The Toronto International Film Festival’s 2019 lineup continues to take shape with announcements for the Midnight Madness, Documentary, Discovery and Cinematheque programs.
Midnight Madness, a showcase for genre filmmakers, has often been one of the most routinely crowd-pleasing sections of the festival. In contrast to last year’s midnight program, which included high-profile American titles such as “The Predator” and “Halloween” from veteran filmmakers, half of this year’s 10-film lineup comes from first-time feature directors with an emphasis on international work.
“This is really a year of discovery,” said Peter Kuplowsky, lead programmer for Midnight Madness, in a phone interview from Toronto. “It wasn’t that I wasn’t looking at studio stuff, but it’s just that I really reacted strongly to these emerging figures, and I felt like I was seeing the next couple of years of genre filmmaking.”
The opening selection is Jeff Barnaby’s “Blood Quantum,” a Canadian zombie story set among an isolated Mi’gmaq community. The closing film is Isaac Nabwana’s “Crazy World,” a celebration of the Ugandan film movement known as Wakaliwood.
Cult favorite helmer Richard Stanley (1990’s “Hardware,” which also played Midnight Madness) returns with “Color Out of Space,” an H.P. Lovecraft adaptation starring Nicolas Cage and produced by Elijah Wood’s SpectreVision.
Japanese director Takashi Miike also returns to the festival with “First Love.” It is his ninth film to play in the section, more than any other filmmaker.
Other titles include Joko Anwar’s “Gundala” from Indonesia, Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia’s “The Platform” from Spain, Rose Glass’ “Saint Maud” from the United Kingdom and Keith Thomas’ “The Vigil” from the U.S.
As the section continues to expand beyond the traditional definition of genre films, Kuplowsky noted that the rowdy and dedicated Midnight Madness audiences are more open-minded than many might expect. Recent audience awards in the section have gone to Joseph Kahn’s rap satire “Bodied” and Vasan Bala’s martial-arts romance “The Man Who Feels No Pain.”
“As much as they can be considered an audience that just wants comfort food, that just wants the same thing over and over again, I don’t really think that’s the case,” he said. “I think they’re always looking for that next surprise, the next movie that does something different from the last. And genre fans I think are really interested in being the first to see that happen, to be in that audience and be a part of that conversation.”
TIFF’s documentary program will include 25 films, including 18 world premieres from 18 countries.
“This year’s program captures characters you’ll never forget: lovers, fighters, dancers, athletes, despots, rebels, hustlers, and heroes,” said Thom Powers, documentary programmer at the festival, in a statement. “We’ll be talking about these films for a long time to come.”
The section will open with Feras Fayyad’s “The Cave,” about an underground hospital in Syria. Actress and filmmaker Bryce Dallas Howard explores fatherhood in “Dads,” featuring her own father, Ron Howard. “Cunningham,” directed by Alla Kovgan and shot in 3-D, captures dancer Merce Cunningham. Ebs Burnough directed “The Capote Tapes,” a biography of writer Truman Capote.
“And We Go Green,” about racing electric cars, is directed by Fisher Stevens and Malcolm Venville and produced by Leonardo DiCaprio. “Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator” is Eva Orner’s look at the controversial yoga teacher. Alex Gibney’s “Citizen K” profiles Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
Over in the Discovery program, 37 films represent 35 countries, with 54% of the selection directed by women. Though many of the titles in the section come from filmmakers who are currently unknown to broader international audiences, filmmakers who have had early work screen in the Discovery program include Barry Jenkins, Maren Ade, Yorgos Lanthimos, Alfonso Cuarón, Christopher Nolan, Jean-Marc Vallée, Jafar Panahi and Dee Rees.
This year’s Discovery program opens with Chiara Malta’s “Simple Women,” about a filmmaker meeting an actress she idolizes. Other titles in the section include David Raboy’s “The Giant,” Antoneta Kastrati’s “ZANA,” Filippo Meneghetti’s “Two of Us,” Hisham Saqr’s “Certified Mail,” Jorunn Myklebust Syversen’s “Disco” Kim Seung-woo’s “Bring Me Home,” Klaudia Reynicke’s “Love Me Tender” and Neasa Hardiman’s “Sea Fever.”
Dorota Lech, lead programmer of the Discovery section, said in a statement that the selection is, “a showcase of films that — regardless of form — expand, embolden or even challenge notions of storytelling beyond what is established or expected. … As in previous years, it is a place to find work that could be poetic, bold or challenging, but that is always passionate.”
As part of the TIFF’s repertory Cinematheque program, five older titles will be featured during the festival. Euzhan Palcy’s “A Dry White Season” will have a 30th anniversary screening. Pablo Larrain’s 2012 film “No” will screen, as his new “Ema” also plays at the festival. Musician Robbie Robertson, subject of the opening night documentary, “Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band,” will introduce a screening of Martin Scorsese’s concert film “The Last Waltz.”
German filmmaker Angela Schanelec will present Robert Bresson’s “Pickpocket.” “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” director Rian Johnson, who will be at the festival for the world premiere of his mystery whodunit “Knives Out,” will introduce Herbert Ross’ mystery whodunit “The Last of Sheila.”