15 Films to See at TIFF 2015

After Telluride and Venice got the ball rolling last weekend, the fall festival season charges full steam ahead this week with the Toronto International Film Festival. From September 10 to 20, all eyes will be on TIFF, where attendees will be treated to a smorgasbord of the best that world cinema has to offer. Indeed, the festival has established a reputation of programming an overwhelming lineup and this year is no different, with a whopping 289 features to choose from. As always, TIFF boasts an exciting array of Oscar hopefuls, documentaries, indies, foreign language films and more, spread across 12 programmed sections. It can therefore be a daunting task narrow down the list – whether you’re attending or just following from afar – but we’ve got you covered.

Here are 15 of the most intriguing titles to watch at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival:


zmYNg7_heavyheart_01_o4_8726658_143985984415. A HEAVY HEART

Director: Thomas Stuber
Cast: Reiner Schöne, Edin Hasanovic, Lena Lauzemis
Plot: A former East German boxing champion reduced to working as a bouncer and debt collector is forced to reflect on his life when he is diagnosed with a fatal disease.

Why I’m Excited:
Sometimes you’re in the mood for a good cry, and A Heavy Heart seems to fit the bill. This drama is the 2nd feature from one of Germany’s most promising directors Thomas Stuber, a former silver medal winner at the Student Academy Awards.


Die Heimatlosen / Fritz Bauer (AT)14. THE PEOPLE VS. FRITZ BAUER

Director: Lars Kraume
Cast: Burghart Klaußner, Ronald Zehrfeld, Robert Atzorn
Plot: The story of the man who brought high-ranking Nazi criminal Adolf Eichmann to justice.

Why I’m Excited:
While many great films have been made about Germany during Nazi rule, the ones that explore the mood of Europe in the aftermath are often even more interesting (like recent Foreign Language Oscar winner Ida). Lars Kraume’s The People vs Fritz Bauer looks to be one such example, telling the true story of German Attorney General Fritz Bauer, who went on a relentless crusade to track down a Nazi war criminal named Adolph Eichmann during the late 1950s. His search takes him all the way to Argentina, as this thriller explores the complex nature of patriotism and justice.


76YPyQ_ixcanul_04_o4_8672084_144046483913. IXCANUL

Director: Jayro Bustamante
Cast: María Mercedes Coroy, María Telón, Manuel Manuel Antún
Plot: Maria, a 17 year old Mayan woman, lives on the slopes of an active volcano in Guatemala.

Why I’m Excited:
Jayro Bustamante’s debut feature Ixcanul was one of the most well-received films at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival, where it won the Alfred Bauer Prize for “a film that opens new perspectives on cinematic art”. More recently, the film was selected to be Guatemala’s submission for this year’s Foreign Language Oscar.


RgjJGY_RIVER_05_o4_8734572_143873802712. RIVER

Director: Jamie M. Dagg
Cast: Rossif Sutherland, Douangmany Soliphanh, Sara Botsford
Plot: In the south of Laos, an American volunteer doctor becomes a fugitive after he intervenes in the sexual assault of a young woman.

Why I’m Excited:
For thriller fans, I give you Jamie M. Dagg’s River, a collaboration of filmmakers from Canada, Laos and Thailand.  This film’s white-knuckle premise is bound to get your heart racing, as it follows the nightmarish experience of an American expat caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.


vgROy8_STRANGER(ZHAT)_01_o4_8684154_144115221011. STRANGER

Director: Yermek Tursunov
Cast: Roza Hairullina, Mikhail Karpov, Erzhan Nurymbet
Plot: Orphaned by the brutal Soviet collectivization campaign of the 1930s, a young Kazakh boy takes to the mountains and lives amongst a pack of wolves.

Why I’m Excited:
TIFF is always a great place to be introduced to talented international directors flying under the radar. Like Yermek Tursunov for example, who will be bringing his latest feature Stranger to the Comtemporary World Cinema section of the festival. Tursunov previously made the Foreign Language Oscar shortlist with his 2009 film Kelin, and will be aiming to secure a nomination this time around as Kazakhstan’s official submission.


vgLW08_downriver_01_o4_8765598_144051015310. DOWNRIVER

Director: Grant Scicluna
Cast: Robert Taylor, Tom Green, Kerry Fox
Plot: James has served time for drowning a little boy when he was a child, although the body was never found in the river.

Why I’m Excited:
Through the efforts of directors like David Michôd and Justin Kurzel, Australia has produced some of the most outstanding crime dramas of the past five years. With his debut feature Downriver, Grant Scicluna aims to join their esteemed company, promising a film rich in atmosphere and shrouded in mystery.


oYJQZB_wave_01_o4_8780006_14398611099. THE WAVE

Director: Roar Uthaug
Cast: Kristoffer Joner, Thomas Bo Larsen, Fridtjov Såheim
Plot: Even though awaited, no-one is really ready when the mountain pass of Åkneset above the scenic narrow Norwegian fjord Geiranger falls out and creates a 85 meter high violent tsunami.

