The Woman King, The Whale, Women Talking: Our top 10 most anticipated TIFF titles

CBC News has compiled ten of the buzziest, most novel and exciting productions we're waiting to see. 

Oscar winners, newcomers make up exciting and diverse slate of movies at TIFF 2022

Viola Davis appears as Agojie general Nanisca in The Woman King — one of CBC News' most anticipated movies for this year's Toronto International Film Festival. (TIFF)

The Toronto International Film Festival opens Thursday — its first fully in-person iteration since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

And while that means TIFF is as close to business-as-usual as it has been in years, there are a number of films and trends that stick out.

Here, CBC News has compiled 10 of the buzziest, most novel and exciting productions we're waiting to see. 

Women Talking

Oscar-nominated Sarah Polley's Women Talking marks a return to TIFF for the director — and possibly an early start of a race to the Oscars. (TIFF)

Welcome back, Sarah Polley.

TIFF must be smarting at losing the world premiere of Polley's latest film to the Telluride Film Festival. But the buzz from the insiders who caught it there has already kick-started the Oscar race. Polley took a lengthy break from filmmaking to write, reflect and live her life. Now she's back, seemingly undaunted and is bringing the novel by Canada's Miriam Toews — which follows women of a secluded religious colony struggling to reconcile their faith with an epidemic of sexual abuse — to the screen.

I have a feeling the conversation around Women Talking has just begun.

— Eli Glasner

The Woman King

Viola Davis appears in The Woman King. The film is inspired by true events and boasts an impressively star-studded ensemble cast. (TIFF)

Starring Viola Davis in a role equal parts action, thriller and drama, The Woman King is an "inspired-by-true-events" story that is also something we don't often see anymore: new.

Davis plays Nanisca, a military general of the Agojie — the famous all-woman warrior band, charged with protecting the West African kingdom of Dahomey. 

Not only were the Agojie an inspiration for Black Panther's Dora Milaje, Wakanda's all-women soldiers, the film continues Black Panther's example of portraying Black people and history as something aspirational and admirable — instead of focusing on struggle, victimhood and subjugation. It also stars the James Bond and Marvel Cinematic Universe alumnus Lashana Lynch, Star Wars' John Boyega, and South African mainstay — and TIFF Rising Star — Thuso Mbedu in a breakout role. 

— Jackson Weaver

The Whale

A heavy man sits in a room.
Brendan Fraser's performance in The Whale marks a return for the actor. Known for his performances in George of the Jungle and Encino Man, The Whale could mark the beginning of a renaissance. (TIFF)

Call it the Brenaissance or karma, but the second coming of Brendan Fraser is upon us.

Once a textbook case in how Hollywood eats its young, the actor known for his roles in Encino Man and George of the Jungle is getting praise for his work in The Whale, a new film from American auteur Darren Aronofsky about a 600-pound man grappling with life-altering problems raised by an estranged family and his own body.

In an interview, Aronofsky said it was seeing Fraser in a small-budget Brazilian film that inspired the casting. Perhaps Aronofsky saw the same sweetness that suddenly has fans rooting for his return.

— Eli Glasner


A Black man wearing an 18th century, French aristocratic outfit stands between a number of seated violinists, all of whom are white. He is holding a violin and bow in outstretched hands.
Kelvin Harrison Jr. returns to TIFF this year, following a Rising Star win in 2019 for Waves, with Chevalier. The film looks at Joseph Bologne, a virtuosic violinist, classical composer, fencer and Black man living in Europe in the 1700s. (TIFF)

Joseph Bologne — renamed, and now often known as, Chevalier de Saint-Georges by French King Louis XV — was called "the most accomplished man in Europe" by none other than John Adams. Despite that, almost no one knows his name now.

Chevalier aims to change that. The drama stars Kelvin Harrison Jr. as Bologne, a Black classical composer and violin virtuoso born of an enslaved African-Guadeloupean woman and white French aristocrat. Looking at the extraordinary polymath's success in everything from fencing to music, Chevalier brings to light the life of an underappreciated Black talent — from an actor whose emotional performance in Waves left many critics with their jaws on the floor.

— Jackson Weaver

The Banshees of Inisherin

Colin Farrell, left, and Brendan Gleeson appear in a still from The Banshees of Inisherin. The film follows a damaged friendship and the outcome of petty disputes. (TIFF)

A number of years ago writer/director Martin McDonagh made the jet black comedy In Bruges, featuring the hilariously dysfunctional working relationship of Ray and Ken, played by Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson. Now McDonagh returns with a story set in 1920s Ireland, where a friendship dissolves and calamity ensues. 

There's a richness to the humanity McDonagh exposes between the dark chuckles. I can't wait.

