TIFF 2016

The Bait (Buddhadeb Dasgupta, India) — Masters

By Robert Koehler / September 17, 2016

By Robert Koehler The West Bengali auteur Buddhadeb Dasgupta is sufficiently ignored in the West so that his new movie, The Bait, isn’t listed among his 35 director credits at IMDb. Before watching it at TIFF, I would remark to friends, cinephiles, and fellow critics that I was “about to see the movie by Dasgupta,”…

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Bleed for This (Ben Younger, US) — Special Presentations

By Robert Koehler / September 17, 2016

By Robert Koehler Fun fact about the tenacious American boxer Vinny Paz, or as he was known during his heyday, Vinny Pazienza: In his final bid for the WBC world super middleweight title, he lost to Canada, represented by Quebec’s Eric “Lucky” Lucas. No Canadian has made a movie about Lucas, not yet anyway, but…

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Miss Impossible (Emilie Deleuze, France) — TIFF Kids

By Michael Sicinski / September 17, 2016

By Michael Sicinski It may be a painfully obvious point, but the simplest gauge of Miss Impossible’s unassuming success is to consider all the cheap, ingratiating tics you’d see in an American version of the same material. This is a very small film buoyed by a lead character, 13-year-old Aurore (newcomer Léna Magnien), whose snark…

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Once Again (Adoor Gopalakrishnan, India) — Masters

By Michael Sicinski / September 17, 2016

By Michael Sicinski I have to hand it to TIFF. It’s one of the few film festivals in the West that still pays substantial attention to the “parallel cinemas” of India, even though the very idea of independent art film on the subcontinent has gone very much out of style. Back in the ’70s and…

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Into the Inferno (Werner Herzog, UK/Austria) — TIFF Docs

By Robert Koehler / September 17, 2016

By Robert Koehler Like certain kinds of sports fans, those who are into volcanoes can’t understand those who aren’t. (I’ve met a few, and I’ve found little else in life to discuss with them.) So Into the Inferno, Werner Herzog’s third film addressing volcanoes, and the first taking a global perspective, is not for those…

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India in a Day (Richie Mehta, India/UK) — TIFF Docs

By Jay Kuehner / September 17, 2016

By Jay Kuehner Never mind the city symphony—here is the cacophony of an entire country. The “user-generated doc” is enlisted to reveal (or effectively colonize, depending on your view) its own vast territory, in this case the world’s largest democracy, India. By virtue of sheer plurality and simultaneity—and under the dubious tutelage of Ridley Scott…

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The Edge of Seventeen (Kelly Fremon Craig, US) — Gala Presentations

By Robert Koehler / September 17, 2016

By Robert Koehler Since few grieved over the demise of the dead-end genre known as the High School Comedy, it’s hard to fathom the purpose behind debuting writer-director Kelly Fremon Craig’s gambit to revive it with The Edge of Seventeen. But because James L. Brooks is backing it as producer and Hailee Steinfeld—currently best-of-show among…

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Colossal (Nacho Vigalondo, Canada/Spain) — Vanguard

By Josh Cabrita / September 17, 2016

By Josh Cabrita Nacho Vigalondo’s discombobulating rom-com monster movie occupies an awkward middle ground. Neither committing to its darker undertones nor giving itself over to unhinged absurdity, the film shifts between an ironic and forthright treatment of its preposterous concept: that thirtysomething alcoholic Gloria (Anne Hathaway) is responsible for unpredictable monster sightings and attacks in…

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Salt and Fire (Werner Herzog, France/US/Germany/Mexico) — Special Presentations

By Robert Koehler / September 17, 2016

By Robert Koehler In an ideal world, some things wouldn’t be possible in international cinema, such as Kim Ki-duk making any more movies. (Actually, China is doing its bit for that cause, in its own dubious way, right now.) Another would be that Werner Herzog couldn’t make any narrative features in English. The man, so…

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Maliglutit (Searchers) (Zacharias Kunuk, Canada) — Platform

By Jay Kuehner / September 16, 2016

By Jay Kuehner There’s something poetic in the notion of an indigenous reworking of John Ford’s The Searchers (1956), although it does not appear to be the motivating principle behind Zacharias Kunuk’s Maliglutit, which fashions itself as a western told in an Inuit way. There are of course a host of political/theoretical implications to such…

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Yourself and Yours (Hong Sangsoo, South Korea) — Masters

By Robert Koehler / September 16, 2016

By Robert Koehler A parlour game likely to happen at many festivals around the world over the next several months will be this: Is there one Minjung who appears on screen as the central female character in Hong Sangsoo’s Yourself and Yours, or are there at least two, maybe even three? Does she have an…

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Barakah Meets Barakah (Mahmoud Sabbagh, Saudi Arabia) — Special Presentations

By Ethan Vestby / September 16, 2016

By Ethan Vestby Belonging to a burgeoning new sub-genre known as “cinéma de selfie-stick” (or at least that’s what I’m calling it), the Saudi romantic comedy Barakah Meets Barakah has the temerity to tackle what most would, with a snicker, refer to as “How We Live Now.” Thankfully, this framework is used to present a…

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The Commune (Thomas Vinterberg, Denmark/Sweden/Netherlands) — Special Presentations

By Dominik Kamalzadeh / September 16, 2016

By Dominik Kamalzadeh In his Danish films, director Thomas Vinterberg prefers to turn his attention to more personal (and sociopolitical) matters than in his international productions. After The Celebration (1998) and The Hunt (2012), the ’70s-set drama The Commune, originally conceived as a theatre play that premiered at Vienna’s Akademietheater in 2011, is another examination…

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The Autopsy of Jane Doe (André Øvredal, UK) — Midnight Madness

By Josh Cabrita / September 16, 2016

By Josh Cabrita André Øvredal’s The Autopsy of Jane Doe, the follow-up to his witty Trollhunter (2011), is bolstered by the clever conceit that a locked-room mystery can be housed in a corpse’s crevasses. Naturally then, our detectives are morticians, Tommy Tilden (Brian Cox) and his son Austen (Emile Hirsch), who perform a late-night autopsy…

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Barry (Vikram Gandhi, US) — Special Presentations

By Jose Teodoro / September 16, 2016

By José Teodoro Among Barry’s most likable attributes is the fact that it barely even needs to be about Barack Obama, whose actual given name is never uttered over the course of the film. Set in August 1981, the loose narrative introduces us to its 20-year-old protagonist just as he arrives in NYC to study…

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Dog Eat Dog (Paul Schrader, US) — Midnight Madness

By Jordan Cronk / September 15, 2016

By Jordan Cronk It requires a unique level of creative autonomy to make a film as gleefully uninhibited as Dog Eat Dog. Luckily for director Paul Schrader—who couldn’t quite maintain the precarious balance between financial and artistic considerations with his previous film, the recut and subsequently disowned The Dying of the Light (2014)—he’s been granted…

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We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice (Alanis Obomsawin, Canada) — Masters

By Adam Nayman / September 15, 2016

By Adam Nayman There is a moment near the end of Alanis Obomsawin’s purposefully epic-length courtroom-procedural documentary We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice where the camera catches a lawyer’s convictions wilting—he can’t even really make eye contact with the tribunal he’s trying to convince, much less sell them on the idea that the Canadian…

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Water and Sugar: Carlo Di Palma, The Colours of Life (Fariboz Kamkari, Italy) — TIFF Docs

By Robert Koehler / September 15, 2016

By Robert Koehler There’s no excuse making a poor film on the life and work of one of cinema’s greatest cinematographers. A film about Carlo Di Palma should practically direct itself: stitch together clips from his major (and some of his minor) work—from Pietro Germi’s Divorce Italian Style (1961) and Antonioni’s Red Desert (1964), Blow-up…

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Prank (Vincent Biron, Canada) — Discovery

By Josh Cabrita / September 15, 2016

By Josh Cabrita There’s a self-reflexive moment in Vincent Biron’s feature debut where a group of delinquents watch Béla Tarr’s The Turin Horse (2011) stoned in a backyard. It’s an odd cinephilic reference point for a film that is ostensibly the bastard child of Harmony Korine’s Trash Humpers (2009) and Todd Solondz’s Welcome to the…

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Politics, Instruction Manual (Fernando León de Aranoa, Spain) — TIFF DOCS

By Steve Macfarlane / September 15, 2016

By Steve Macfarlane If one major lesson can be drawn (as opposed to countless small and terrifying ones) from the last few years of populist upsurges, maybe it’s this: a consistent, well-sold policy—whether Bernie Sanders’ or Nigel Farage’s—can still resonate with dissatisfied voter blocs in a major way, wild-carding the amnesiac Central Casting burlesque that…

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The Empty Box (Claudia Sainte-Luce, Mexico/France) — Discovery

By Michael Sicinski / September 15, 2016

By Michael Sicinski There are only so many variations on the “watching a family member slip into dementia” story. This is a difficult truism to volley at any work of art, precisely because as each of us experiences that painful eventuality—and more and more of us will, given the rapid greying of our Baby Boomer…

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Birth of the Dragon (George Nolfi, US/China/Canada) — Special Presentations

