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Toronto Film Festival's platform lineup welcomes Nicole Kidman, Elisabeth Moss and Jamie Bell

Toronto Film Festival's platform lineup welcomes Nicole Kidman, Elisabeth Moss and Jamie Bell
Elisabeth Moss in "Her Smell," written and directed by Alex Ross Perry. (Toronto International Film Festival)

Now in its fourth year, the Toronto International Film Festival’s platform section — known for launching breakout films such as “Moonlight,” “Jackie” and “The Death of Stalin” — will dive head first into topical waters.

“It’s probably very much a reflection of the moment that we’re in right now, a moment where people are feeling besieged,” Piers Handling, director and CEO of TIFF, said of the “intense” lineup. “That sense of siege is something that we saw in a lot of the films, to be honest. People trapped, people trying to find their way. It tends to be films that deal with those strong ideas.”

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The only juried competition at the festival, the section features 12 titles from international filmmakers.

“Destroyer,” a police thriller directed by Karyn Kusama and starring Nicole Kidman, brings the biggest injection of star power into this year’s program and will have its international premiere at the festival. (A designation that points to a likely premiere earlier at the Telluride Film Festival.)

Ten of the other titles in this year’s platform selection are world premieres, including the opening-night film, Tim Sutton’s “Donnybrook,” starring Jamie Bell and Frank Grillo in a story of poverty and survival.

Jamie Bell in "Donnybrook," written and directed by Tim Sutton
Jamie Bell in "Donnybrook," written and directed by Tim Sutton (Toronto International Film Festival)

“I set out to make a film that reckons with the extreme times we are living in,” Sutton said in a statement. While creating it I found not only darkness, fear and violence but also beauty, tenderness and wonder.”

The other American film in the selection is Alex Ross Perry’s “Her Smell,” starring Elisabeth Moss along with an ensemble cast including Cara Delevingne, Ashley Benson, Amber Heard, Virginia Madsen, Dan Stevens and Eric Stoltz in a story of rock-and-roll destruction and redemption. The film was also announced earlier this week as part of the New York Film Festival lineup.

The program will close with the French film “Jessica Forever,” directed by Caroline Poggi and Jonathan Vinel, about a group of troubled teenagers and a woman who tries to help them. The festival’s official release singled it out as the section’s “standout feature directorial debut.”

Also in the program are Markus Schleinzer’s “Angelo,” Ho Wi Ding’s “Cities of Last Things,” Alejandra Márquez Abella’s “The Good Girls,” Simon Jaquemet’s “The Innocent,” Emmanuel Mouret’s “Mademoiselle de Joncquiéres,” Carol Morley’s “Out of Blue,” Emir Baigazin’s “The River” and Benjamin Naishtat’s “Rojo.”

“The program is attempting to be a mix of both creativity and innovation, with very strong subject matter,” Handling said. “Maybe the most innovative filmmakers right now — their innovations are not formal experiments, their innovations are trying to grapple with the here and now in some kind of meaningful way.”

Amid concerns and criticism that the overall TIFF program has become so all-encompassing — taking in everything from star-studded Oscar hopefuls to the most rigorous of arthouse obscurities — that many films were getting lost in the undertow, the platform section has been a way to shine a light directly on a few specific films.

“It’s really important for us as a festival to have as many counterbalances as we can. The natural coverage of media and certainly the audience will gravitate to the award-worthy films. And of course the festival is much more than just that,” Handling said.

In addition to the breakout success stories, past platform sections have included an international array of critically acclaimed work including “Lady Macbeth,” “Brad’s Status,” “Sweet Country,” “Custody,” “Nocturama,” “Beast,” “High-Rise” and “Land of Mine.”

“Platform is very much an attempt to put a focus on 12 films that we feel are innovative, creative, full of imagination and [give them] equal place in a festival of our kind along with the award films,” Handling said.

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