TIFF 2019: LGBTQ+ Preview

With the 44th Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) opening on Thursday 5th September, The Queer Review takes a look at some of this year’s LGBTQ+ related highlights taking in feature films, documentaries, shorts and animation.

Recent years at TIFF have delivered award winning LGBTQ+ gems including BPM (Beats Per Minute)DisobedienceA Fantastic Woman, Call Me By Your Name, Moonlight and Can You Ever Forgive Me? Some of the following films from the TIFF 2019 lineup might just be future queer classics…

Portrait of a Lady on Fire. Courtesy of TIFF.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Portrait de la jeune fille en feu)
Canadian Premiere

Top of our TIFF 2019 LGBTQ+ watch list is Cannes Queer Palm winner Céline Sciamma’s passionate 18th Century Brittany set drama Portrait of a Lady on Fire, which also saw Sciamma win Best Screenplay at Cannes. The film’s cinematographer is Claire Mathon who lensed the 2013 queer classic Stranger By The Lake.

Noémie Merlant plays Marianne, an artist who is engaged by an Italian noblewoman to befriend and secretly paint the wedding portrait of her daughter Héloïse (Adèle Haenel). Gradually the two women become closer as they share Héloïse’s last moments of freedom before the impending wedding.

“Sciamma uses this stirring love story to apprehend what it means to truly see — and to truly be seen.” Diana Sanchez, TIFF Senior Director, Film and TIFF international programmer.

Screenings: Thursday 5th September at 9:15pm and Friday 6th September at 3pm. For more information see the film’s TIFF programme entry here.

The Obituary of Tunde Johnson. Courtesy of TIFF.

The Obituary of Tunde Johnson
World Premiere

Another feature high on our watch list is Ali LeRoi’s The Obituary of Tunde Johnson. Johnson (Steven Silver), a wealthy Nigerian-American gay man is shot and killed when he is pulled over by the LAPD, only to find himself in a Groundhog Day-style loop repeating the same day.

According to TIFF programmer Michael Lerman, “LeRoi expertly blends style and cool contemplation, instilling this story with a welcome optimism while empowering the film’s relevant, incisive commentary on growing up Black and gay in America in the 21st century.”

Screenings: Sunday 8th September at 12pm, Tuesday 10th September at 4:15pm and Saturday 14th September 9pm. For more information see the film’s TIFF programme entry here.

Pain and Glory. Courtesy of TIFF.

Pain and Glory (Dolor Y Gloria)
Canadian Premiere

Master filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar’s deeply personal twenty first feature tells of a series of re-encounters experienced by aging director Salvador Mallo, played by Antonio Banderas who won Best actor at this year’s Cannes for the role. According to the film’s official synopsis, Pain and Glory “talks about creation, about the difficulty of separating it from one’s own life and about the passions that give it meaning and hope. In recovering his past, Salvador finds the urgent need to recount it, and in that need he also finds his salvation.”

TIFF programmer Diana Sanchez comments, “Banderas has never been more charismatic and moving in a role at once grounded in authentic experience and elevated by flights of wild imagination.”

Screenings: Friday 6th September at 5:30pm and Saturday 7th September and 2:45pm. See the film’s TIFF Programme entry here.

Comets. Courtesy of TIFF.

Comets
World Premiere

Three decades after their separation, 55-year-olds Irina (Nino Kasradze) and Nana (Ketevan Gegeshidze) remain mesmerized by memories of earlier days. But when Irina returns to the small community she left — where Nana stayed to start a traditional family — the women must reconcile with the past and their complex feelings, in director Tamar Shavgulidze’s emotive drama.

“Kasradze and Gegeshidze are simultaneously understated and revelatory in their performances, promulgating the simplest human desires with economy.” TIFF Programmer Dorota Lech.

Screenings: Saturday 7th September at 6:30pm, Monday 9th September at 4:15pm and Friday 13th September at 12:15pm. Following the second screening of Comets, Julie Moreau, Assistant Professor of Political Science and Sexual Diversity Studies at University of Toronto, will join director Tamar Shavgulidze for an onstage discussion about the film. See the film’s TIFF Programme entry here.

Two of Us. Courtesy of TIFF.

Two of Us (Deux)
World Premiere

Pensioners Nina (Barbara Sukowa) and Madeleine (Martine Chevallier) have hidden their deep and passionate love for many decades, but their bond is put to the test when they are suddenly unable to move freely between each other’s apartments, in Filippo Meneghetti’s bold, lustrous debut feature.

TIFF Programmer Dorota Lech describes Two of Us as “a film of longing and revelatory beauty.”

Screenings: Saturday 7th September at 2:45pm, Monday 9th September at 6pm and Sunday 15th September at 12:30pm. See the film’s TIFF Programme entry here.

