Toronto Film Festival mounts a comeback with ‘Dune’ in Imax

Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya, Javier Bardem and Timothée Chalamet in a scene from  'Dune.'
Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica Atreides, from left, Zendaya as Chani, Javier Bardem as Stilgar and Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides in “Dune.”
(Chiabella James / Warner Bros.)

As life moves to a post-vaccinated new normal, film festivals are looking to bring people together once again.

While key festivals in Cannes, Venice and Telluride are forging ahead with primarily in-person events, the Toronto International Film Festival will once again go the hybrid route mixing in-person and digital screenings for this year’s edition, scheduled for Sept. 9-18.

TIFF’s first official 2021 programming announcement does promise a return to in-person screenings at some of its signature venues. The festival will also include drive-in and outdoor screenings in Toronto, and — for the first time — screenings at venues all across Canada. Digital screenings will be available to the general public in Canada (as well as international accredited press and industry), while a program of talks and Q&As will be available online worldwide.


Where last year’s festival only had 50 features, this year the festival plans to include over 100 films. Among them will be an Imax screening of Denis Villeneuve’s much-anticipated sci-fi epic “Dune,” which will follow the previously announced Venice Film Festival world premiere. Originally scheduled for 2020, Warner Bros. will release the film Oct. 1.

Fewer than a dozen titles have been revealed so far for TIFF, including Edgar Wright’s psychological thriller “Last Night in Soho,” starring Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith and the late Diana Rigg in her final film appearance. Focus Features has set an October theatrical release.

Thomasin McKenzie looks to the side in a scene from 'Last Night in Soho'
Thomasin McKenzie stars as Ellie in Edgar Wright’s “Last Night in Soho,” a Focus Features release.
(Parisa Taghizadeh / Focus Features)

Additional titles include Kenneth Branagh’s period drama “Belfast” with Caitriona Balfe and Jamie Dornan, also from Focus; Eric Warin and Tahir Rana’s animated “Charlotte”; Philip Noyce’s Naomi Watts thriller “Lakewood,” which was filmed under COVID-19 protocols; Theodore Melfi’s Melissa McCarthy dramedy “The Starling” from Netflix; and a pair of music documentaries: Dave Wooley and David Heilbroner’s “Dionne Warwick: Don’t Make Me Over” and Alison Klayman’s HBO-produced “Jagged,” about Canadian icon Alanis Morissette’s “Jagged Little Pill” album.

Two more titles premiered earlier this year in the Berlin Film Festival lineup: Danis Goulet’s “Night Raiders,” a dystopian sci-fi story with a primarily Indigenous cast, and “Portrait of a Lady” filmmaker Céline Sciamma’s coming-of-age fable “Petite Maman.”

The festival will announce titles in the splashy gala and special presentations sections on July 20, with additional announcements to follow on July 28 and Aug. 11.

“We are so proud of the calibre of the films and the diversity of the stories we will be presenting this year,” said Joana Vicente, TIFF executive director and co-head, in a statement. “It is so powerful to be able to share these films with Festival-goers in theatres. And while the world is definitely moving towards a degree of normalcy, many of our industry and press colleagues may not be able to travel across international borders. … We believe that digital access is an important part of providing accessibility to audiences and will be vital to the future of film festivals. This inclusivity across all our offerings helps to ensure that, no matter where you are located, you can participate in the Festival.”

“It’s been a tough year and we’re so glad to be back,” said Cameron Bailey, TIFF artistic director and co-head, also in a statement. “We’ve been inspired by the quality, range, and diversity of the films we’re inviting, and we couldn’t wait to give everyone an early glimpse.”

The festival’s official release also included a statement from Dr. Peter Nord, chief medical officer, Medcan, and TIFF’s consultative partner on health and safety for the pandemic, who said, “We are confident in our planning for a return to in-person screenings as part of TIFF as both the province and country accelerate vaccination rollout.”