By Steve Macfarlane / September 15, 2016

By Steve Macfarlane When it comes to biopic treatment, everybody deserves better. But this is especially true for Bruce Lee, who left behind a rich and varied filmography, lest we forget—by my lights, the drinking sequence in The Big Boss (1971) is as termitic a portrayal of shit-facedness as the movies have offered, facing competition…

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Katie Says Goodbye (Wayne Roberts, US) — Discovery

By Michael Sicinski / September 15, 2016

By Michael Sicinski Full disclosure: I have been seeing most of this year’s Discovery titles without reading any synopses, production notes, or press packets, because I have wanted to evaluate them in as close to a tabula rasa state as possible. So I did not learn until well after seeing Katie Says Goodbye that it…

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Never Ever (Benoît Jacquot, France/Belgium) — Masters

By Diana Dabrowska / September 15, 2016

By Diana Dabrowska To be honest, I really dont understand how, after the debacle of 3 Hearts (2014), Benoît Jacquot is still allowed to make cinema. At this point, somebody should take away his French citizenship for a miserable and paltry contribution to a sparkling filmmaking heritage. One could naïvely ask, just like Werner Herzog…

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Una (Benedict Andrews, UK) — Special Presentations

By Josh Cabrita / September 14, 2016

By Josh Cabrita An indication of what Elle could have been if it wasn’t directed by Paul Verhoeven or led by Isabelle Huppert, Una treads dangerous territory without tact, nimbleness or reflexivity. Certain subjects require more care than others, and when representing sexual abuse on screen, there’s always the risk of trivializing its effects or…

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The Limehouse Golem (Juan Carlos Medina, UK) — Special Presentations

By Josh Cabrita / September 14, 2016

By Josh Cabrita Edgar Allen Poe, the creator of the detective story, and Conan Doyle, its popularizer, conceived their protagonists as psychoanalysts as much as investigators. The framework they established was male-dominated and placed women only in misogynist types. Juan Carlos Medina’s film is a feminist deconstruction of how we record history and a critique…

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Old Stone (Johnny Ma, Canada/China) — Discovery

By Ethan Vestby / September 14, 2016

By Ethan Vestby Cab driver Lao Shi (Chen Gang) has his worst fare ever when an inebriated passenger unexpectedly grabs his arm, causing his car to strike a motorcyclist. Quick to act when an ambulance won’t show up, Lao Shi rushes the injured man to the hospital. Yet his good deed only brings him misfortune,…

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Blair Witch (Adam Wingard, US) — Midnight Madness

By Alysia Urrutia / September 14, 2016

By Alysia Urrutia While it’s ostensibly a bold gesture to reboot the pre-viral benchmark of independent cinema, Adam Wingard’s millennial sequel Blair Witch lacks what its cunning predecessor had in spades: the element of surprise, both in its premise and its grassroots promotional method. You have to hand it to Wingard and his distributor for…

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The Age of Shadows (Kim Jee-woon, South Korea) — Special Presentations

By Tommaso Tocci / September 14, 2016

By Tommasso Tocci A satisfying cloak-and-dagger thriller set in Japanese-occupied Korea during the 1920s, Kim Jee-woon’s The Age of Shadows betrays a kind of business-like approach to spy games, institutional and otherwise. With an unobstructed point of view that moves swiftly between the upper echelons of the Japanese police force and the busy Seoul shopfronts…

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Layla M. (Mijke de Jong) — Platform

By Angelo Muredda / September 14, 2016

By Angelo Muredda The youth-in-extremis movie gets a relatively fresh new face in Mijke de Jong’s Layla M., which, together with Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight, positions TIFF’s Platform programme as a quality clearing house for coming-of-age melodramas with a critical difference. Here the point of distinction is the budding radicalism of the heretofore university-bound Layla (Nora…

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Deepwater Horizon (Peter Berg, US) — Gala Presentations

By Jose Teodoro / September 14, 2016

By José Teodoro We know from the start that this baby’s gonna blow; it’s only a question of when and how abysmally. Deepwater Horizon is everything you might expect from a Gala: it’s big, it’s bad, it has famous people. There’s bald foreshadowing involving bald men and reams of mumbled exposition from Mark Wahlberg and…

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I Am Not Your Negro (Raoul Peck, US/France/Belgium/Switzerland) — TIFF Docs

By Steve Macfarlane / September 13, 2016

By Steve Macfarlane This past summer, I attended a screening and panel discussion hosted by the New Negress Film Society in Brooklyn; standing outside the venue afterwards, a flustered British gentleman took the evening’s general political timbre to task as follows: “I’m just a bit tired of hearing about the whole ‘white supremacy’ conversation. It’s…

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White Sun (Deepak Rauniyar, Nepal/US/Qatar/Netherlands) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Robert Koehler / September 13, 2016

By Robert Koehler One of Sohrab Shahid Saless’ earliest masterworks is titled A Simple Event (1973), which could easily be the title—and a better one—for co-writer/director Deepak Rauniyar’s White Sun. The movie comes to TIFF direct from Venice’s Horizons section, which suggests that it may be an adventurous piece of cinema. It’s not, but aside…

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Indivisible (Eduardo De Angelis, Italy) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Diana Dabrowska / September 13, 2016

By Diana Dabrowska In all of this three feature films Eduardo De Angelis goes back to his roots in his homeland in southern Italy, and discovers a new side of Naples and its surroundings. In Indivisibile, Castel Volturno appears as a more poetic version of Gomorra, a no man’s land of weird saints and fake…

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(Re)Assignment (Walter Hill, Canada/France/US) — Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 13, 2016

By Adam Nayman A potential powder keg of (trans)gender politics provided anybody ever actually sees it after its TIFF premiere, Walter Hill’s (Re)Assignment is sort of two movies in one: a low-rent, bullet-in-the-head revenge thriller that embraces clichés like long-lost friends, and an inconngrously high-minded disquisition on style that cribs from Shakespeare and Poe en…

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Planetarium (Rebecca Zlotowski, France/Belgium) — Gala Presentations

By Diana Dabrowska / September 13, 2016

By Diana Dabrowska In an early scene in Planetarium, the character played by Natalie Portman says “I don’t want to be a disappointment.” After Portman’s powerful performance as JBK in Pablo Larraín’s “HBO-style” biopic Jackie, Rebecca Zlotowski’s film is not just a disappointment for its star, but a fiasco—and not just for her, but for…

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Sand Storm (Elite Zexer, Israel) — Discovery

By Steve Macfarlane / September 13, 2016

By Steve Macfarlane Tradition at loggerheads with modernity: that ancient “world cinema” chestnut gets another diffident tango in Elite Zexer’s Sand Storm, concerning a Bedouin family in the south of Israel. Ruba Blal-Asfour stars as Jalila, a steely matriarch with no choice but to suffer in silence as her husband Suliman (Hitham Omari, who also…

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Sámi Blood (Amanda Kernell, Sweden/Denmark/Norway) — Discovery

By Jennifer Lynde Barker / September 13, 2016

By Jennifer Lynde Barker Language marks us. What seems innocuous in a familiar setting becomes abruptly conspicuous when contrasted with different sounds and intonations. This makes language an easy target for discrimination, perhaps because we seldom feel more vulnerable than when we cannot understand what someone else is saying. Being denied comprehension means being shut…

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150 Milligrams (Emmanuelle Bercot, France) — Special Presentations

By James Lattimer / September 13, 2016

By James Lattimer Even if Emmanuelle Bercot’s stultifying biopic 150 Milligrams weren’t based on a true story, its outcome would anyway be clear from the outset: when feisty provincial doctors take on the system, convention demands that they must win. Bercot doesn’t seem to have a problem with embracing total predictability however, given that she…

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The Hedonists (Jia Zhangke, China) — Short Cuts

By Michael Sicinski / September 13, 2016

By Michael Sicinski This is a bit like Jia Zhangke’s version of a Ken Loach comedy, and actually that’s not bad. In just under 30 minutes, we witness the closure of a coal mine in Fenyang due to a collapse in the Chinese energy sector. The boss, while a garden-variety curmudgeon, doesn’t even seem like…

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City of Tiny Lights (Pete Travis, UK) — Special Presentations

By Mallory Andrews / September 13, 2016

By Mallory Andrews There’s hardboiled and then there’s just a waste of perfectly good eggs; City of Tiny Lights is regrettably the latter. “Death weighs heavier than heartbreak” intones London-based private investigator Tommy Akhtar (Riz Ahmed, fresh from HBO’s The Night Of and soon to be ubiquitous for his role in the upcoming Rogue One:…

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I Called Him Morgan (Kasper Collin, Sweden/US) — TIFF Docs

By Jose Teodoro / September 12, 2016

By José Teodoro Trumpeter Lee Morgan belonged to that wave of early-’60s Blue Note recording artists that included Sonny Clark and Ike Quebec, guys who did not embrace the radically dilating apertures of free jazz but, rather, confined their explorations to the vernacular of bebop. Over time, these musicians have understandably become overshadowed by the…

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Sweet Dreams (Marco Bellocchio, Italy) — Masters

By Blake Williams / September 12, 2016

By Blake Williams Pressed so far beyond his trademark disdain for the patriarchal legacy that Catholicism has left (and continues to assert) over modern-day Italian life and culture, master filmmaker Marco Bellocchio here follows up his sublime and mysterious Blood of My Blood (2015) with a handsome and shamelessly cloying picture that represents the most logical culmination…

