TIFF 2020: LGBTQ+ highlights at 45th Toronto International Film Festival

The 45th Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) gets underway this Thursday September 10th and will run both virtually and with limited socially distanced in-person screenings until Saturday September 19th. The Queer Review is looking forward to bringing you news, reviews and interviews from this year’s TIFF, which features a number of LGBTQ+ related shorts, documentaries and narrative features from around the world. Here we take a look at some of this year’s queer highlights.

Ammonite. Courtesy of TIFF.

Ammonite, TIFF Gala Presentation

Writer-director Francis Lee’s eagerly-awaited second feature, following the instant gay classic God’s Own Country, stars Oscar-winner Kate Winslet as the solitary Mary Anning, a fossil expert in early 19th century England. A love story ensues when she’s unexpectedly joined on the Dorset coast by the wealthy, grieving Charlotte Murchison (Oscar-nominee Saoirse Ronan). According to TIFF’s artistic director and co-head of the Toronto International Film Festival, “Winslet delivers one of the very best performances of her career” in the film. The cast also includes Gemma Jones, Fiona Shaw and God’s Own Country star Alec Secareanu.

TIFF screenings: September 11th, 12 and 14th.

No Ordinary Man. Courtesy of TIFF.

No Ordinary Man, TIFF Docs

Directors Aisling Chin-Yee and Chase Joynt explore the legacy of revered American jazz musician and trans icon, Billy Tipton, with a diverse group of contemporary trans performers collectively telling Tipton’s story. Popular as a musician in 1940s and 50s, following his death in 1989 he went on to become a foundational icon of transmasculinity. Described as “groundbreaking” by TIFF programmer Ravi Srinivasan, in the festival notes for the film, Ravi goes on to write that No Ordinary Man “deftly connects Tipton’s identity to modern trans representation through clever editing and impassioned perspectives.”

TIFF screenings: September 10th, 11th and 14.

Shiva Baby. Courtesy of TIFF.

Shiva Baby, TIFF NEXT WAVE

Director Emma Seligman’s feature debut, based on her own short film of the same name which played TIFF’s Next Wave Film Festival in 2019, focuses on a young woman grappling with family, tradition, and independence. Official synopsis: A near college graduate, Danielle (Rachel Sennott), gets paid by her sugar daddy (Danny Deferrari) and rushes to meet her neurotic parents at a family shiva. Upon arrival, she is accosted by various estranged relatives about her appearance and lack of post-grad plans, while her confident ex-girlfriend, Maya (Molly Gordon), is applauded by everyone for getting into law school. Danielle’s day takes an unexpected turn when her sugar daddy, Max, arrives at the shiva with his accomplished wife, Kim, and crying baby. As the day unfolds, Danielle struggles to keep up different versions of herself, fend off pressures from her family and confront her insecurities without completely losing it. According to Cameron Bailey Shiva Baby is “sharp-witted and hilarious” and “an assured, vibrant debut from Seligman.”

TIFF screenings: September 10th and 17th.

Summer of 85. Courtesy of TIFF.

Summer of 85, Special Presentations

Based on Aidan Chambers’ novel Dance on my Grave, which writer-director François Ozon first read in the 1980s, the film follows what happens when 16-year-old Alexis (Félix Lefebvre) capsizes off the coast of Normandy and 18-year-old David (Benjamin Voisin) heroically saves him. The official synopsis teases: “Alexis has just met the friend of his dreams, but will the dream last for more than one summer? The summer of 85.” TIFF’s Cameron Bailey comments “Unlike many queer coming-of-age love stories, Summer of 85 doesn’t dwell on its young characters’ coming out. They are not plagued by sexual repression, which frees the film up to fully portray their desire and youthful sexuality.”

TIFF screenings: September 13th, 15th and 17th.

Falling. Courtesy of TIFF.

Falling, Special Presentations

Written and directed by Oscar-nominee Viggo Mortensen, he also stars in the film as John who lives with his partner, Eric (Terry Chen), and their daughter, Mónica (Gabby Velis), in California, far from the traditional rural life he left behind years ago. According to the official synopsis: “John’s father, Willis (Lance Henriksen), a headstrong man from a bygone era, lives alone on the isolated farm where John grew up. Willis’s mind is declining, so John brings him west, hoping that he and his sister, Sarah (Laura Linney), can help their father find a home closer to them. Their best intentions ultimately run up against Willis’s angry refusal to change his way of life in any way.” Cameron Bailey says of the film: “Mortensen uses sophisticated visual and aural techniques to take us inside the experience of both son and father. Henriksen delivers a towering performance as a man roiling with rage he can barely understand, and Laura Linney is terrific as John’s sister, Sarah.”

TIFF screenings: September 11th, 13th, 14th and 17th.

Good Joe Bell. Courtesy of TIFF.

Good Joe Bell, Gala Presentations

From the Oscar-winning screenwriters of Brokeback Mountain, Good Joe Bell tells the story of a father, Joe Bell (Mark Wahlberg), who is learning to accept his badly bullied gay teenage son Jadin (Reid Miller). Cameron Bailey says of the film, “Reinaldo Marcus Green directs Wahlberg to one of his finest performances, finding new layers as Joe’s empathy deepens. And Reid Miller is terrific, radiating the exuberant light of youth even as he navigates the shadows around him.”

TIFF screenings: September 14th, 18th and 19th.

Bruised. Courtesy of TIFF.

Bruised, Gala Presentations

Screening at TIFF as a work in progress, Halle Berry makes her directorial debut with Bruised, while also starring in the film as a washed-up MMA fighter struggling for redemption as both an athlete and a mother in this New Jersey set drama. Bailey says of the film, “With this assured debut feature, Academy Award winner Berry crafts a textured portrait of a woman defined by her fight-or-flight reactions to the challenges life has thrown her way.”

TIFF screenings: September 12th and 18th.

For more information on available festival tickets head here and for the full festival programme head here.

The 45th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival, taking place September 10th – 19th, is tailored to fit the moment, with physical screenings and drive-ins, digital screenings, virtual red carpets, press conferences, and industry talks. This year’s selection comprises a lineup of 50 new feature films, five programmes of short films, as well as interactive talks, film cast reunions, and Q&As with cast and filmmakers.

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