The Buzziest Films Up for Sale at TIFF 2022 – TheWrap
Films from Werner Herzog, Catherine Hardwicke and Gabriela Cowperthwaite are all available to buyers
Courtesy of TIFF/Photo Illustration by TheWrap
The Toronto International Film Festival will make its grand in-person return this week with a slate that builds on its expansion from previous years. The 2022 lineup boasts the world premieres of several high-profile films, including Steven Spielberg’s “The Fablemans,” Sam Mendes’ “Empire of Light,” Rian Johnson’s “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” and the Billy Eichner comedy “Bros.” However, there are a number of hot titles that don’t yet have distribution. Documentaries by the likes of “Blackfish” director Gabriela Cowperthwaite and narrative features led by stars such as Margaret Qualley, Brian Cox and Tessa Thompson just may spark a bidding war. Here are 14 buzzy sales titles to watch.
“Allelujah,” the latest film from director Richard Eyre (“Notes on a Scandal”), stars Judi Dench as one of several geriatric residents of a Yorkshire hospital on the verge of closing down. The film is a heartwarming comedy about how the elderly patients invite a camera crew to observe their preparations for a concert in honor of one of the hospital’s most distinguished nurses.
“Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe”
Boasting both Lin-Manuel Miranda and Eugenio Derbez as producers, “Aristotle & Dante” is a YA novel adaptation from first-time filmmaker Aitch Alberto about two Mexican-American teenagers on a coming-of-age journey in 1987 El Paso, Texas. The director has said she was inspired by films like “Stand By Me,” “The Virgin Suicides” and “Badlands” in adapting a book that she said helped her own “journey and exploration around gender” as a Latinx storyteller.
“The Blackening” is a horror comedy satire based on a 2018 Comedy Central sketch riffing on how Black cast members in horror films are always the first to die. But what happens when a killer is on the loose and everyone is Black? Tim Story directed the film, which premieres in Midnight Madness. The script is by Tracy Oliver (“Girls Trip”) and Dewayne Perkins, who also stars in a reunion of his Chicago-based comedy troupe 3-PEAT.
Debuting as part of the Gala Presentations program, “Butcher’s Crossing” stars Nicolas Cage as a 1870s buffalo hunter who talks a naive Harvard dropout (“The White Lotus” alum Fred Hechinger) into joining him on a dangerous expedition through the Colorado Rocky mountains. Miller’s greed for the lucrative buffalo hides is tested by the elements in a classic tale of man vs. nature and American capitalism. Gabe Polsky, a documentary director known for “Red Army,” is making his narrative feature debut on the film, based on John Williams’ 1960 novel.
“Dalíland” gained extra buzz when TIFF selectively excluded Ezra Miller from the cast listing upon announcing it as the closing night film. But the troubled star has a small role as a young Salvador Dalí in flashbacks. For most of Mary Harron’s film, Ben Kingsley plays the Spanish artist in 1974 New York. Harron aims to capture the same surrealism, humor and inventive restlessness in its visuals that Dalí would approve of.
Gabriela Cowperthwaite, the filmmaker behind “Blackfish,” is back with a documentary meant to infuriate and motivate in equal measure. To make “The Grab,” the filmmaker embarked on a seven-year journey following journalist Nathan Halverson and his team at the Center for Investigative Reporting as they dig into a story following an explosive leak of documents. The title refers to the way that governments and corporations are attempting to amass food and water amidst dwindling global resources. Both grim and gripping, the doc could become a hot-button awards season contender.
“How to Blow Up a Pipeline”
Daniel Goldhaber has turned Andreas Malm’s 2021 nonfiction book (about how sabotage should be viewed as a vital part of the fight against climate change) into a snappy thriller described as “part high-stakes heist, part radical exploration of the climate crisis.” Ariela Barer plays a recently orphaned climate change activist who mounts a desperate mission to destroy a West Texas pipeline. (Barer also wrote the script with Goldhaber and Jordan Sjol.) Goldhaber’s last movie, the Blumhouse horror flick “Cam,” showcased his ability to mix social commentary with edge-of-your-seat thrills.
“Grace and Frankie” this is not. This time, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin co-star as best friends who launch a revenge plot against their estranged friend’s ex-husband (played by Malcolm McDowell). A dark comedy that occasionally veers much darker, “Moving On” is written and directed by Paul Weitz, whose last film was the Kevin Hart comedy “Fatherhood.” The supporting cast includes Richard Roundtree and Catherine Dent.
“North of Normal”
Sarah Gadon and Robert Carlyle star in this film making its premiere in the Contemporary World Cinema program at TIFF. Based on a memoir of Cea Sunrise Person, who grew up in the wilderness and off the grid alongside her pot-smoking teen mom, Toronto-based director Carly Stone’s film is set in 1970s Western Canada.
“The People’s Joker”
While DC may ultimately have some thoughts, “The People’s Joker” is generating a lot of heat as a satirical, LGTBQ twist on Todd Phillips’ 2019 blockbuster “Joker” as written, directed by and starring filmmaker Vera Drew. The film, playing in the Midnight Madness section, imagines a Gotham City where comedy shows have been criminalized and our antihero dreams of being on the only sketch comedy series sanctioned by the government.
Brian Cox and Kate Beckinsale are father and daughter in this tale of forgiveness and family trauma. Directed by “Twilight” and “Thirteen” filmmaker Catherine Hardwicke, the drama follows a criminal on his deathbed (Cox) who uses his compassionate release from prison to try and patch things up with his daughter (Beckinsale) and the grandson he’s never met. However, the violence of his past proves more difficult to leave behind.
After leading Claire Denis’ Cannes prize-winner “The Stars at Noon,” Margaret Qualley returns with “Sanctuary.” In this Special Presentations showing, she plays a dominatrix named Rebecca who has helped prepare a hotel empire heir (Christopher Abbott) to take over for his father. When Hal abruptly decides to end their relationship, Rebecca refuses to walk away empty-handed, and a dramatic confrontation ensues. Zachary Wigon directs from a script by “Homecoming” writer Micah Bloomberg.
“Theater of Thought”
Now at 80 years old, Werner Herzog returns with another introspective and experimental documentary, this time probing the inner workings of the human brain. Herzog teams with scientist Rafael Yuste, who used his own psychedelic trips to build high-tech brain scanners that allow Herzog to ask the big existential questions that have made his past films so mesmerizing.
“Wildflower” has earned comparisons to “CODA” as a touching, topical and funny coming-of-age story about a young woman (Kiernan Schipka) who lives with and caring for two neurodivergent parents (and navigates the well-meaning input from extended family, including grandparents played by Kiernan Shipka Jacki Weaver and Jean Smart). But in a twist very unlike “CODA,” “Wildflower” begins inside the head of Shipka’s character while she’s stuck in a coma and unsure if she’ll regain consciousness. And the film is likewise based on a true story of a young woman who was ultimately reluctant to leave her family behind.
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Photograph by Irvin Rivera for TheWrap