Ten under-the-radar TIFF16 picks

Things to Come, starring Isabelle Huppert, is making its Canadian premiere at TIFF16

Photo courtesy of TIFF


The 2016 Toronto Film Festival is now less than two weeks away (!), and the schedule is set. While big, star-crazed galas are an essential element of the TIFF experience, the festival is also known for its less-heralded entries. With a grand total of 296 features (along with 110 shorts) from eighty-three countries, there are countless small-scale gems lurking on the schedule at TIFF.net. Here are ten under-the-radar films to consider seeing at TIFF, or to make note of for future viewing.  


Una: Fresh off a well-deserved Oscar nomination for Carol, Rooney Mara stars in three films at TIFF16: Lion, The Secret Scripture, and Una. The latter might be the most intriguing. Una, an adaptation of the acclaimed play Blackbird, is the bold tale of what happens when a young woman tracks down the man assaulted her years before. Bloodline’s Ben Mendelsohn, soon to appear in Star Wars: Rogue One, co-stars.


The Limehouse Golem: The ever-delightful Bill Nighy stars in this thriller about a series of murders in Victorian London. Golem was originally set to star the late Alan Rickman. 


City of Tiny Lights: With his lead role on HBO’s The Night Of and a supporting part in the upcoming Star Wars: Rogue One, Riz Ahmed is, as they say, having a moment. In City of Tiny Lights, he plays a tough private eye in modern, multiethnic London. It’s fertile ground for a slice of twenty-first century noir involving a missing girl, a bloody murder, and secrets from the past.


The Wedding Party: Lagos, Nigeria, is the focus of this year’s City to City program, and this comedy about a lavish wedding looks to be a highlight. Party is the latest from music-video director Kemi Adetiba.


In the Blood: TIFF.net describes Denmark’s In the Blood as a “scathing critique of contemporary upper-class amorality. It’s the debut feature from Rasmus Heisterberg, the writer of the 2009 Swedish adaptation of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and the acclaimed costume drama A Royal Affair.            


Colossal: Anne Hathaway stars in the latest from Spanish director Nacho Vigalondo (Timecrimes), as a party girl whose life changes forever when news breaks of giant monster wreaking havoc in Seoul.


Aquarius: Sonia Braga drew raves at May’s Cannes Film Festival for her performance in Aquarius, a drama about a retired music critic in Brazil. It sounds like a meaty part for the Kiss of the Spider Woman star.


Things to Come: Director Mia Hansen-Løve’s EDM drama Eden was a highlight of the 2014 festival. She returns to TIFF with Things to Come, featuring the great Isabelle Huppert as a professor who discovers her husband is having an affair. It’s one of three festival entries starring Huppert (along with Souvenir and Elle), who is neck-and-neck with Rooney Mara for TIFF16 MVP.


A Quiet Passion: Last year, director Terence Davies came to TIFF with the visually sumptuous Sunset Song. In 2016, he’s back with a biopic of Emily Dickinson, starring the rather unlikely Cynthia Nixon.


The Sixth Beatle: While Ron Howard’s Beatles documentary Eight Days a Week is more high-profile (it’s skipping TIFF, but premieres on Hulu on September 17), The Sixth Beatle offers a look at a lesser-known figure in Fab Four history: Liverpool concert promoter Sam Leach.



In addition to these ten, there are plenty of other independent and international films that sound worth seeking out: Canadian addiction drama Werewolf; Le Ciel Flamand, about a Belgian brothel owner and her young daughter; Finnish entry Little Wing, which sees a twelve-year-old girl set out to find her birth father; We Never Alone, a multi-character black comedy set in a small European town; writer-director Yesim Ustaoglu’s Clair Obscur, the story of two women in modern Turkey; Chilean entry Jesus, in which a teen and his father face off; and Marija, about a young immigrant who finds herself in a questionable line of work. 


Watch trailers, read summaries, and check the festival schedule at www.tiff.net. And remember to check out my festival updates on Twitter (@FilmSwoon), here on BuffaloSpree.com, and in the pages of the November Spree.


Christopher Schobert is a film critic for the Buffalo News and other outlets.

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