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In the Radiant City (Rachel Lambert, US) — Discovery

By Michael Sicinski / September 12, 2016

By Michael Sicinski “A mom is a mom, even if you call it a tree.” So speaks Richard Gonzalez (Jon Michael Hill), the public defender assigned to the parole case at the centre of In the Radiant City, a vague piece of Kentucky regionalism from first-time director Rachel Lambert. (It’s almost tempting to reimagine the…

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Off Frame AKA Revolution to Until Victory (Mohanad Yaqubi, Palestine/France/Qatar/Lebanon) — TIFF Docs

By Robert Koehler / September 12, 2016

By Robert Koehler Beyond the rare screening of Far From Vietnam (1967), viewers today have few chances to encounter the Third Cinema movement, that brief but intense burst of nonfiction work generally informed by Marxist-Leninist internationalism whose superstar was a radicalized Jean-Luc Godard. If you attended North American universities in the mid-’70s you would have…

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My Entire High School is Sinking Into the Sea (Dash Shaw, US) — Vanguard

By Ethan Vestby / September 12, 2016

By Ethan Vestby Any feature-film debut boasting a stacked cast of celebrities tempts us to conjure up the image of a big-deal producer calling in as many favours as possible. Yet detecting the reasoning for the number of marquee names involved in the freshman effort of comic-book artist/writer Dash Shaw perhaps derives from its script…

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Soul on a String (China, Zhang Yang) — Contemporary World Cinema

By James Lattimer / September 12, 2016

By James Lattimer The amount of enjoyment to be derived from Soul on a String hinges on one’s tolerance for heavily processed images. While all the shots of vast natural vistas, tastefully furnished interiors, and portentous encounters have been painstakingly composed, each and every frame of Zhang Yhang’s Tibetan epic has been flushed through a…

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Abacus: Small Enough to Jail (Steve James, US) — TIFF Docs

By Michael Sicinski / September 12, 2016

By Michael Sicinski Most of the films related to the 2008 financial meltdown (documentaries and features) have assumed an audience thoroughly cowed by the very topic. In fact, the films themselves have often seemed flummoxed by their very subject, doing their best to present the complexities of 21st-century international finance in broad strokes and simple…

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Kati Kati (Mbithi Masya, Kenya/Germany) — Discovery

By Michael Sicinski / September 12, 2016

By Michael Sicinski A genuinely surprising film from an unexpected source, Kati Kati is a film that draws on tradition (Nollywood, Senegalese counter-cinema, faith-based films) without falling into the stylistic or genre traps of any of those approaches. The plot is basic enough, but inventive in its execution: Kaleche (Nyokabi Gethaiga) wakes up in a…

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Daguerrotype (Kurosawa Kiyoshi, France/Japan/Belgium) — Platform

By Robert Koehler / September 12, 2016

By Robert Koehler Everybody wants to go to Paris, even Kurosawa Kiyoshi. Usually, these ventures to France by non-French directors in order to make French movies result in seriously messy omelettes. (Asghar Farhadi, anyone?) Kurosawa’s Daguerrotype is certainly a mess, though it’s easy to surmise why he was attracted to bring his interest in ghosts,…

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Buster Mal’s Heart (Sarah Adina Smith, US) — Vanguard

By Robert Koehler / September 12, 2016

By Robert Koehler Rami Malek has become the new face of the Disturbed Man, a type owned in the past by Peter Lorre, Ray Milland, Anthony Perkins, Dustin Hoffman and Jake Gyllenhaal. That list suggests that the quality of our Disturbed Men has been somewhat declining. Malek may have reversed that trend purely with Mr.…

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Voyage of Time: Life’s Journey (Terrence Malick, Germany) — Special Presentations

By Robert Koehler / September 11, 2016

By Robert Koehler Time was, when he was actually doing good work, Terrence Malick seemed to appear with a new movie once a decade, if that. Now that he’s making drivel, Malick can’t stop himself from churning them out, which, a theory goes, is why they’re drivel. That theory, however, can’t explain the ridiculous new…

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The Rolling Stones Olé Olé Olé! A Trip Across Latin America (Paul Dugdale, UK) — Gala Presentations

By Robert Koehler / September 11, 2016

By Robert Koehler Robert Frank’s Cocksucker Blues (1973) remains the gnarliest rock-band tour movie ever made, and the best Stones movie too. Watching the new Stones tour movie, The Rolling Stones Olé Olé Olé!, will recall Frank’s movie for all the ways in which the band has changed. Once profane and on the verge of…

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Amanda Knox (Brian McGinn & Rod Blackhurst, USA/Denmark) — TIFF Docs

By Jose Teodoro / September 11, 2016

By José Teodoro What’s finally most objectionable about Amanda Knox is encapsulated right in this glossy and obnoxious film’s title. Its fundamental sensationalism bubbling under a patina of seriousness, exemplified by cocoon-like, squarely composed, quasi-Errol Morris interview sessions, Amanda Knox revisits the botched investigation—and re-investigation—into the 2007 murder of Meredith Kercher, a British exchange student,…

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The Ivory Game (Kief Davidson & Richard Ladkani, Austria/USA) — TIFF Docs

By Jay Kuehner / September 11, 2016

By Jay Kuehner A “call to action,” a “wake-up call”—call it what call you will, The Ivory Game is stylized broadcast journalism for the Netflix set, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, considering how smart elephants are; if only they can outlast cinema when it comes to extinction. To be fair, the ivory trade is…

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The Untamed (Amat Escalante, Mexico/Denmark/France/Germany/ Norway/Switzerland) — Vanguard

By Angelo Muredda / September 11, 2016

By Angelo Muredda Repressed sexual impulses find a novel form of expression in Amat Escalante’s The Untamed, a genre film for people who find genre films distasteful. As in his Cannes-winning Heli (2013), Escalante’s knack for high-concept premises—there, using the family unit as a means to explore the insidiousness of violence—is undone by his obvious,…

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Forever Pure (Maya Zinshtein, Israel/UK/Denmark/Norway) — TIFF Docs

By Mallory Andrews / September 11, 2016

By Mallory Andrews They call themselves La Familia, and the mob connotations don’t end there for the yellow-and-black-clad uber-fans who reliably fill the stands during each game of Beitar Jerusalem F.C. But in exchange for their loyalty, they exact a high price. In Forever Pure, Maya Zinshtein follows the controversial 2012 season, when Beitar recruited…

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The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography (Errol Morris, US) — TIFF Docs

By Jay Kuehner / September 11, 2016

By Jay Kuehner As a portrait of a portrait artist, Errol Morris’ framing of Elsa Dorfman is scaled with commensurately intimate and life-sized means, perhaps surprisingly given the director’s predilection for the everyday uncanny (you’d suspect Diane Arbus to be the more fitting subject). Morris drops in on Dorfman’s studio for a guided tour of…

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Below Her Mouth (April Mullen, Canada) — Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 11, 2016

By Adam Nayman Nomi Malone’s swimming-pool gyrations in Showgirls (1995) have nothing on the scene in Below Her Mouth where fashion editor Jasmine (Natalie Krill) brings herself to orgasm via a full-blast bathtub faucet while perched perilously over the porcelain basin; if nothing else, it’s quite a display of upper-body strength. So, credit director April…

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Queen of Katwe (Mira Nair, Uganda/South Africa) — Gala Presentations

By Robert Koehler / September 11, 2016

By Robert Koehler Disney’s second African movie of the year since The Jungle Book is set in India, Queen of Katwe is deep-dish Disney of the live-action variety, the kind that parents take their kids to to make them better and make themselves as parents feel better. Director Mira Nair, operating far from her Indian…

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Jeffrey (Yanillys Perez, Dominican Republic/France) — Discovery

By Michael Sicinski / September 11, 2016

By Michael Sicinski From its aerial opening shots of the massive urban crunch of Santo Domingo, zeroing in on one particular family in a corner of the slums, Jeffrey looks at first as if it’s going to provide a Dominican riff on City of God (2002). Thankfully, first-timer Yanillys Perez foregoes most of the clichés…

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Trespass Against Us (Adam Smith, UK) — Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 11, 2016

By Adam Nayman In a film filled with significant canines—from an accidentally immolated mutt to a prize police-unit sniffer to a redemptive purebred puppy—Michael Fassbender’s hangdog eyes are best in show: after all, acting Shame is right in our hero’s wheelhouse. As Chad, a reckless, criminally-inclined traveller caught somewhere between his firebrand father’s (Brendan Gleeson)…

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ARQ (Tony Elliott, US/Canada) — Discovery

By Michael Sicinski / September 10, 2016

By Michael Sicinski Bearing a surface resemblance to Primer (2004) and Edge of Tomorrow (2014), ARQ thrusts its viewers into a vaguely futuristic world that [REBOOT] Bearing an unnervingly derivative resemblance to Shane Carruth’s Primer (2004), which did much more with considerably less, the debut feature by TV writer Tony Elliott (most recently of Orphan…

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Weirdos (Bruce McDonald, Canada) — Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 10, 2016

