10 movies music fans need to see at this year's Toronto International Film Festival

The 44th annual TIFF will kick off on Thursday, Sept. 5.

The 44th annual TIFF will kick off on Thursday, Sept. 5

Bruce Springsteen's concert film, Western Stars, will make its world premiere at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival. (Courtesy of TIFF)

Toronto will soon be swarmed by celebs and movie lovers alike as the Toronto International Film Festival kicks off on Sept. 5. As in previous years, this fest will have something for everyone: potential Oscar contenders, exciting foreign entries, groundbreaking documentaries and even something for the music fanatics.

Individual tickets go on sale to the public on Sept. 2, and if you still need help narrowing down which movies to catch, CBC Music is here to help you find some of this year's best music films to add to your list.

Western Stars 
Starring Bruce Springsteen 
Directed by Thom Zimny and Bruce Springsteen 

Back in June, American singer-songwriter Bruce Springsteen released his 19th studio album, Western Stars, to much critical acclaim. Now, he has teamed up with longtime collaborator Thom Zimny to release a companion film. The concert documentary captures the only time Springsteen has performed his brand new album in full live, for a private audience at his farmhouse. If you're a true fan of the Boss, Western Stars promises to be a unique and intimate experience that needs to be seen and heard on the big screen for maximum effect. 

Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band 
Starring Robbie Robertson, Martin Scorsese, Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton
Directed by Daniel Roher

Robbie Robertson is one of Canada's greatest musicians and this latest documentary, which is this year's TIFF opening night film, will prove it. Directed by Daniel Roher and executive produced by Martin Scorsese (who teamed up with Robertson and the Band back in 1976 on The Last Waltz), Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, Once Were Brothers takes a look back at the legendary career of Robertson, from his early life in Toronto to the creation of the Band. The star-studded list of guests featured in this film includes Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton, Ronnie Hawkins, Van Morrison and more.

Even more great news for fans of the Band: there will be a free screening of The Last Waltz at TIFF Bell Lightbox on Thursday, Sept. 5, which will include a special introduction by Robertson and Scorsese.

The Song of Names
Starring Tim Roth, Clive Owen, Catherine McCormack
Directed by François Girard

The Red Violin is one of Canadian director François Girard's most notable films, and this year he will return to the subject and music of violins in his latest offering, The Song of Names. Just like The Red Violin, The Song of Names tells a story that spans decades, following one man (Tim Roth) as he searches for his childhood best friend, a Polish violin prodigy orphaned in the Holocaust who mysteriously disappeared on the night of his first public performance. 

I Am Woman 
Starring Tilda Cobham-Hervey, Evan Peters
Directed by Unjoo Moon

Helen Reddy made history when her 1972 song, "I Am Woman," became the first song written by an Australian to win a Grammy Award. That song became an anthem for second-wave feminists, and Reddy went on to sell 80 million albums worldwide. But for those who are unfamiliar with Reddy's rise to fame, which included a move to the U.S. in order to pursue a record contract, I Am Woman aims to tell the story of the woman behind the hit. Australian actress Tilda Cobham-Hervey will take on the role of Reddy as the film chronicles the beginnings of her singing career, her friendship with music journalist Lillian Roxon (Danielle Macdonald) as well as her marriage to Jeff Wald (Evan Peters), whose role as both Reddy's partner and manager grew more complicated as she became more famous. 

How to Build a Girl 
Starring Beanie Feldstein, Alfie Allen, Chris O'Dowd, Emma Thompson
Directed by Coky Giedroyc 

Based on British author Caitlin Moran's semi-autobiographical novel, How to Build a Girl tells the coming-of-age story of a working-class teenager who reinvents herself as a music critic. (Moran herself started off as a journalist for Melody Maker, a weekly music magazine based in London, at the age of 16.) The film will surely maintain the same wit and humour of the book, as Moran also wrote the screenplay. Plus, How to Build a Girl boasts some rising star power in the form of Beanie Feldstein, who is hot off the heels of another teenage film, Booksmart.

Starring Renée Zellweger, Jessie Buckley
Directed by Rupert Goold

Oscar winner Renée Zellwegger sets her sights on another potential nomination this year with her portrayal of legendary actress and singer Judy Garland. Judy is an adaptation of the stage play, End of the Rainbow, which recounts the last year of Garland's life and her struggles with drug addiction as well as her many strained relationships. The film finds Garland several years after her Oscar-nominated roles in A Star is Born and Judgment at Nuremberg, broke and battling to regain control of her life and career. The solution: a residency at a London theatre.   

Sound of Metal 
Starring Riz Ahmed, Olivia Cooke
Directed by Darius Marder

When actor Riz Ahmed (Star Wars: Rogue One, HBO's The Night Of) isn't busy being on the small and big screen, he's also a rapper, both solo and in the group Swet Shop Boys. Both music and acting collide in Ahmed's latest film, Sound of Metal, but instead of spitting bars, he's going to be behind the drum kit of a metal band. Ahmed's character starts to lose his hearing, though, and is soon confronted with a future potentially without his biggest passion in life: music. 

David Foster: Off the Record 
Starring David Foster, Céline Dion, Lionel Ritchie, Barbra Streisand
Directed by Barry Avrich 

Grammy Award-winning composer and producer David Foster is the subject of a new documentary that will take a look at his almost 50-year career working with some of music's biggest names. And expect many of those musicians to make an appearance in the film, including Céline Dion, Lionel Ritchie, Michael Bublé, Quincy Jones, Josh Groban and Foster's fiancée, singer Katherine McPhee. 

Starring the Lumineers 
Directed by Kevin Phillips

Taking a cue from other artists who have recently put out a visual component alongside their album release, Denver band the Lumineers is premiering a "visual manifestation" of their upcoming album, III (out Sept. 13), at this year's TIFF. The 44-minute fictionalized film, directed by Kevin Phillips, is divided into three chapters, tracing the intergenerational pain and impact of substance abuse on a family. The film and album's themes are inspired by member Wesley Schultz's journal writings about a close relative of his who suffers from alcoholism. Fans of the band are encouraged to catch this screening, to understand the full vision of the band's newest project. 

The Audition
Starring Nina Hoss, Simon Abkarian
Directed by Ina Weisse 

If you're looking for something foreign, Ina Weisse's German drama, The Audition, could be an interesting choice for music lovers. The film follows Anna (Nina Hoss), a stern violin teacher whose focus on the success of a young student creates a strain in her family, which forces both sides to develop a rivalry for Anna's affection.


The following films feature some of music's biggest names in cameo roles: Hustlers (starring Jennifer Lopez, featuring Cardi B, Lizzo), Honey Boy (FKA Twigs), Uncut Gems (the Weeknd), The Burnt Orange Heresy (Mick Jagger) and The Goldfinch (Calpurnia's Finn Wolfhard). 


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