Why I’m Excited:

While Venice opened with the high-profile premiere of Everest, TIFF will screen a disaster epic of its own, in the form of Roar Uthaug’s The Wave. This Foreign Oscar submission from Norway is inspired by the nerve-wracking events surrounding a tsunami that occurred 80 years ago.


nZ6KXY_spear_04_o4_8755393_14405100658. SPEAR

Director: Stephen Page
Cast: Aaron Pedersen, Hunter Page-Lochard, Troy Honeysett
Plot: A young man reconciles ancient tradition with the modern, urban world in this debut feature from Stephen Page, artistic director of Australia’s renowned Bangarra Dance Theatre.

Why I’m Excited:
Stephen Page will surely bring a unique perspective to the Discovery section at TIFF with Spear, which incorporates dance, music and cinema in one artful package. The film should especially appeal to those who love dance.



Director: Peter Sollett
Cast: Ellen Page, Julianne Moore, Steve Carell
Plot: New Jersey police lieutenant, Laurel Hester, and her registered domestic partner, Stacie Andree, both battle to secure Hester’s pension benefits when she is diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Who I’m Excited:
Julianne Moore returns to Toronto for a metaphorical victory lap after the successful Oscar run of TIFF premiere Still Alice, as she celebrates the world premiere of her new film Freeheld. This topical drama is based on an Oscar-winning short of the same name, and boasts one of the most impressive ensembles in the festival, with Oscar nominees Ellen Page, Steve Carell and Michael Shannon among the cast.


isawthelight6. I SAW THE LIGHT

Director: Marc Abraham
Cast: Elizabeth Olsen, Tom Hiddleston, David Krumholtz
Plot: A biography of Hank Williams.

Why I’m Excited:
The comparisons to Walk the Line have already begun ahead of the world premiere of Marc Abraham’s I Saw the Light, starring Tom Hiddleston as legendary country singer Hank Williams. But even if it doesn’t live up that Oscar pedigree, it should make for a noteworthy film in its own right. As our own Jack Moulton pointed out, this biopic is long overdue.


VmnpMM_GIRLSLOST_04_o4_8690073_14398591545. GIRLS LOST

Director: Alexandra-Therese Keining
Cast: Simon Settergren, Josefin Neldén, Lars Väringer
Plot: Three outcast teenage girls get a new perspective on high-school life when they are mysteriously transformed into boys, in this skillfully crafted tale of sexual confusion with a supernatural twist.

Why I’m Excited:
Did you read that plot synopsis? If that doesn’t pique your interest, then I don’t know what will.


Wno16Q_borntobeblue_01_o4_8721730_14387376564. BORN TO BE BLUE

Director: Robert Budreau
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Carmen Ejogo, Callum Keith Rennie
Plot: Jazz legend Chet Baker searches for love and redemption when he is approached to star in a movie about his own troubled life in order to mount a comeback in the late 1960s.

Why I’m Excited:
Without too much fanfare, Ethan Hawke has established himself as one of our finest actors. And Born to be Blue should be another prime showcase of his talent, as he learned to play the trumpet for the role of musician Chet Baker, in this biopic from Robert Budreau.



Director: Stephen Frears
Cast: Lee Pace, Ben Foster, Jesse Plemons
Plot: An Irish sports journalist becomes convinced that Lance Armstrong’s performances during the Tour de France victories are fueled by banned substances.

Why I’m Excited:
Among living directors, Stephen Frears surely has one of the most impressive track records when it comes to awards. For his latest Oscar hopeful, he’ll be bringing one of the biggest sporting scandals to the big screen, recounting cyclist Lance Armstrong’s very public fall from grace a few years ago. Could this be our People’s Choice Award winner?

MjBn5G_brooklyn_06_o4_8822867_14411382682. BROOKLYN

Director: John Crowley
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Domhnall Gleeson, Michael Zegen
Plot: In 1950s Ireland and New York, young Ellis Lacey has to choose between two men and two countries.

Why I’m Excited:
When John Crowley’s romance drama Brooklyn premiered at the Sundance Film Festival back in January, it was declared an instant Oscar contender, with Saoirse Ronan’s performance getting the bulk of the raves. You’ll be hearing a lot about this film in the coming months as Fox Searchlight mounts its awards campaign.



Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Naomi Watts, Wass Stevens
Plot: A successful investment banker struggles after losing his wife in a tragic car crash.

Why I’m Excited:
As of late, the TIFF opening night slot hasn’t been the best sign of quality, but I remain optimistic that Jean-Marc Vallée’s Demolition will buck the trend. Following the success of Dallas Buyers Club and Wild, this Canadian director is certainly on a roll. And with a cast that includes Jake Gyllenhaal, Naomi Watts, and Chris Cooper, it’s sure to be one of the hottest tickets in town.