By Adam Nayman Having given Bruce McDonald a pretty rough ride in this space last year for the so-bad-it-had-to-be-contractually-obligated horror movie Hellions, I’m inclined to go easier on Weirdos, which has the same rambling, open-road sensibility of the director’s very best movies. Not that this gentle period comedy (dateline: Antigonish, 1976) ever really challenges the…

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Burn Your Maps (Jordan Roberts, US) — Special Presentations

By Robert Koehler / September 10, 2016

By Robert Koehler A small tale of a boy’s obsession realized, writer-director Jordan Roberts’ Burn Your Maps is the perfect movie for TIFF audiences who want to do some armchair travelling but don’t want to bother with those pesky subtitles. Albertan visitors to the festival will be doubly happy: the landscapes of their wealthy and…

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Gaza Surf Club (Mickey Yamine & Phillip Gnadt, Germany/Palestine/US) — TIFF Docs

By Josh Cabrita / September 10, 2016

By Josh Cabrita Whether it’s admirable wish-fulfillment or just plain dishonest, Mickey Yamine and Phillip Gnadt’s Gaza Surf Club is a “feel-good” documentary that wants to be—and is about being—distracted from injustice. Focusing on the bourgeoning surfing culture in the Gaza Strip, the film follows three interconnected individuals: a female adolescent who can’t swim because…

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The Giant (Johannes Nyholm, Sweden/Denmark) — Discovery

By Aurelie Godet / September 10, 2016

By Aurelie Godet Johannes Nyholm has forged his own path, bending techniques to suit his personal vision in a number of astonishing music videos and short films, including the award-winning Las Palmas, which featured marionettes and his own baby daughter. An artisan in spirit, he has continuously experimented, mixing genres in a style both rough…

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Park (Sofia Exarchou, Greece/Poland) — Discovery

By Michael Sicinski / September 10, 2016

By Michael Sicinski Given that we’re now about ten years into the Greek New Wave, it stands to reason that we would begin to see some younger directors rejecting the rigour and clinical distance that characterized the best-known films of the movement. Park shares the bleak attitude of 21st-century breakdown that we find in Dogtooth…

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Heartstone (Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson, Iceland/Denmark) — Discovery

By Michael Sicinski / September 10, 2016

By Michael Sicinski Heartstone is the type of debut film that is brimming with good intentions but ultimately doesn’t make a strong enough case for its existence. Trading in coming-of-age tropes and stock markers of identity, Heartstone at least has the courtesy to spread its youthful anxieties over a stunning Icelandic coastal landscape, allowing its…

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The Road to Mandalay (Midi Z, Taiwan/Myanmar/France/Germany) — Contemporary World Cinema

By James Lattimer / September 10, 2016

By James Lattimer Like most things in The Road to Mandalay, the border crossing happens quietly: a small group assembles at a rural meeting point, a girl named Lianquing takes the front seat and the men the trunk, they drive through the night, a deal is made at the checkpoint, and by the next morning…

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The Levelling (Hope Dickson Leach, UK) — Discovery

By Michael Sicinski / September 10, 2016

By Michael Sicinski A promising debut hobbled by the perhaps inherent difficulties of making a first feature, Hope Dickson Leach’s The Levelling has the mood, tone, and overall feel of so many British TV procedurals of late. Granted this is a family tale, not a police story, but like recent entries such as Southcliffe, The…

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Blessed Benefit (Mahmoud al Massad, Jordan/Germany/Netherlands) — Discovery

By Steve Macfarlane / September 10, 2016

By Steve Macfarlane The inmates are running the asylum in Blessed Benefit, a dissection of Jordan’s masculinist pecking order that—if documentarian-cum-satirist Mahmoud al Massad is to be believed—runs entirely on graft/dumb luck/both. An easygoing contractor named Ahmad (Ahmad Thaher) finds himself jailed over an uncompleted job, to the tune of 1800 dinars (roughly $2500 American),…

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The Birth of a Nation (Nate Parker, US) — Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 10, 2016

By Adam Nayman Let’s stick to what’s on screen here, and say that Nate Parker isn’t the first multi-hyphenate to conflate artistic megalomania with authentic heroism—a pre-damage control Mel Gibson got an Academy Award for it, for instance. At the risk of praising with faint damnation, The Birth of a Nation is roughly on a…

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Catfight (Onur Tukel, US) — Special Presentations

By Jose Teodoro / September 10, 2016

By José Teodoro Is it all right that I derive pleasure from watching Sandra Oh and Anne Heche beat the living shit out of each other? I promise I have nothing against either actress. It is simply not often that you get to see normal-looking women both exact and absorb Lone Survivor-levels of corporeal punishment.…

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Godspeed (Chung Mong-hong, Taiwan) — Vanguard

By Shelly Kraicer / September 10, 2016

By Shelly Kraicer Hong Kong comic idol Michael Hui defined Hong Kong comedy (and, to a large extent, a specifically local Hong Kong Cantonese identity) in the late 1970s and 1980s with classics like The Private Eyes, Chicken and Duck Talk, and Teppanyaki. Now he is back on screen in festival habitué Chung Mong-hong’s latest…

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American Pastoral (Ewan McGregor, US) — Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 10, 2016

By Adam Nayman Only Philip Roth could conceive an epic in which a Jewish patriarch is literally blameless and figuratively guilty for the sins of the Greatest Generation—self-flattery and self-flagellation conveniently interlaced. That said Jew is played, in this new cinematization of Roth’s American Pastoral, by the Scots-born Ewan McGregor (pulling double duty behind the…

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Snowden (Oliver Stone, Germany/US)

By Robert Koehler / September 10, 2016

By Robert Koehler If Snowden, director Oliver Stone and screenwriter Kieran Fitzgerald’s version of the Edward Snowden affair, is remembered for anything, it will be as the first Hollywood movie that turned Barack Obama into a bad guy. Time was, back in the day when Obama walked on water, there was a thing you could…

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The Magnificent Seven (Antoine Fuqua, US) — Gala Presentations

By Robert Koehler / September 9, 2016

By Robert Koehler Diversity, thy name is The Magnificent Seven 2016: what was once a group of white guys saving a town of poor Mexican campesinos is now a veritable United Nations of the West. The assemblage of these gunfighters is the apotheosis of the Obama Era in the movies. The assemblyman and leader is…

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Karl Marx City (Petra Epperlein & Michael Tucker, US/Germany) — TIFF Docs

By Michael Sicinski / September 9, 2016

By Michael Sicinski An impressive outing from the pair who made the rather shambolic Gunner Palace back in 2004, Karl Marx City is that rarest of objects: an exploration of family history that avoids solipsism and manages to connect the personal to much broader things. Petra Epperlein and her family grew up in the GDR;…

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Interchange (Dain Iskandar Said, Indonesia/Malaysia) — Vanguard

By Adam Nayman / September 9, 2016

By Adam Nayman The supernaturally-inflected police procedural is a subgenre with international traction (as evidenced by the recent success of The Wailing), but while there’s surely something trendy about Malaysian director Dain Iskandar Said’s new thriller, it draws on local culture in a way that suggests its inspirations predate and supersede True Detective. Said shows…

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Free Fire (Ben Wheatley, UK) — Midnight Madness

By Angelo Muredda / September 9, 2016

  By Angelo Muredda A canny genre filmmaker with a Situationist’s knack for how people’s surroundings sculpt their blinkered worldview, Ben Wheatley is wise to make Free Fire, his first film set in the US, a crime caper with big-mouthed braggarts shooting off their guns in a confined space just large enough to let them…

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The Woman Who Left (Lav Diaz, Philippines) — Wavelengths

By Lorenzo Esposito / September 9, 2016

By Lorenzo Esposito If there’s someone who thinks that The Woman Who Left is a minor Lav Diaz film—because it’s the second one this year, or because, at 227 minutes, it’s “short” for him (film critics’ clichés are both endless and predictable)—let’s say up front that this is one of his best. And this is…

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The Journey (Nick Hamm, UK) — Special Presentations

By Jennifer Lynde Barker / September 9, 2016

By Jennifer Lynde Barker “Politics is a long game,” remarks Sinn Féin MP Martin McGuinness (Colm Meaney) near the beginning of The Journey, and for the two main characters of the film—McGuiness and Democratic Unionist Party leader Ian Paisley (Timothy Spall)—it is a game deeply embedded in nationalist and religious fervour. The film is based…

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Souvenir (Bavo Deferne, Belgium/Luxembourg/France) — Special Presentations

By Robert Koehler / September 9, 2016

By Robert Koehler A movie bonbon that melts in your hand before you can pop it in your mouth, Souvenir tries to package its kitsch as dressed-up fun, but all it does is give Isabelle Huppert something to do between her real movies. Huppert, like any actor, needs breathers between the heavy assignments; for example,…

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Window Horses (The Poetic Persian Epiphany of Rosie Ming) (Ann Marie Fleming, Canada) — Special Presentations

By Angelo Muredda / September 9, 2016

By Angelo Muredda Though it’s a bit scrappy on first glance, Window Horses director Ann Marie Fleming’s drawing style has a good story behind it. After surviving a car accident while she was an animation student, Fleming resorted to the barest of shorthands in her minimalist sketches of a character she called Stick Girl, made…

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I Am Not Madame Bovary (China, Feng Xiaogang) — Special Presentations

