Top 10: Hottest Films Premiering at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival

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With all the buzz emanating from the Venice and Telluride film festivals, there’s no denying that the fall movie season is upon us. Indeed, films like “Ford v Ferrari” and “Marriage Story” have already ignited Oscar talk about journalists, as some of the year’s most anticipated films have finally made their debuts. But while several of these contenders seem to be booking their places at the Oscars, there are still many challengers waiting in the wings as the Toronto International Film Festival brings their own exclusive premieres to the table. As a smorgasbord of films jostle for attention among its famously massive slate, here are 10 world premieres we are most excited about for TIFF 2019.



TIFF has been known as a significant launching pad for a Best Actress campaign, most notably for Julianne Moore’s overdue win for 2014’s “Still Alice.” With a number of films featuring showcase roles for women, it’s particularly worth keeping an eye on the various biopics about extraordinary women. In particular, Marjane Satrapi’sRadioactive,” starring Rosamund Pike as the pioneering scientist Marie Curie and the highly anticipated “Harriet“, which sees Kasi Lemmons directing Cynthia Erivo as the iconic freedom fighter Harriet Tubman.

On the documentary side, fans of non-fiction filmmaking should also be interested in Feras Fayyad’sThe Cave“, which serves as the TIFF Docs Opening Film. Fayyad’s previous effort “Last Men in Aleppo” was one of the best documentaries of 2017 and earned an Oscar nod for Best Documentary Feature. And as he returns to Syria to tell the story of a hidden female-led hospital during the war, “The Cave” could see Fayyad entering the Oscar conversation once again.


‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’

More than any of the world’s major festivals, TIFF is audience-driven. Its TIFF People’s Choice Award is one of the most coveted prizes on the circuit, with a reputation for announcing the arrival of new stars and potential awards darlings. This year, there are several filmmakers and actors from the world of independent cinema who will be hoping to capture some of that unique, star-making magic at TIFF. At the top of the list is Marielle Heller’sA Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood“, the Tom Hanks-starring biopic of the beloved TV personality Mister Rogers. Already being tipped as an early favorite for the aforementioned People’s Choice Award, it marks the first studio film for Heller, who previously wowed with her debut “The Diary of a Teenage Girl” and the Oscar-nominated “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

Another up-and-coming director hoping to make the transition from indie success to mainstream recognition is Destin Daniel Cretton, of “Short Term 12” fame. Though his follow-up “The Glass Castle” received a muted response, expectations are high for “Just Mercy.” This true story of a wrongfully convicted death row prisoner will see Cretton reuniting with Brie Larson, in addition to a stacked cast that includes Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx.

Also destined to be hot tickets at the fest are the premieres of Cory Finley’sBad Education” and Coky Giedroyc’sHow to Build a Girl.” The former stars Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney in a dramedy about a public school embezzlement scandal, while the latter will feature the talents of rising star Beanie Feldstein in the coming-of-age story of an aspiring music critic.


‘Lucy in the Sky’

One of the biggest film-related stories this year has been Disney’s acquisition of Fox and by extension, Fox Searchlight, raising concerns over the future of a distributor known for director-driven films. This was further compounded when it was recently reported that a “Disney Executive Fears Taika Waititi’s Nazi Satire ‘Jojo Rabbit’ Is Too Edgy For Studio Image.” Coming from the distinctive mind of writer-director Taika Waititi,Jojo Rabbit” is one of a trio of Fox Searchlight films premiering at TIFF this year.

The other two in their lineup include: Noah Hawley’sLucy in the Sky” with Natalie Portman playing an astronaut experiencing an existential crisis, and Armando Iannucci’sThe Personal History of David Copperfield,” an adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic with Dev Patel in the titular role. Cinephiles will certainly be excited for the latest works from these visionary directors. Meanwhile, industry insiders will be paying close attention to Disney’s new modus operandi and whether it signals the end of an era, or a reinvigoration for a Fox Searchlight brand that has produced four Best Picture winners since 2008.

Be sure to follow Awards Circuit for daily coverage of these films and more at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival.

Which TIFF-bound films are you most looking forward to this year? Comment below!


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Written by Shane Slater

Shane is a passionate cinephile and Tomatometer-approved film critic residing in Kingston, Jamaica. When he's not watching or writing about film, he spends much of his time wishing he lived in a big city. Shane is an avid world traveler and loves attending film festivals. He is a member of the African-American Film Critics Association.


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