TIFF 2019: Joker, Hustlers, Knives Out among buzzworthy titles unveiled

Buzzworthy movies, star-studded ensemble films, biopics and literary adaptations —starring major names like Jennifer Lopez, Daniel Craig, Eddie Murphy and Tom Hanks — are coming to this year's edition of the Toronto International Film Festival.

Films showcase 'trying to find ways to connect beyond the divide,' says artistic director

Toronto International Film Festival artistic director Cameron Bailey, left, and executive director Joana Vicente have unveiled a strong first slate of films for this fall's edition. (Nigel Hunt/CBC)

Buzzworthy movies, star-studded ensemble films, biopics and literary adaptations are coming to this year's edition of the Toronto International Film Festival.

Movies featuring the likes of Jennifer Lopez, Tom Hanks, Daniel Craig, Eddie Murphy, Scarlett Johansson and Robert Pattinson were announced Tuesday, as organizers unveiled entries from this year's gala and special programming lineups. 

Anticipated titles set to screen at TIFF this fall include:

  • The dark origin story Joker, starring Joaquin Phoenix as the titular Batman nemesis; 
  • The Ansel Elgort-led adaptation of bestselling novel The Goldfinch; 
  • The modern whodunit Knives Out, which features Christopher Plummer, Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Lakeith Stanfield, Michael Shannon and Don Johnson in its star-studded ensemble cast;
  • The inspired-by-real-life tale Hustlers, starring Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu and Cardi B as a band of New York strippers who rip off Wall Street brokers

In fact, many of this year's titles draw from real-life tales, including films focused on children's TV icon Fred Rogers (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood), abolitionist Harriet Tubman (Harriet), blaxploitation star Rudy Ray Moore (Dolemite is My Name), singers Judy Garland (Judy) and Helen Reddy (I Am Woman), civil rights defence attorney Bryan Stevenson (Just Mercy) and Ford race-car designer Carroll Shelby and driver Ken Miles (Ford v Ferrari).

Also in this company is TIFF's closing night film: Radioactive, the Marie Curie biopic starring Rosamund Pike and helmed by Iranian-French filmmaker and graphic novelist Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis). 

The closer is one of the nine galas directed by women at this year's festival — something organizers are proud of after having worked for the past five years on improving representation of female filmmakers at TIFF.

"The galas are our most high-profile section, so we're really pleased to have all those filmmakers," said TIFF artistic director and co-head Cameron Bailey, who admitted nonetheless that finding work by women filmmakers hasn't become that much easier despite all the talk in the industry.

"We're progressing by inches. We've made it a priority at TIFF, but the people that finance the films and green-light them – there's still a way to go."

Must-see performances

Joaquin Phoenix in Joker, Renée Zellweger in Judy, Matt Damon and Christian Bale in Ford v Ferrari, Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx in Just Mercy, and Meryl Streep in The Laundromat are just a few of the standouts Bailey is predicting as must-see performances.

He and his programming staff have also started to see a theme emerge.

"Once we had put the lineup together, we began to see films that weren't so much reflecting [today's] fractious political landscape, but were actually reflecting the desire for something maybe warmer and fuzzier," Bailey said Tuesday morning.

"It was really about empathy. It was about trying to find ways to connect beyond the divide we're seeing play out in the news headlines."

Canadians who will showcase their latest at the festival this fall include François Girard with the music-centred feature The Song of Names, and Atom Egoyan debuting his psychological drama Guest of Honour. TV writer-producer Semi Chellas, best known for her work on Mad Men and co-creating the Canadian series The Eleventh Hour, makes her feature film directorial debut with the Patty Hearst-inspired drama American Woman.

The Nova Scotia-shot, black-and-white fantasy horror The Lighthouse, an American production starring Pattinson and Willem Dafoe, is also scheduled for TIFF.

More Canadian titles will be announced by festival programmers in the coming weeks.