By Shelly Kraicer / September 9, 2016

By Shelly Kraicer “The local police are idiots: there are no idiots in Beijing” is just one of the rather unusual lines of dialogue in Chinese blockbuster director Feng Xiaogang’s newest film I Am Not Madame Bovary. This one is different: a) there’s acid dripping from every line and shot, although Feng clearly wants to…

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Chasing Trane (John Scheinfeld, US) — TIFF Docs

By Jose Teodoro / September 9, 2016

 By José Teodoro If you own one jazz record, it’s probably Kind of Blue; if you own two, the other one’s probably A Love Supreme. John Coltrane plays on the former and is composer and bandleader on the latter, and it is not unremarkable that the legacy of this once popular musical form is now…

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The Bad Batch (Ana Lily Amirpour, US) — Vanguard

By Jose Teodoro / September 9, 2016

By José Teodoro In the future and/or some parallel universe, the US will reject numerous citizens for unspecified reasons and banish them to some arid stretch of Texas-Mexico borderland. On one side of this desert of the forsaken is an airplane graveyard where elaborately tattooed bodybuilders glisten in the sun while the limbs of less…

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Orphan (Arnaud des Pallières, France) — Special Presentations

By Aurelie Godet / September 9, 2016

By Aurelie Godet Arnaud des Pallières’ visually powerful and cerebral works have kept critics intrigued and hopeful for the day that these qualities would espouse a certain narrative efficiency for which he consistently demonstrates a clear distrust. One of his weapons in this internal struggle is an irrepressible penchant for dislocation, which is all over…

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A Decent Woman (Lukas Valenta Rinner, Austria/South Korea/Argentina) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Mallory Andrews / September 9, 2016

By Mallory Andrews Decency, decorum, politesse, virtuous social mores—all are rigidly upheld in the gated community in Buenos Aires where Belén (Iride Mockert) finds herself gainfully employed as the live-in housekeeper for an affluent woman and her college-aged son on their huge estate. One day while cleaning, she catches a glimpse of the adjoining property…

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Mimosas (Oliver Laxe, Spain/Morocco/Qatar/France) — Wavelengths

By Jay Kuehner / September 9, 2016

From Cinema Scope #67 (Summer 2016) By Jay Kuehner A Sufi western? In the parole of Cannes’ critical taxonomy, the designation bestowed upon Oliver Laxe’s desert-fevered, Semaine de la Critique-winning allegory would seem reductive if it didn’t allude, paradoxically, to the film’s radically expansive nature. This leads one to wonder just what “a Sufi western”…

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Jackie (Pablo Larraín, UK) — Platform

By Tommaso Tocci / September 9, 2016

By Tommaso Tocci In his first English-language production, second unconventional biopic of the year (after Neruda), and third impressive film since February 2015, Chilean auteur Pablo Larraín keeps racking up successes. He hits the ground running in Jackie by prefacing the opening shot with the strange, self-collapsing flute-and-violin notes that will accompany his portrayal of…

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Paterson (Jim Jarmusch, US) — Special Presentations

By Richard Porton / September 9, 2016

From Cinema Scope #67 (Summer 2016) By Richard Porton Cannes 2016, if nothing else, presented viewers with object lessons in the rudiments of political cinema—from the hoariest agitprop to films that might not even have been perceived as overtly political. I, Daniel Blake, Ken Loach’s Palme d’Or winner, personifies a certain brand of over-determined, melodramatic…

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Ember (Zeki Demirkubuz, Turkey/Germany) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Michael Sicinski / September 8, 2016

By Michael Sicinski In 2003, TIFF showed three of Zeki Demirkubuz’s very best films in a Turkish cinema showcase (a kind of forerunner to the current City to City programme). What made Fate, Confession (both 2001) and especially The Third Page (1999) so lively and inventive was the sense that the director was still figuring…

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Singularity (Albert Serra, Spain) — Wavelengths

By Andrea Picard / September 8, 2016

From Cinema Scope #63 (Summer 2015) By Andréa Picard First presented in the 2015 Venice Biennale at the off-site collateral event “Catalonia in Venice,” Albert Serra’s Singularity, a sumptuous, monumental film projected on five screens, reveals a seductive, barren, yet baroque beauty over its consistently engaging three-hour duration. This is a feat of prolonged attention-grabbing…

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Kékszakállú (Gastón Solnicki, Argentina) — Wavelengths

By Jose Teodoro / September 8, 2016

By José Teodoro Gastón Solnicki’s third feature and first fiction film is, like its predecessors, named after a piece of music: Kékszakállú is Hungarian for “Bluebeard,” and Solnicki has cited Béla Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle as a key source of inspiration. The film is, however, only related to the oft-adapted folktale in the most tenuous manner…

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Zoology (Ivan Tverdovsky, Russia) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Boris Nelepo / September 8, 2016

By Boris Nelepo Kids engage in erotic asphyxiation. Students with special needs gang-rape a girl in a wheelchair. A lonely, middle-aged woman suddenly sprouts a tail. These are, respectively, synopses for the short documentary Space Dog (2013), the first feature Corrections Class (2014), and now Zoology (2016) by Ivan Tverdovsky, a 27-year-old rising star of…

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The Cinema Travellers (Shirley Abraham & Amit Madheshiya, India) — TIFF Docs

By Shelly Kraicer / September 8, 2016

By Shelly Kraicer Mohammed, Bapu, and Prakash are three cinema magi: half wizards, not-quite-ghosts, intelligent and hard-working men who have been keeping the art of film (and we mean celluloid) projection alive in the Indian state of Maharashtra. The first two run travelling cinemas, where ancient 35mm projectors show old films inside tents to rural…

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Foreign Body (Raja Amari, France/Tunisia) — Special Presentations

By Josh Cabrita / September 8, 2016

By Josh Cabrita The 2014 Palme d’Or winner Dheepan was torn between being a traditional art-house film about lower-class immigrants and director Jacque Audiard’s genre fixations; the film is boilerplate social realism until it ends with disorienting, internalized violence that recalls the climax of Taxi Driver (1976). Something similar happens in Raja Amari’s Foreign Body.…

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Moonlight (Barry Jenkins, US ) — Platform

By Angelo Muredda / September 8, 2016

By Angelo Muredda “No place in the world ain’t got no black people,” Mahershala Ali’s good-hearted drug dealer and surrogate father Juan tells prepubescent Chiron (Alex Hibbert) in the opening act of Moonlight, Barry Jenkins’ accomplished but fussy sophomore feature. Juan’s attempt to instill a sense of black masculine pride in a boy mercilessly teased…

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A Death in the Gunj (Konkona Sensharma, India) — Special Presentations

By Alysia Urrutia / September 8, 2016

By Alysia Urrutia Konkona Sensharma’s first stab at directing after a long and prolific acting career proves her to be a well-intentioned emerging filmmaker, though the impact of the film itself is somewhat dulled by its predictability and lack of focus. Often reminiscent of Asghar Farhadi’s About Elly (2009), A Death in the Gunj is…

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Blind Sun (Joyce A. Nashawati, France/Greece) — Vanguard

By Mark Peranson / September 8, 2016

By Mark Peranson In a festival with almost as many world premieres as Canadian Tim Hortons franchises, Joyce A. Nashawati’s debut feature Blind Sun is an anomaly in that it premiered all the way back in Thessaloniki last November (and played numerous semi-illustrious international and fantasy festivals since). So, then, is this a special case,…

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The Bleeder (Philippe Falardeau, US) — Special Presentations

By Diana Dabrowska / September 8, 2016

By Diana Dabrowska The showboating Apollo Creed in Rocky (1976) was clearly a (non-Muslim) version of Muhammad Ali, but who was the real-life Rocky Balboa? Whether you have always asked this question of yourself or not, here comes Philippe Falardeau’s The Bleeder to give you your answer regardless. Liev Schreiber is fantastic as Rocky’s real-life…

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The Death of Louis XIV (Albert Serra, France/Spain/Portugal) — Wavelengths

By Blake Williams / September 8, 2016

From Cinema Scope #67 (Summer 2016) By Blake Williams With birds singing above, a 71-year-old Jean-Pierre Léaud sits dressed as the 76-year-old Sun King, pale and powdered under his big wig, nobly stationed amid a twilit rose garden in his wheelchair, finally bidding to his two eager valets: “Onward.” Thus begins Albert Serra’s fifth and…

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A Quiet Passion (Terence Davies, UK/US) — Masters

By Blake Williams / September 8, 2016

By Blake Williams Some have called Terence Davies’ second (and better) film to be unveiled in the last 12 months the best Whit Stillman film of the year—the gleeful indulgence in the sound of the English language matches and arguably surpassed that on display in Stillman’s Love & Friendship—while others have proclaimed it the best Dreyer…

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Daughters of the Dust (Julie Dash, US)

By Steve Macfarlane / September 8, 2016

From Cinema Scope #68 (Fall 2016) By Steve Macfarlane It arrives as both throwaway moment and photo-historical anachronism: dozens are adorned in white on a sand dune, whiling away the hours before dusk; a girl is passed a 19th-century stereopticon, brings it to her eyes, and sees images in motion—glimpses of a city on “the…

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Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer (Joseph Cedar, US/Israel) — Gala Presentations

