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What films to see at TIFF 2014

The Toronto International Film Festival offers a line-up of over 300 films, which is kind of crazy. You can literally see any kind of film at this festival, and that makes it pretty hard to narrow down the list. The festival is broken down into different programmes, which gives us a tiny bit of direction, but even still, there are a million possibilities even within each section. Lucky for you, Scene Creek is here with some handy information to help narrow down your selections.

Keira Knightley and Chloe Grace Moretz star in Laggies
Keira Knightley and Chloe Grace Moretz star in Laggies


Gala Presentations

What exactly is a gala presentation? These films are the big-ticket, glitzy Roy Thompson Hall premieres, and that is just about the only thing that sets them apart from the other sections. All of these films will have a giant red-carpet gathering for their first screening, and then all subsequent screenings of these films will be just like any other TIFF film. There are some great films in this category this year, including the Sundance hit Laggies, where Keira Knightley can’t seem to grow up, Samba from the directors of the hit 2011 film The Intouchables, and the autobiographical Wild starring Reese Witherspoon as a woman trying to get her life back on track by going on a solo 1000 mile hike.

Adam Driver stars in Hungry Hearts
Adam Driver stars in Hungry Hearts


Special Presentations

The Special Presentations category has a wide array of films from many different countries. These are usually the most hyped, A-List filled films of the festival. A category that is nearly impossible to narrow down, that includes such buzzed about films like the Sundance hit Whiplash, and the highly anticipated new Jason Reitman film, Men, Women and Children, Special Presentations offers some great films. Something to be careful for, however, both films mentioned open in October, and so we recommend going for something a bit more low-key that you may not see in theatres for a while, or if ever. Films such as the Italian, Adam Driver (from Girls fame) vehicle, Hungry Hearts, about a couple who have to make an important decision about their newborn child or Phoenix, the German war drama from the directors of previous TIFF hit Barbara, may be ones to keep on your radar. You can also get a double-dose of Canada’s darling Xavier Dolan, as his recent Cannes’ Jury Prize winning Mommy can be found amongst this collection, and he also stars along-side Catherine Keener in The Elephant Song, based upon the play by Nicolas Billon. Whatever you choose in this category is guaranteed to be a good time.

Jane Levy in Bang Bang Baby
Jane Levy in Bang Bang Baby


Discovery

First and second-time directors are what occupy the Discovery Programme, and this is the place to find new up and coming filmmakers who are bound to be the next generation of outstanding cinema. The Discovery section always offers some amazing debut features, and one that we recommend seeking out is Jeffrey St. Jules’ Bang Bang Baby, a 1950s set sci-fi about a young girl aspiring to be a singer whose dreams get halted when a local power-plant has a meltdown. Another title you should be sure not to miss is The Tribe which has been extremely hyped since the Cannes Film Festival, about a gang of deaf-mute teens who participate in deviant behavior.

The Look of Silence
The Look of Silence


TIFF Docs

For the documentary lover, TIFF is a great place to seek out crazy real-life stories. The Act of Killing was a smash hit last year, and the director is back at TIFF this year with The Look of Silence which deals with a family from The Act of Killing. Actor Ethan Hawke takes a seat behind the camera in his first documentary, with Seymour: An Introduction, and Robert Kenner, director of the hit Food Inc. is back with Merchants of Doubt.

Melanie Laurent's directorial debut Breathe.
Melanie Laurent’s directorial debut Breathe.


Contemporary World Cinema

Although you can find foreign-language films amongst all categories of the festival, here is the go-to place for the most compelling stories from around the world. From France, we have actress Melanie Laurent’s (Inglorious Basterds, Beginners) directorial debut Breathe, about a dangerous friendship between two young girls. If the actress is nearly as good at directing as she is at acting, this may be something special. Other standouts include Partners in Crime from Taiwan, about three high school boys getting involved in the mystery of the suicide of their pretty classmate, and the Cannes Smash hit Bird People, about a businessman and a maid who cross paths in a whimsical tale.

Heaven Knows What
Heaven Knows What


Wavelengths and Short Cuts

If you’re feeling a little unconventional, trying out one of the short film programmes may be something for you. Both the Wavelengths and Short Cuts are offered in packages where you can watch 4-5 at once, as the films are usually 20 minutes or less. Wavelengths also offers a couple of full length features, one that caught our eye is Heaven Knows What, a mix of fiction, documentary and formalism as it follows a young heroin addict in the streets of New York.

Justin Long in Tusk
Justin Long in Tusk


Midnight Madness

Heaven for horror fans everywhere, there is said to be no better experience at TIFF than attending one of the midnight screenings. The audience participation is notorious here, whether it be bouncing a giant beach ball around the crowd while waiting for the screening to start, or the laughs and screams that will come throughout the film. There are some exceptional films programmed in this years Midnight Madness, from the highly-anticipated Kevin Smith film Tusk, about a man forced to dress up like a walrus, or the Sundance hit The Guest starring Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens.

Scarlett Innocence from Seoul
Scarlet Innocence from Seoul

City to City
Every year, TIFF highlights a city and this year it is Seoul, South Korea that gets its showcase. Some of the films that look worth checking out here include Scarlet Innocence, which is an update on a traditional Korean fable, and Confession, a noir-mystery about three friends whose fake robbery ends in a real death.

Ryan Reynolds in The Voices
Ryan Reynolds in The Voices


Vanguard

For the bold cinema goer, Vanguard films are usually the most dark and twisted that you will find at the festival. This year boasts a great line up as well, and one that we are highly anticipating is The Voices by Persepolis author Marjane Satrapi, about a man (Ryan Reynolds) who is off his meds and talking to his cat and dog. Other standouts include Spring, a new take on the Before Sunrise narrative, and Goodnight Mommy a freaky looking film about two twin boys and an identity crisis with their mom.

Reese Witherspoon sits down for an In Conversation
Reese Witherspoon sits down for an In Conversation

Mavericks
Big name stars sit down for In Conversations in the Mavericks section. Here is your chance to sit in on interviews with Denzel Washington, Reese Witherspoon, Juliette Binoche, Robert Duvall, Richard Gere or Jon Stewart.

As you can see, TIFF boasts more options than any other film festival, making it exciting and challenging. No matter what you choose, the festival experience is unlike any other, and you’ll be guaranteed to have a very special time at the movies. TIFF takes place September 4th-14th, and single tickets go on sale August 31st. Use these next days to plan for the fest, take advantage of the TIFFR website, and first and foremost, enjoy!

Adriana Floridia

Adriana Floridia is a singer, writer, and film critic from Toronto. She loves watching movies, but even more than that, she loves discussing them with film lovers alike.