— Eli Glasner


Andreas Pietschmann appears in a still from 1899. The Netflix series sees the creators of thriller series Dark return to the small screen. (TIFF)

Germany's Dark grabbed the world's attention as a deeply bingeable — and incredibly warped — Netflix series back in 2017. Now, just two years after it concluded, its creators are back with another surreal thriller, though this time set at sea.

1899 looks at the passengers of a migrant steamship who, in that same year, receive a distress call from another vessel that has been drifting for months — but is seemingly, and inexplicably, devoid of passengers.

When the first two episodes receive their world premiere at TIFF, I'm excited to see whether creators Baran bo Odar and Jantje Friese can pull it off again — and, perhaps more intriguingly, how much inspiration they took from the eerily similar maritime mystery of Canadian-built ghost ship the Mary Celeste.

— Jackson Weaver

I Like Movies

Canadian actor Isaiah Lehtinen stars as Lawrence in I Like Movies, the feature debut from Toronto's Chandler Levack. (TIFF)

I Like Movies is about a young man named Lawrence who has defined his entire personality around cinema. Lawrence is not an easy kid to like, but you probably know him or someone like him.

The feature film debut of Chandler Levack is many things: an ode to the era of Blockbuster video, dilapidated strip malls and difficult friendships. Levack doesn't shy away from the messiness of her characters. She revels in them.

— Eli Glasner

When Morning Comes

A small boy looks off camera as he receives a haircut.
Newcomer Djamari Roberts stars as Jamal in Kelly Fyffe-Marshall's feature debut When Morning Comes. The film follows Jamal as he struggles with the news he and his family are to move from Jamaica to Canada. (TIFF)

Come and See, Paper Moon, Sixth Sense, C'mon C'mon: If there's one thing to be sad for movies led by a child actor, it's that they're either fantastic, or unwatchable — and rest almost entirely on the ability of someone who is often no more than a grade-schooler. 

That is the case for the drama When Morning Comes, which follows a 10-year-old's desperate attempts to stay in his native Jamaica instead of moving to Canada with his mother. It is also a feature debut for director Kelly Fyffe-Marshall, whose short Black Bodies earned her TIFF's inaugural Changemaker Award in 2020 and was one of only six Canadian projects — out of 118 films — at Sundance the following year. 

Fyffe-Marshall also received a $50,000 award from the Toronto Film Critics Association and David Cronenberg (who said he chose to give the award to "a new filmmaker with a strong new creation") earlier this year to complete post-production. If she and young lead actor Djamari Roberts can pull it off, When Morning Comes could enter the rarified company of quality coming-of-age films.

— Jackson Weaver


Joyland is a film from director Saim Sadiq that focuses on Biba, a trans performer, and her relationship with Haider, a married man. (TIFF)

So far, 2022 has turned to be a standout year for LGBTQ represenation in film, from mega studio offerings such as Bros to Canadian gems such as Something You Said Last Night. 

That said, Joyland appears to be a special film. Not only was it the first Pakistani film to play at Cannes — winning the coveted Jury Prize — the story finds a man in an arranged marriage who finds himself attracted to a trans performer. Director Saim Sadiq has spoken about the challenges of finding actors willing to take on the role. But if the emotional reactions the film generated in Cannes are right, he chose well.

— Eli Glasner

Riceboy Sleeps

A Korean mother reads to her young son on a sofa at night.
Choi Seung-yoon, right, and Dohyun Noel Hwang appear in a still from Anthony Shim's Riceboy Sleeps. The film partially follows Shim's own experience moving from South Korea to Canada as a child. (TIFF)

Like When Morning Comes, Riceboy Sleeps looks at displacement, childhood and the concept of home. Set in 1990s suburbia, the film's director Anthony Shim draws partially from his own life moving from Seoul, South Korea, to Canada as a child; Riceboy Sleeps follows a mother who must do the same with her young son, Dong-hyun, after her husband dies. 

Described as "heartbreaking" and "emotionally devastating," this will likely be the type of film for those who enjoy getting their heart wrenched out — or for those drawn to the slowly growing genre of desaturated '90s nostalgia.

And for those looking to spot new, raw talent, it stars classically trained Korean ballet dancer — and TIFF Rising Star — Choi Seung-yoon in her first ever film role, as well as Canadian child actors Ethan Hwang and Dohyun Noel Hwang, who are not related, as Dong-hyun at different ages.

— Jackson Weaver


Eli Glasner

Senior entertainment reporter

Eli Glasner is the senior entertainment reporter and screentime columnist for CBC News. Covering culture has taken him from the northern tip of Moosonee Ontario to the Oscars and beyond.