By Jay Kuehner / September 8, 2016

By Jay Kuehner Anyone who’s ever felt like a fraud will find much to relate to in Joseph Cedar’s tale of personal bankruptcy, the spectrum of identification spanning the exhilaration of getting away with it to the humiliation of being exposed. The architecture of influence and exploitation is the stuff of which movies are made,…

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Nocturnal Animals (Tom Ford, US/UK) — Special Presentations

By Diana Dabrowska / September 7, 2016

By Diana Dabrowska A bunch of naked, pudgy woman are dancing in a very glamourous and sensual way, flaunting their adipose imperfections. More than a Tom Ford movie, this frankly seems like the beginning of ein film von Ulrich Seidl. For a man of such fashionable taste and background, the sequence is provocative and disturbing.…

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I, Daniel Blake (Ken Loach, UK/France/Belgium) — Special Presentations

By Mark Peranson / September 7, 2016

By Mark Peranson Not that anyone cares at this point, but this year’s Palme d’Or went to probably the best film of Cannes’ sorry lot of award winners—and when we’re talking about Ken Loach, you know that lot is pretty sorry. The first questioner at the jury press conference hit the nail on the head…

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Neruda (Pablo Larraín, Chile/Argentina/France/Spain) — Special Presentations

By Gonzalo de Pedro Amatria / September 7, 2016

By Gonzalo de Pedro Amatria It is not easy to face a national (and even international) myth and emerge unscathed. Pablo Larraín, who has spent years confronting the ghosts of Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship in his homeland of Chile, speaks in one of his two new films this year about one of the quintessential Chilean poets:…

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Hema Hema: Sing Me a Song While I Wait (Khyentse Norbu, Bhutan/Hong Kong) — Platform

By Robert Koehler / September 7, 2016

By Robert Koehler As the world’s only Buddhist lama who also makes movies that screen at major international festivals and have received commercial releases, Khyentse Norbu is quite the operator. Under his Buddhist name Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, he conducts sessions in India and his native Bhutan and, as he is thought to be the incarnation…

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Heal the Living (Katel Quillévéré, France/Belgium) — Platform

By Dominik Kamalzadeh / September 7, 2016

By Dominik Kamalzadeh If melodrama as a genre is concerned with the suffering of the heart on a metaphorical level, French director Katell Quillévéré’s third feature Heal the Living takes the matter in an inventive turn, rather literally. In the fluently directed opening sequence, we see a group of teenagers ride away to a remote…

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Home (Fien Troch, Belgium) — Platform

By James Lattimer / September 7, 2016

By James Lattimer Is giving a film an abstract noun as its title ever a good idea? Shorn of context, words like “love,” “happiness,” or indeed “home” automatically become grand statements of intent, attempts to speak to the universal nature of things that all too often land closer to the blunt or the facile rather…

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Austerlitz (Sergei Loznitsa, Germany) — Wavelengths

By Michael Sicinski / September 7, 2016

By Michael Sicinski Throughout his career, as both a documentarian and the director of two feature films, Sergei Loznitsa has explored various facets of one fundamental subject: the way the human race records its own history. At times, this has led him toward excavation and re-examination of the footage of others, in films such as…

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Bezness as Usual (Alex Pitstra, Netherlands) – TIFF Docs

By Robert Koehler / September 7, 2016

By Robert Koehler Dutch filmmaker Alex Pitstra’s mother Anneke, trying to bounce back from a bitter divorce, vacationed in a Tunisia beach resort in the late ’70s, where she met and fell for local playboy Mohsen Ben Hassen. Together, back in the Netherlands, they had little Alex, soon after she had learned that Mohsen was…

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Graduation (Christian Mungiu, Romania) — Masters

By Blake Williams / September 7, 2016

By Blake Williams The only thing more preordained than the direction, narrative structure, rhythm, colour palette, and general sense of morality on display in Cristian Mungiu’s latest film is that you are going to see it—because it is an Important Work of World Cinema from the man who is still the only Palme d’Or-winning director…

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Le Ciel Flamand (Peter Monsaert, Belgium) — Discovery

By Michael Sicinski / September 7, 2016

By Michael Sicinski The particular circumstances of Le Ciel Flamand turn its plot twists into a rather dire matter of politics. If Peter Monsaert’s film were about an ordinary workplace—if Sylvie (Sara Vertongen) and her mother Monique (Ingrid De Vos) ran a diner or a print shop rather than a brothel—then of course there would…

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The Handmaiden (Park Chan-wook, South Korea) — Special Presentations

By Angelo Muredda / September 7, 2016

By Angelo Muredda Park Chan-wook dresses up his naughtiness under the ritzier coats of period drama and metafiction in The Handmaiden. More well-oiled machine than movie, The Handmaiden adapts Welsh historical novelist Sarah Waters’ Booker Prize-shortlisted 19th-century throwback Fingersmith, about a petty thief commissioned to act as a maid to a mentally unwell heiress, the…

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L’Avenir (Mia Hansen-Løve, France)

By Adam Nayman / September 7, 2016

By Adam Nayman A decade after her youthful debut Tout est pardonné (2007), the now-35-year-old Mia Hansen-Løve has become a veteran. But she’s always been an old soul. Her films are rife with scenes of teenagers being forced to confront hypocrisy and loss well ahead of schedule, and she’s very good at capturing the split-seconds…

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Unless (Alan Gilsenan, Canada/Ireland) — Special Presentations

By Angelo Muredda / September 7, 2016

By Angelo Muredda The last novel and late-career manifesto of Pulitzer Prize winner Carol Shields gets a visceral but disjointed adaptation in Alan Gilsenan’s Unless, which, like its source, follows the mysterious transformation of Norah (Hannah Gross), a college student who suddenly goes silent and abandons her life of middle-class comfort to camp out on…

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The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki (Juho Kuosmanen, Finland/Sweden/Germany) — Discovery

By Jason Anderson / September 7, 2016

From Cinema Scope #67 (Summer 2016) By Jason Anderson Of all the fleet-footed scenes in The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki, the one that best demonstrates the virtues of Juho Kuosmanen’s debut feature may be the first press conference sequence. Though the event’s ostensible purpose is to hype the fight that takes place at…

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Denial (Mick Jackson, US/UK) — Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 7, 2016

By Adam Nayman As the notorious and famously discredited Holocaust denier David Irving in Denial, Timothy Spall deadens his eyes, twitches his jowls, masticates his dialogue and scrunches himself into truly ghoulish configurations. Not since Jeremy Irons played Claus Von Bulow has a gifted English actor thrown himself so bodily into a role as a…

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Manchester by the Sea (Kenneth Lonergan, US) — Special Presentations

By Angelo Muredda / September 6, 2016

By Angelo Muredda The elegant swan to Margaret’s (2011) ugly duckling, Manchester by the Sea is a moving but less arresting follow-up to Kenneth Lonergan’s career best. At his strongest when he is least governed by discipline and good taste, Lonergan seems a bit too tentative in this unmistakably well-crafted study of the way grief…

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General Report II: The New Abduction of Europe (Pere Portabella, Spain) — Wavelengths

By Jerry White / September 6, 2016

From Cinema Scope #67 The Changing of the Age: Pere Portabella on Informe General II By Jerry White I have always thought of Pere Portabella as the most French filmmaker outside of France—though “French” in the specific sense of the long-standing Gallic idealization of l’artiste engagé. The summit of this ideal, in cinematic terms, would…

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Personal Shopper (Olivier Assayas, France) — Masters

By Blake Williams / September 6, 2016

By Blake Williams Upon its premiere in Cannes last May, Olivier Assayas’ Personal Shopper quickly became defined by its centerpiece SMS marathon, in which Maureen (Kristen Stewart) engages in a days-long texting back-and-forth with what might be her dead twin brother’s ghost (all while travelling from Paris to London and back), and the scene is indeed probably…

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Nelly (Anne Émond, Canada) — Vanguard

By Ethan Vestby / September 6, 2016

By Ethan Vestby Curiously placed in Vanguard despite a biopic pedigree seemingly guaranteed a spot in the bottomless pit of the section known as Special Presentations (unless the programmers of Midnight Madness’ “cooler older sister” thought sexploitation was the “genre” supposedly being turned on its head), Nelly is, regardless, a case of a film that…

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The Red Turtle (Michael Dudok de Wit, France/Belgium/Japan) — Discovery

By Jordan Cronk / September 6, 2016

By Jordan Cronk The iconic Studio Ghibli logo introduces Michael Dudok de Wit’s The Red Turtle, this year’s Un Certain Regard Jury prizewinner, and it’s easy enough to see why the storied animation studio would select the film as its first international co-production following the retirement of Miyazaki Hayao and the appointment of Suzuki Toshio…

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We Are Never Alone (Petr Vaclav, Czech Republic/France) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Robert Koehler / September 6, 2016

By Robert Koehler “Miserablism” has long been a term tossed around by lazy critics, mainly when they feel overworked at festivals, and aimed at movies they feel miserable having to sit through. Béla Tarr and Pedro Costa, to name two of the highest on the depth chart, have long been slapped around as “miserablists” by…

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All Governments Lie: Truth, Deception, and the Spirit of I.F. Stone (Fred Peabody, Canada) — TIFF Docs

