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Preview: 10 Must-See Movies at TIFF 2020

By: Dakota Arsenault

The Toronto International Film Festival is going to look different this year. Normally the film world descends en masse to Toronto for a week and a half, making it the premiere destination to have your movie seen. The festival has crowned five movies with the People’s Choice Award (the highest honour the festival gives) that eventually went on to win Best Picture with an additional six that went on to be Best Picture nominees. That is a fantastic track record to have. This year, due to COVID-19, the festival is switching gears. They are still going to be the home to fifty new films to be screened (along with plenty of shorts, talks and more), but not everything will be in a movie theater. Some movies will be shown at drive-ins, some digitally, but regardless of how a movie is shown, TIFF is still going to be the home of the best movies coming out in 2020. Here is a alphabetical list of ten of the most intriguing movies we want to see.

Ammonite – This film stars Kate Winslet as Mary, a 1840’s English fossil hunter who meets Saoirse Ronan’s Charlotte and the two develop a bond and form an eventual relationship. Not much else is known about this movie, but with it’s two powerhouse stars and a plot that sounds a bit like the fantastic Portrait of a Lady on Fire from last year makes me very excited. It is directed by Francis Lee, who also wrote the script, and who is following this up from God’s Own Country another queer film he made about an unlikely relationship between two men.

Another Round – Danish star Mads Mikkelsen and director Thomas Vinterberg previously paired up for the excellent The Hunt, that dealt with a child who knowingly wrongfully accused a man of sexual assault and the fallout it causes. They are back in a dark comedy and drama about four teachers who decide to experiment by ensuring their blood alcohol levels are always at 0.5%. It all seems fun first as they have elevated confidence, but things get worse as they up their BAC. This looks to be a lock for Best International Film at the Oscars. 

Beans – This film is the feature length directorial debut from Tracey Deer, a Mohawk woman from Kahnawake in Quebec. The film depicts the 78-day standoff between the indigenous community and the RCMP as the local government in Oka, Quebec wanted to build a golf course on a sacred burial ground. The story gripped Canada back in 1990 and produced an incredibly famous image showing how the government treats its own people that they too often trample over.

Concrete Cowboy – This is another feature length directorial debut, coming from Ricky Staub, who tells the story of a young boy played by Stranger Things star Caleb McLaughlin, who learns about urban horseback riding in Philadelphia from Idris Elba’s Harp. Urban cowboys have been in the news recently showing the diversity of black America as they have joined the protests against police brutality.

Falling – Viggo Mortenson is a bit of an anomaly, he was a super star in the making after his turn in Lord of the Rings, but is very picky about what projects he has worked on since. Here he directs and stars in a story about an older conservative man who is forced to live with his gay son and his family as the ailing father needs more attention. This is the debut from Mortenson, who is already getting positive reviews out of Sundance for the project.

The Father – After Olivia Colman’s Oscar winning turn in The Favourite and Anthony Hopkins’ nominated performance in The Two Popes, these two are in high form as they play father and daughter. Hopkins plays an aging man suffering from dementia who refuses help from everyone, including his daughter and the pain it causes the family. This is director Florian Zeller’s debut after beginning his career as a writer in France.

Good Joe Bell – This is an interesting film as it stars Mark Wahlberg as the father who decides to go on a walk across the USA in order to raise awareness about bullying, who his son was a victim of. It is written by Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana who wrote Brokeback Mountain (McMurtry also wrote the book The Last Picture Show) and directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green who made 2018’s Monsters and Men. This is getting a Gala Presentation so a lot of eyes will be on this movie.

MLK/FBI – It has long been known that Martin Luther King Jr. was heavily surveilled and harassed by the FBI during his too brief life, but new documents have finally emerged in recent years showing the extent the government went to to discredit the civil rights leader. Sam Pollard’s documentary should continue the conversation that has been long overdue in regards to the treatment of black Americans by large scale institutions that are deeply ingrained in society. Pollard previously was nominated for a Best Documentary Oscar (with Spike Lee) for his doc about the Birmingham church bombing that killed four young black girls in 1963.

Nomadland – Director Chloé Zhao hit it big in the indie world with 2017’s The Rider, which netted her the job as director on Marvel’s The Eternals, but before that comes out, we get her follow-up that stars Frances McDormand. McDormand plays a woman who loses everything in the Great Recession from a few years ago and decides to live as a nomad, travelling in her trailer across the American west. Zhao has a knack for getting deeply intense character dramas and tapping Frances McDormand could yield huge results for her.

One Night in Miami – After Cassius Clay loses a fight to Sonny Liston, he goes to a bar and meets up with Malcolm X, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown in this fictional what if film that shows how these four titans of black America would have interacted with each other and changed the way the US and civil rights could have gone. This movie is the directorial debut of Oscar winning actress Regina King and looks to be a gut punch of political discourse.

What movies are you most looking forward to seeing? Click HERE for the full list of films playing at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival that runs from September 10-19th. Keep watch on Aesthetic Magazine as Contra Zoom podcast looks to cover the festival, interview filmmakers and review films. Check out last year’s TIFF Composers Interview, Film Reviews and Recap, and Short Film Interview.

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