TIFF 2013: The Ten Must See Features Of This Year’s Festival

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Tuesday saw the reveal of the first wave of films set to bow at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, and while there are a bevy of intriguing choices being made here, with films from big names like Stephen Frears to small foreign pictures from the likes of Bertrand Tavernier, it’s tough to really get a grasp on what the must-see pictures from this first wave of films truly are. That’s where this list tries to help. With more and more films set to be announced soon enough, here are ten must-see films from this first series of TIFF 2013 announcements. And expect to hear these names, stars and directors come up throughout the upcoming fall film season.

10. REAL

From director Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Pulse), the film is inherently interesting if only because Kurosawa is one of the most interesting foreign filmmakers of his generation. Behind possibly the best horror film of the last handful of years (the aforementioned Pulse), any film that he gets his hands on is bound to be a must-see feature. However, the premise is nearly just as exciting. Telling the story of a neurosurgeon whose girlfriend is put in a coma following an attempted suicide, the lead character then decides to use a new procedure known as “sensing” to access the still lively part of her brain. He delves into her mind in order to find out the reason for her suicide attempt, making this sound like an absolutely breathtaking bit of emotional drama.

9. Joe

This is an easy choice. With director David Gordon Green behind the camera and star Nic Cage in front of it, the film’s creative team makes it. Cage stars as an ex-con who, after meeting a young boy, becomes his new role model. Co-starring one of today’s greatest young actors, Tye Sheridan, the film sounds like a really interesting return to intimate drama for a director who, with his latest film Prince Avalanche, seems Hell bent on getting back some of his arthouse cred after burning that bridge with various mediocre-to-poor Hollywood comedies. If this is half as down to earth as his last film, Green should be making a rather thrilling return to the type of films that gave birth to his career.

8. Devil’s Knot

This is an example of a specific filmmaker taking on a specific subject matter. A truly great filmmaker, Atom Egoyan, marks his return to the big screen with this film, a look at the controversy behind the “West Memphis Three.” Following the story of three teens put on trial after being accused of murdering three young kids for a satanic ritual, the film will likely be one of the most talked about films to hit Toronto this year, and the rest of the creative team is rather superb as well. Starring the likes of Mireille Enos, Reese Witherspoon, Stephen Moyer and the ever amazing Dane DeHaan, the film is co-written by the pair of Scott Derrickson and Paul Harris Boardman, a really solid writing duo. I myself am a huge fan of Egoyan’s work, and this sounds like it will be making a huge splash during this year’s festival.

7. Dallas Buyers Club

This is another example of a film just having one hell of a creative team. Easily one of the most talked about films coming into 2013, the film comes to us from beloved foreign filmmaker Jean-Marc Vallee, and is chock full of great thespians. Led by a Matthew McConaughey who has garnered Oscar buzz for his performance since before the year even began, he’s joined by Jennifer Garner, Jared Leto and Steve Zahn, just to name a trio. The film (set to bow thanks to Focus Features) follows an electrician named Ron Woodroof and his battle with big pharmaceutical following his being diagnosed HIV positive. As a rather big fan of Vallee’s work (particularly his newest film, the absolutely breathtaking Café de Flore), this film has been one that I’ve had my eyes on since day one, and its debut at a festival like TIFF makes it one that I most certainly can’t wait to check out.

6. Visitors

It’s no shock that a new film from director Godfrey Reggio makes a list like this. While a picture like Naqoyqatsi has left this writer a tad cold on his work, he marks his return to the big screen after a decade-plus absence with a film entitled Visitors, a film not many people know all that much about. With the only real details being that it is very much a continuation of his legendary Qatsi trilogy, following man’s relationship with technology. The big sell here? Philip Glass is back with a new score, making this a really intriguing documentary prospect. It’s also one we can expect to see soon, as it already has a distributor thanks to Cinedigm.

5. Night Moves

Following the story of three environmentalists looking to make their existence known by blowing up a dam, the film sounds like an interesting and extremely topic drama, but the kicker here involves who will be directing it. From director and co-writer Kelly Reichardt, the film is without a doubt the most interesting unknown entity set to debut at this year’s TIFF. While it may lack the bombast of a film like Gravity or 12 Years A Slave, the film has all the makings of something truly special. Backed by a genuinely great auteur, the film’s cast includes Dakota Fanning, Jesse Eisenberg and even Alia Shawkat, in what will likely be the director’s biggest cast to date. Hopefully this can live up to all this immense potential and hype.

4. Attila Marcel

The live action feature film debut of director Sylvain Chomet? Need I say more? Well, if so, here it goes. Chomet writes and directs this film, which follows the story of a Parisian man, in his 30s, whose life is turned upside down when meeting a woman named Madame Proust. Not much else is really known about the film, so its spot here is primarily riding on the fact that this marks the first live action feature from the director of films like The Illusionist and Triplets Of Belleville. And I must say, that’s one hell of a pedigree to go off of.

3. Blue Is The Warmest Color

There isn’t much to say about this film that hasn’t already been said on this very website, and by the jury at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, which gave this film its Palme d’Or award. From director Abdellatif Kechiche, the film is based on a graphic novel which tells about the sexual awakening of a young woman after the introduction of Emma, a stunning female with blue hair. With its win at Cannes earlier this year, it’s become the most talked about arthouse picture of 2013, and will likely stay that way throughout this upcoming fall season.

2. 12 Years A Slave

And now the obvious one-two punch. First up, the runner up, Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave. This film, much like the top film here, has been talked about seemingly 24/7, but for good reason. Following the story of Solomon Northrup, a free black man who is sold back into slavery, the film stars Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender and will likely be the breakthrough performance for the film’s lead, Chiwetel Ejiofor, who will likely make this his true coming out party. One of the best actors around, Ejiofor deserves a role as seemingly powerful and heavy as this to call his own, and expect to hear about everyone involved (including screenwriter John Ridley) talked about throughout this entire fall season, and through the rest of the year. Oh yeah, and Steve McQueen is directing here, so this is bound to be the most talked about film of 2013.

1. Gravity

Or at least the second, if director Alfonso Cuaron has anything to say. Marking this film as his return to the big screen, the film stars George Clooney and Sandra Bullock in what appears to be one of the most interesting bits of drama/science-fiction we’ve seen in a very long time. With one hell of a thrilling trailer marking its arrival earlier this year, some crowds have found humor in the admittedly odd bit of promotion, but it appears to hint at the absolute terror that Cuaron seems to have focused his strengths on with this film. Cuaron being one of this generation’s true visionaries aesthetically, this remains this fall’s most interesting picture, and possibly the most anticipated drama of all of 2013.

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