By Alysia Urrutia / September 6, 2016

  By Alysia Urrutia Taking its title from legendary independent journalist I.F. Stone’s guiding maxim, Fred Peabody’s All Governments Lie expands its critical scope by tracking down other deceptive public institutions whose credibility also deserves debunking, mainly corporate organizations and the mass media. Despite money and power being common denominators among the suspected liars, the…

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The Beautiful Days of Aranjuez (Wim Wenders, France/Germany) — Masters

By Clara Miranda / September 6, 2016

By Clara Miranda Scherffig It seems that Wim Wenders has found his special medium, and, for better or worse, he will keep experimenting with it. After Pina (2011) and Everything Will Be Fine (2015), once again the German director employs 3D to frame his adaptation of a 2012 play by Austrian writer Peter Handke, his…

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The Rehearsal (Alison McLean, New Zealand) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Ian Barr / September 6, 2016

By Ian Barr Based on Eleanor Catton’s acclaimed 2008 novel, The Rehearsal largely transpires under perpetually overcast Auckland skies or within sterile drama classrooms, in direct correlation with its story’s murkiness. First-year acting student Stanley (James Rolleston) is seen early on receiving a humiliating dressing-down from his teacher Hannah (Kerry Fox) for repeatedly offering a…

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Little Wing (Selma Vilhunen, Finland/Denmark) — Discovery

By Josh Cabrita / September 6, 2016

By Josh Cabrita Realizing a tightly telegraphed narrative with on-the-fly camerawork and spontaneous realism, Finnish director Selma Vilhuen’s Little Wing is equal parts sensitive and senseless. The story’s set-up is based on a dichotomy that, thankfully, the film complicates as it goes on. Varpu (Linnea Skog) is a 12-year-old wise beyond her years, and her…

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Hello Destroyer (Kevan Funk, Canada) — Discovery

By Adam Nayman / September 6, 2016

By Adam Nayman It’s either genuinely ballsy or calculatedly smart for a young Canadian director to attack the culture and codes of junior hockey. The fact is that Kevan Funk’s Hello Destroyer is set to get a lot of attention at TIFF and beyond, and it’s constructed sturdily enough to stand up to any forthcoming…

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In the Blood (Rastus Heisterberg, Denmark) — Discovery

By Mallory Andrews / September 6, 2016

By Mallory Andrews “The highbrow part of me likes to call the film a requiem for youth,” writes Rasmus Heisterberg in his director’s note for In the Blood, a film which comes off as more of a kiss-off to the arrested development of young men. The Danish screenwriter’s directorial debut focuses on the friendship between…

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The Ornithologist (João Pedro Rodrigues, Portugal/France/ Brazil) — Wavelengths

By Mark Peranson / September 6, 2016

By Mark Peranson In Trás-os-Montes, the majestic part of northeastern Portugal where António Reis used to make movies, solitary ornithologist Fernando (the body of Jason Statham lookalike Paul Hamy, the voice of director João Pedro Rodrigues) kayaks along a river peering through his binoculars in search of rare birds, especially the endangered black stork. Distracted,…

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Nocturama (Bertrand Bonello, France/Germany/Belgium)

By Blake Williams / September 6, 2016

By Blake Williams To waste no time: Bertrand Bonello’s Nocturama has nothing to say about either Nick Cave or the Bad Seeds, and, more crucially, is not a film about terrorism. Perhaps a strange assertion, the latter, given that the movie spends all 130 of its sublime, stomach-churning minutes in the company of a crew…

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The Stairs (Hugh Gibson, Canada) — TIFF Docs

By Shelly Kraicer / September 6, 2016

By Shelly Kraicer Hugh Gibson’s fascinating documentary The Stairs takes us into the lives of three harm reduction workers in Toronto’s Regent Park, a housing project now under hopeful renewal that has long represented Toronto’s most disadvantaged communities. Martin, Greg, and Roxanne are all current or past drug users who also work at the Regent…

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Mali Blues (Lutz Gregor, Germany) — TIFF Docs

By Alysia Urrutia / September 5, 2016

By Alysia Urrutia You might remember her minor but memorable performance in the Oscar-nominated Timbuktu (2014), but in Lutz Gregor’s Mali Blues singer Fatoumata Diawara’s electrifying pizzazz rightfully earns her the spotlight. Gregor documents Fatou’s journey of self-discovery on a concert tour of her native land, a country whose occupation by radical Islamists separated its…

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La La Land (Damien Chazelle, US) — Special Presentations

By Diana Dabrowska / September 5, 2016

By Diana Dabrowska Alfred Hitchcock once said that a “good film should start with an earthquake.” Damien Chazelle must have kept that in mind, because La La Land  kicks off with a bang, an energetic musical sequence that transforms a Los Angeles traffic jam into the coolest place on earth, a modern-day fantasy variation on…

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Frantz (François Ozon, France/Germany) — Special Presentations

By Tommaso Tocci / September 5, 2016

By Tommaso Tocci Almost a decade after the disappointing Angel, François Ozon is again stepping out of France to direct a film abroad in a different language. Fortunately, he fares much better this time around with Frantz, a post-WWI black-and-white melodrama dealing with duality, deceit, and distance as fuel for the obfuscating power of the…

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Arrival (Denis Villeneuve, US) — Gala Presentations

By Clara Miranda / September 5, 2016

By Clara Miranda Scherffig Sci-fi is a hospitable genre, as it allows filmmakers to both experiment within and reinforce its outer conventions. Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival creatively positions itself within that relationship. Based on Ted Chiang’s short tale “Story of Your Life,” the film employs a voiceover commentary that holds together its major motifs: science and…

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Divines (Houda Benyamina, France/Qatar) — Discovery

By Aurelie Godet / September 5, 2016

By Aurelie Godet Houda Benyamina grew up with a lot of anger in her, directed at a society unwilling to let its poor climb up the ladder and at people in positions of authority who, instead of helping, contribute to reinforcing those glass ceilings. She channelled that sentiment in two acclaimed medium-length films which pictured…

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The Unknown Girl (Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne, Belgium/France) — Special Presentations

By Richard Porton / September 5, 2016

By Richard Porton Each new film by the Dardenne brothers is soothingly familiar, in the sense that the directors masterfully recycle tried-and true-motifs. For their detractors, the Dardennes are in danger of making formulaic art films, while their equally fervent supporters maintain that, by continuing to plough familiar terrain, they are enriching an already distinguished…

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Jesús (Fernando Guzzoni, France/Chile/Germany/Greece/ Colombia) — Discovery

By Mallory Andrews / September 5, 2016

By Mallory Andrews Dear Jesús, are we not yet tired of uninspired coming-of-age movies?  This one is of the Chilean variety (supported by a massive co-production effort), telling the tale of the eponymous troubled high school senior (Nicolás Durán) who falls in with the wrong crowd and clashes with his widowed father Héctor (Alejandro Goic).…

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The Fixer (Adrian Sitaru, Romania) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Adam Nayman / September 5, 2016

By Adam Nayman “The Romanian Nightcrawler” is probably not the most accurate description of Adrian Sitaru’s new film, but it captures something of its commitment to attacking present-tense fifth-estate ethics. The media critique is a sub-genre that’s historically been the sole provenance of American filmmakers, but The Fixer makes a valid claim on the territory.…

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Apprentice (Boo Junfeng, Singapore/Germany/France/Hong Kong/Qatar) — Contemporary World Cinema

By James Lattimer / September 5, 2016

By James Lattimer It’s rare to come across a film as utterly, ruthlessly plot-driven as Apprentice, particularly in the at least theoretically rarified environs of Cannes’ Un Certain Regard section. Boo Junfeng’s second feature tells the wearingly predictable story of Aiman, a buff young ex-army officer who has taken a job at a Singapore prison…

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Mean Dreams (Nathan Morlando, Canada) — Special Presentations

By Angelo Muredda / September 5, 2016

By Angelo Muredda Early in Nathan Morlando’s Mean Dreams—a Canadian production with American aspirations—kewpie-doll runaway Casey (Sophie Nélisse) gets moony-eyed as she remembers her dead mother’s wish to get away from the dour country that entrapped her and light out for the ocean. It might be a testament to the film’s restrained Northern ethos (in…

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Prevenge (Alice Lowe, UK) — Vanguard

By Adam Nayman / September 5, 2016

By Adam Nayman In Ben Wheatley’s Sightseers (2012), Alice Lowe created a role and gave a brilliant performance as a woman slowly but enthusiastically embracing her own latent psychosis – going crazy as a state of grace. Her feature directorial debut Prevenge mines similar territory with less robust but still relatively healthy returns. Lowe’s thing…

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The Wanderer: Eduardo Williams’ The Human Surge

By Leo Goldsmith / September 5, 2016

By Leo Goldsmith From the bottom of the sea, across a city, and into the stratosphere; from the moon, through a deserted city, deep into the forest, and down into a hole in the Earth. Argentinian director Eduardo Williams’ recent short films—Could See a Puma (2011) and I forgot! (2014)—follow strange trajectories both over and…

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Aquarius (Kleber Mendonça Filho, Brazil/France) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Robert Koehler / September 5, 2016