Taika Waititi (Jojo Rabbit), Bong Joon-ho (Parasite), Steven Soderbergh (The Laundromat), Michael Winterbottom (Greed), Fernando Meirelles (The Two Popes), Lou Ye (Saturday Fiction) and Pedro Almodovar (Pain and Glory) are among other notable filmmakers set to showcase new work at the fest this fall. 

Bruce Springsteen will be in the mix with a filmed live performance of his Western Stars album by Thom Zimny, who shot the music special Springsteen on Broadway.

Organizers previously announced Daniel Roher's Canadian documentary Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band as the 2019 opening film.

"What makes TIFF absolutely unique is it truly is an audience's festival…To have real audiences watching the films is what makes it a really, really special opportunity," said Joana Vicente, who is heading into this year's event as TIFF's new executive director and co-head.

The 2019 edition of TIFF runs Sept. 5-15.

Gala lineup

  • Opening night Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band, dir. Daniel Roher.
  • Closing night Radioactive, dir. Marjane Satrapi.
  • A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, dir. Marielle Heller.
  • Abominable, dir. Jill Culton.
  • American Woman, dir. Semi Chellas.
  • Blackbird, dir.  Roger Michell.
  • Clemency, dir. Chinonye Chukwu.
  • Ford v Ferrari, dir. James Mangold.
  • Harriet, dir. Kasi Lemmons.
  • Hustlers, dir. Lorene Scafaria.
  • Joker, dir. Todd Phillips.
  • Just Mercy, dir. Destin Daniel Cretton.
  • Ordinary Love, dir. Lisa Barros D'Sa, Glenn Leyburn.
  • The Goldfinch, dir. John Crowley.
  • The Sky Is Pink, dir. Shonali Bose.
  • The Song of Names, dir. François Girard.
  • True History of the Kelly Gang, dir. Justin Kurzel.
  • Western Stars, dir. Thom Zimny, Bruce Springsteen.

Special presentations lineup

  • A Herdade, dir. Tiago Guedes.
  • Bad Education, dir. Cory Finley.
  • Coming Home Again, dir. Wayne Wang.
  • Dolemite is My Name, dir. Craig Brewer.
  • Ema, dir. Pablo Larraín.
  • Endings, Beginnings, dir. Drake Doremus.
  • Frankie, dir. Ira Sachs.
  • Greed, dir. Michael Winterbottom.
  • Guest of Honour, dir. Atom Egoyan.
  • Heroic Losers, dir. Sebastian Borensztein.
  • Honey Boy, dir. Alma Har'el.
  • Hope Gap, dir. William Nicholson.
  • How to Build a Girl, dir. Coky Giedroyc.
  • I Am Woman, dir. Unjoo Moon.
  • Jojo Rabbit, dir. Taika Waititi.
  • Judy, dir. Rupert Goold.
  • Knives Out, dir. Rian Johnson.
  • La Belle Époque, dir. Nicolas Bedos.
  • Marriage Story, dir. Noah Baumbach.
  • Military Wives, dir. Peter Cattaneo.
  • Motherless Brooklyn, dir. Edward Norton.
  • No.7 Cherry Lane, dir. Yonfan.
  • Pain and Glory, dir. Pedro Almodóvar.
  • Parasite, dir. Bong Joon-ho.
  • Pelican Blood, dir. Katrin Gebbe.
  • Portrait of a Lady on Fire, dir. Céline Sciamma.
  • Saturday Fiction, dir. Lou Ye.
  • The Friend, dir. Gabriela Cowperthwaite.
  • The Laundromat, dir. Steven Soderbergh.
  • The Lighthouse, dir. Robert Eggers.
  • The Other Lamb, dir. Malgorzata Szumowska.
  • The Painted Bird, dir. Václav Marhoul.
  • The Personal History of David Copperfield, dir. Armando Iannucci.
  • The Report, dir. Scott Z. Burns.
  • The Two Popes, dir. Fernando Meirelles.
  • Uncut Gems, dir. Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie.
  • Weathering With You, dir. Makoto Shinkai.
  • While at War, dir. Alejandro Amenábar.


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