has to step up and find his way.
Starve Your Dog
Hicham Lasri, Morocco World Premiere
Fifteen years after he was dismissed of his functions, the former Minister of Interior during Morocco’s sinister decade of repression steps out of the shadows to make his confessions and disclose the monarchy’s dark secrets. He calls a filmmaker, famous for her daring documentaries during the time when he was in power, before the change of reign. She reunites the technical crew that was once her professional family — and while nothing seems to fall into place, she risks missing the confessions.
Andrew Currie, Canada World Premiere
An uptight New Yorker and his party girl sister visit their dad at his lake house to meet his new wife and her rough-around-the-edges kids. When the parents announce they’re adopting a child to bring the family closer together, it has the opposite effect. Starring Jason Ritter, Emmanuelle Chriqui, James Brolin and Christine Lahti.
Story of Judas (Histoire de Judas)
Rabah Ameur-Zaïmeche, France North American Premiere
Rabah Ameur-Zaimeche’s bold re-imagining the story of the Biblical figure of Judas Iscariot proposes that he is not a traitor, but rather Jesus’ most loyal and trusted disciple and steward. As Jesus’ teachings astound more and more crowds, he attracts the attention of resistance groups, high priests and the Roman authorities. When he drives the merchants from the Temple, Judas shows himself to be the guardian of the words of the master.
Yermek Tursunov, Kazakhstan World Premiere
Stranger is a film about freedom, with one man’s fate in focus. The times are hard: 1930s to 1940s Kazakhstan. A Kazakh steppe is scourged by famine, wasteland, collectivization and war. Having lost his father, a 9-year-old boy gathers his belongings and disappears. He lives alone in the mountain cave. Years pass by and returning to his village seems almost impossible.
Te prometo anarquía (I Promise You Anarchy )
Julio Hernández Cordón, Mexico/Germany North American Premiere
Childhood friends Miguel and Johnny are dedicated to skating and having fun. To earn easy money and continue skating they secretly sell their blood. Business is good, until a large transaction turns out to be not as they imagined.
Thank You for Bombing
Barbara Eder, Austria World Premiere
Three international TV correspondents — Ewald (Erwin Steinhauer), Lana (Manon Kahle) and Cal (Raphael von Bargen) — cross paths while waiting for a war that has already begun long ago in their own lives.
The Treasure (Comoara)
Corneliu Porumboiu, Romania/France North American Premiere
Two neighbours set out to unearth a buried treasure in their own backyard, in this delightful fusion of contemporary fairy tale and political parable from Romanian New Wave master Corneliu Porumboiu (Police, Adjective).
Cesc Gay, Spain/Argentina World Premiere
After being diagnosed with terminal cancer, a Madrid man resolves to spend his last days putting his affairs in order, in this delicate and intimate drama from Spanish director Cesc Gay. A humorous and honest portrait of the courage it takes to accept that death is just another part of life.
The Whispering Star (Hiso Hiso Boshi)
Sion Sono, Japan World Premiere
Sion Sono wrote the screenplay and drew the accompanying storyboards in 1990, and 25 years later they’ve materialized into this black and white science fiction movie.
Previously announced Canadian titles in the Contemporary World Cinema programme include Kazik Radwanski’s How Heavy this Hammer, Anne Émond’s Les êtres chers, Philippe Falardeau’s My Internship in Canada and Igor Drljača’s The Waiting Room.
The 40th Toronto International Film Festival runs September 10 to 20, 2015.