Liberté. Courtesy of TIFF.

Liberté
North American Premiere

Visionary Catalan filmmaker Albert Serra (The Death of Louis XIV) returns to TIFF with another period-piece provocation, which follows an ensemble of libidinous 18th-century French aristocrats who embark on an extended night of woodland cruising to live out their sexual fantasies and explore their philosophy of libertinage.

According to TIFF Programmer Andréa Picard, “while some of the sex is graphic, the film’s focus is on the interplay between exhibitionism and voyeurism, the seen and the unseen, lust and tedium, as cinematographer Artur Tort masterfully captures the carnal proceedings in images that recall the great neoclassical and rococo tableaux of Watteau, Fragonard, and Boucher.”

Screenings: Sunday 8th September at 6:15pm, Tuesday 10th September at 9:15pm and Saturday 14th September at 9pm. See the film’s TIFF Programme entry here.

The Capote Tapes.Courtesy of TIFF.

The Capote Tapes
World Premiere

Newly discovered interviews with friends of Truman Capote made by Paris Review co-founder George Plimpton invigorate this fascinating documentary on the author (and socialite) behind Breakfast at Tiffany’s and In Cold Blood, while situating Capote in the 20th-century American literary canon.

“Filmmaker Ebs Burnough brings an understanding of elite cultural circles from his own distinguished career that includes a stint in Obama’s White House. He navigates the complexities of Capote’s life with great skill.” Thom Powers, TIFF Programmer.

Screenings: Saturday 7th September at 4:30pm, Monday 9th September at 1:30pm and Friday 13th September at 3:15pm. See the film’s TIFF Programme entry here. See the film’s TIFF Programme entry here.

A Selection of LGBTQ+ Short Films at TIFF 2019

Are You Hungry? Courtesy of TIFF.

Are You Hungry? (Onko sulla nälkä?)
World Premiere

The latest short film from Finnish filmmaker Teemu Niukkanen. His debut short, Fucking Bunnies premiered in competition at Sundance. An overprotective mother’s assumptions about her son’s needs and desires lead to a cascading series of calamities in this hilarious, raunchy, yet wholly endearing comedy.

Screens as part of Short Cuts Programme 08 on Tuesday 10th September at 9pm and Sunday 15th September at 9:15pm. See the film’s TIFF Programme entry here.

Darling. Courtesy of TIFF.

Darling
North American Premiere

Naive Shani helps his transgender friend and crush audition for the lead in an erotic dance show. In this whimsical drama, Saim Sadiq depicts the guileless ambition and inevitable compromises of two young adults daring to imagine bolder roles for themselves than society has envisioned.

Screens as part of Short Cuts Programme 08 on Tuesday 10th September at 9pm and Sunday 15th September at 9:15pm. See the film’s TIFF Programme entry here.

Flood. Courtesy of TIFF.

Flood
World Premiere

A queer teenage boy takes his little sister on an adventure through the city for her birthday, but their celebration comes at a cost, in queer filmmaker Joseph Amenta’s vital and unflinching drama.

Screens as part of Short Cuts Programme 07 On Monday 9th September at 6:30pm and Sunday 15th September at 6:15pm. See the film’s TIFF Programme entry here.

Toomas Beneath the Valley of the Wild Wolves. Courtesy of TIFF.

Toomas Beneath the Valley of the Wild Wolves (Toomas teispool metsikute huntide orgu)
North American Premiere

In Estonian filmaker Chintis Lundgren’s decidedly cheeky and deliriously fun animation, a decent, hard-working wolf must rely on his physical gifts in order to make ends meet for the sake of his family.

Screens as part of Short Cuts Programme 06 on Sunday 8th September at 9:30pm and Saturday 14th September at 9:30pm. See the film’s TIFF Programme entry here.

SaF05. Courtesy of TIFF.

SaF05
North American Premiere

Turner Prize–winning artist-filmmaker Charlotte Prodger deftly blends the scientific with the diaristic, as the hunt for a rare maned lioness structures a personal reflection on queer desire and mobility.

Plays as part of the WAVELENGTHS 1: WLS19 programme on Friday 6th September at 7pm. See the TIFF Programme entry here.

The Bite. Courtesy of TIFF.

The Bite (A Mordida)
World Premiere

Pedro Neves Marques’ speculative short weaves a story of a polyamorous, non-binary relationship struggling to survive an epidemic of genetically modified killer mosquitos.

Plays as part of the WAVELENGTHS 1: WLS19 programme on Friday 6th September at 7pm. See the TIFF Programme entry here.

The 44th Toronto International Film Festival runs 5th–15th September and The Queer Review will there to bring you reviews, news and interviews. Tickets for this year’s festival go on sale to the public on 2nd September 2019 at 10am. For more information on purchasing tickets and packages head to the official TIFF website here.

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