17 for ’17: The Top Films to See at the Toronto International Film Festival

Now that we’ve come down from the rarefied air of Telluride, it’s time to head north for the Toronto International Film Festival. Known for its audience-friendly programming and major industry presence, TIFF is the last stop in the early fall Venice-Telluride-Toronto trifecta. With an abundance of big premieres on its slate however, this mainstay of Toronto culture is certainly no after-thought.

Indeed, despite a decision to scale down the number of films – by a considerable 20% – this year, there is still a plethora of choices for all tastes. With a total of 255 feature films to be shown, Oscar campaigns will be launched (or face an early death) and new talent will be discovered among an array of diverse perspectives from all around the globe. And notably, about a third of these films are directed by women, a significant contrast to the low numbers seen at other major festivals like Venice and Cannes.

In short, if you love movies, Toronto is the place to be over the next 10 days. And with so many enticing choices, Awards Circuit is here to guide you with our 17 Films to See at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival:


Call Me by Your Name

Although a whopping 147 films at TIFF are listed as world premieres, some of the most anticipated titles already made their mark at other festivals. Way back in January, “Call Me by Your Name” gained instant Oscar buzz as the clear standout of the Sundance Film Festival. After a few stops on the festival circuit, this gay romance drama starring Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet is now set to ravish Toronto audiences through the always stylish direction of Luca Guadagnino. Meanwhile, another LGBT-themed film also makes its way to TIFF by way of Berlin. Sebastián Lelio’s “A Fantastic Woman” picked up that festival’s Best Screenplay award for its emotional story about a transgender waitress/singer coping with the death of her boyfriend.

For those seeking lighter fare, a pair of festival darlings should provide the laughs. Audiences will surely relish the chance to see Ruben Östlund’s “The Square“, winner of the prestigious  Palme d’Or winner at the Cannes Film Festival. This Swedish satire of the postmodern art world features an intriguing mix of international talent, including actors Elisabeth Moss and Dominic West. And finally, “The Disaster Artist” will have its official world premiere at TIFF, following ecstatic reviews for a work-in-progress cut at South By Southwest. Directed by and starring James Franco, this comedy goes behind the scenes of the legendarily terrible cult classic “The Room”.



One of the great benefits of attending a film festival is the chance to see a film that won’t play at your nearest multiplex. Over the years, TIFF’s Contemporary World Cinema programme has satisfied that appetite with exciting international films from emerging filmmakers. The 2017 lineup is no different, with Annemarie Jacir’s “Wajib” (Palestine’s Oscar submission), Juraj Lehotsky’s “Nina” (a Slovakian film about a 12-year old swimming star’s coming of age during her parents’ divorce) and 2-time Oscar winner Mike van Diem’s “Tulipani: Love, Honour and a Bicycle” offering invaluable insights into foreign cultures.

A selection of higher profile foreign films will also premiere in the Special Presentations section at the festival. Fans of Denmark’s gifted thespians Trine Dyrholm and Michael Nyqvist can see them in Peter Schønau Fog’s thought-provoking courtroom drama “You Disappear“. Likewise, the talents of Germany’s Diane Kruger will be on display in “In The Fade“, directed by Fatih Akin. Kruger won the Best Actress award at Cannes for her lead role as a woman seeking vengeance following the death of her husband and son in a terror attack.

Racer and the Jailbird

Last but not least, two of the hottest international stars will set the screen ablaze in “Racer and the Jailbird“. Adèle Exarchopoulos and Matthias Schoenaerts play the title characters in this crime drama from Belgian director Michaël R. Roskam, who is bidding for his second Foreign Language Oscar nomination after 2011’s “Bullhead”.


Woman Walks Ahead

Of course, what would TIFF be without the glitz and glamour of its red carpets? As always, you can expect to see fans lining up in the thousands to catch a glimpse of the A-listers promoting their latest work. Unsurprisingly, many of these projects will see these actors transforming themselves in biopics. Two to watch for are “I, Tonya” and “Woman Walks Ahead“, with Margot Robbie and Jessica Chastain playing disgraced figure skater Tonya Harding and 19th century activist-artist Catherine Weldon respectively. No such transformation is required for the iconic musician/model/actress Grace Jones however, the subject of the documentary “Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami“.

Perhaps even more intriguing are the fictional characters being brought to life in several buzzy world premieres. In addition to the aforementioned “A Fantastic Woman”, Sebastián Lelio also brings “Disobedience” (his first English-language film) to TIFF, which stars Oscar nominees Rachel McAdams and Rachel Weisz in a tale of forbidden love. A fraught romance is also a major theme in “On Chesil Beach“, starring the luminous Saoirse Ronan in her second Ian McEwan adaptation after her “Atonement” breakthrough.

If you still can’t get enough of the big names, then the sprawling ensemble of “The Death of Stalin” should be up your alley. The likes of Steve Buscemi, Jeffrey Tambor and Rupert Friend will surely deliver non-stop hilarity in this satirical comedy from Armando Iannucci, the mastermind behind “In the Loop” and TV’s “Veep”.

Roman J. Israel, Esq

In terms of star power however, TIFF saved perhaps its best announcement for last. The final addition to the festival’s slate will see the inimitable Denzel Washington playing the eponymous role of “Roman J Israel, Esq.“, an idealistic lawyer who becomes embroiled in a nerve-wracking court case. The film is Dan Gilroy’s highly anticipated follow-up to his debut thriller “Nightcrawler”, a huge breakout success at TIFF 2014.

Be sure to follow Awards Circuit for daily coverage of the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival featuring reviews, interviews, photos of these films and more.