From Cinema Scope #67 (Summer 2016) Termite Art: Kleber Mendonça Filho on Aquarius By Robert Koehler The Year of Trump now has its movie. In Kleber Mendonça Filho’s second feature, Aquarius, a property developer tries to force the last resident to move out of an old but hardly decrepit apartment building on a prime beachside…

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Ma’ Rosa (Brillante Mendoza, Philippines) — Masters

By Blake Williams / September 4, 2016

By Blake Williams Brillante Mendoza—always less than brilliant—has clearly made it his mandate to project the ugliness of modern Manileño life by making films that embody said ugliness, which invariably results in films that are a) ugly, and b) predetermined, single-minded, and boring. (Others prefer to call it ‘neorealist’, because everything sounds prettier as an…

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Sehnsucht: Ruth Beckermann on The Dreamed Ones

By Andrea Picard / September 4, 2016

By Andréa Picard “This longing, these sighs from soft pillows, I am happy, endlessly happy, to be so filled with this thought. Maybe you will come, maybe you will walk through the door and take from me. I am so ready to give.”—Ingeborg Bachmann, Letters to Felician (July 6, 1945) Cinema is synonymous with longing.…

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My Life as a Courgette (Claude Barras, Switzerland/France) — TIFF Kids

By Jordan Cronk / September 4, 2016

By Jordan Cronk Don’t let the TIFF Kids designation fool you: Swiss animator Claude Barras’ My Life as a Courgette, one of the bright spots of this year’s Quinzaine, is one of the most emotionally acute and sharply observed films in recent memory. Scripted by Céline Sciamma (director of Girlhood and Tomboy) from a novel…

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Sieranevada (Cristi Puiu, Romania/France) — Masters

By Jordan Cronk / September 4, 2016

From Cinema Scope #67 (Summer 2016) By Jordan Cronk At the dawn of the decade, a brief break appeared in the first wave of New Romanian Cinema. Though of similar historic and cinematic concern, a number of the films produced during this period––including Corneliu Porumboiu’s The Second Game (2013), Cristi Puiu’s Three Interpretation Exercises (2012),…

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Godless (Ralitza Petrova, Bulgaria/Denmark/France) — Discovery

By James Lattimer / September 4, 2016

By James Lattimer When is winning the Golden Leopard a hindrance and not a help? You can’t blame Godless for the Locarno jury’s decision to award it the main prize, nor for the fact that their decision links first-time director Ralitza Petrova to such an illustrious list of recent prizewinners that expectations are almost bound…

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I Had Nowhere to Go (Douglas Gordon, Germany) — Wavelengths

By Gonzalo de Pedro Amatria / September 4, 2016

By Gonzalo de Pedro Amatria Perhaps the only possible reading of any memoir is a blind reading—one made in the dark without the light of images, letting oneself be lulled by the voice, real or imagined, of its author or protagonist. Memory—the source of inventions, lies, errors and misunderstandings—is a fascinating and dangerous space, too…

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Hermia & Helena (Matias Piñeiro, Argentina/US) — Wavelengths

By Mark Peranson / September 4, 2016

By Mark Peranson In Matias Piñeiro’s most surprising and breezy “Shakespearette” to date, he circles the Bard’s work via the issue of translation, an idea mapped onto the project in its entirety: the comedy Hermia & Helena (the title comes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream) is Piñeiro’s first film shot overseas, a large percentage in…

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Safari (Ulrich Seidl, Austria) — Masters

By Christoph Huber / September 4, 2016

By Christoph Huber No film in the history of cinema has showcased the folding of dead animals as diligently as Ulrich Seidl’s Safari, in which the audience can witness the mind-boggling sights of a (presumably) killed giraffe—its gigantic, twisted, fragmented-looking body more surreal than any art installation, yet seemingly a “perfectly natural” image within the…

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Fire at Sea (Gianfranco Rosi, Italy/France) — Masters

By Alysia Urrutia / September 4, 2016

By Alysia Urrutia Hailing from the same breed of striking experimentation that initially garnered Italian director Gianfranco Rosi international acclaim, this riveting new essay on the European migration crisis became the first documentary ever to win the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. Steeped in verité yet still novel in its approach, Fire at…

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Jean of the Joneses (Stella Meghie, Canada) — Discovery

By Ethan Vestby / September 4, 2016

By Ethan Vestby Perhaps it’s not fair to Jean of the Joneses to interpret it as a direct answer to the lily-white “millennial artistic type makes their way through Brooklyn” narratives of recent times, be it Girls, Frances Ha (2012) or Listen Up Philip (2014). Yet as it opens on its eponymous Jamaican-American heroine (Taylour…

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Werewolf (Ashley McKenzie, Canada) — Discovery

By Adam Nayman / September 4, 2016

By Adam Nayman The title’s a metaphor, of course. New Waterford-based Ashley McKenzie’s feature debut, after a string of sterling shorts, tracks two methadone-swigging wastrels whose chemical dependencies have them eking out a feral existence in small-town Nova Scotia. The narrative materials are generic—plenty of down-in-the-mouth Canadiana out there—but the filmmaking is vivid and specific.…

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Christine (Antonio Campos, US) — Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 4, 2016

By Adam Nayman A perfect exemplar of a bad good movie, Antonio Campos’ Christine traps (an excellent) Rebecca Hall in a series of impeccably composed frames as the famously ill-fated Sarasota local news anchor Christine Chubbuck. One good way to gauge your patience for this exercise in high-handed dread is how you react to seeing…

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Loving (Jeff Nichols, US) — Gala Presentations

By Richard Porton / September 4, 2016

By Richard Porton There’s little question that Jeff Nichols’ Loving deals with one of the most fascinating, and little known, incidents in the history of American racial strife. Inspired by Nancy Buirski’s documentary The Loving Story (2011), Nichols retells the remarkable saga of Richard (Joel Edgerton) and Mildred Loving (Ruth Negga), an interracial couple whose…

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Clair Obscur (Yesim Ustaoglu, Turkey/Germany/Poland/France) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Mallory Andrews / September 3, 2016

By Mallory Andrews Long before they ever meet onscreen, Chenaz (Funda Eryigit) and Elmas (Ecem Uzun) are in conversation with each other. Chenaz, a resident psychiatrist at a hospital, is a thoroughly modern woman contentedly living with her boyfriend Cem (Mehmet Kurtulus) in their thoroughly modern, minimalist home. By contrast, Elmas is a young bride…

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By the Time It Gets Dark (Anocha Suwichakornpong, Thailand/France) — Wavelengths

By Jay Kuehner / September 3, 2016

By Jay Kuehner To call what happens in By the Time It Gets Dark a “plot” is to do it a disservice of sorts, such is the beguilingly self-reflexive nature of Anocha Suwichakornpong’s becalmed, trippy, historically conscious fungus of a film. That the film strays from its central conceit—the Thammasat University massacre of 1976, here…

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American Honey (Andrea Arnold, UK/USA) — Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 3, 2016

By Adam Nayman Following Andrea Arnold’s third consecutive Cannes Grand Prix, allow me to suggest another award, this one for lifetime achievement: Most Literal-minded Use of Pop Music. Determined to top the deployment of Nas’ “Life’s a Bitch” at the climax of the 2009 Fish Tank (in which life was a bitch), Arnold kicks off…

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After the Storm (Kore-eda Hirokazu, Japan) — Masters

By Jordan Cronk / September 3, 2016

By Jordan Cronk Even for a director whose work seems to go out of its way to avoid provocation, Kore-eda Hirokazu’s most recent film Our Little Sister (2015) achieved a rare serenity. In a way, it was almost impressive: here was a film not only lacking an antagonist, but one completely bereft of conflict. After…

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Marija (Michael Koch, Germany/Switzerland) — Discovery

By James Lattimer / September 3, 2016

 By James Lattimer Even without all the many handheld tracking shots that trail the eponymous heroine of Marija through the streets of Dortmund, the parallels to the work of the Dardennes would still be impossible to ignore: a post-industrial setting that’s seen better days; a protagonist in such desperate economic straits that nothing is taboo;…

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The Girl With All the Gifts (Colm McCarthy, UK) — Midnight Madness

By Ethan Vestby / September 3, 2016

By Ethan Vestby With its dystopian setting housing superhuman teens and zombies, The Girl With All the Gifts seems like a movie generated by a Young Adult Entertainment algorithm. And though it begins with the promise of possibly resembling Joseph Losey’s monster-child science-fiction horror classic These Are the Damned (1962), it unfortunately (and, given its…

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Two Lovers and a Bear (Kim Nguyen, Canada) — Special Presentations

By Richard Porton / September 3, 2016

By Richard Porton A decidedly whimsical take on amour fou, Kim Nguyen’s Two Lovers and a Bear stretches a thin premise to its limits. Lovers with daddy issues Roman (Dane DeHaan) and Lucy (Tatiana Maslany) reside in the Canadian Arctic. Supremely photogenic, as well as inseparable, the couple weathers a crisis when Lucy decides to…

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Green White Green (Abba Makama, Nigeria) — City to City

By Alysia Urrutia / September 3, 2016

By Alysia Urrutia Despite its patently patriotic title, Green White Green is surprisingly uncertain about what it means to be Nigerian. Beneath an almost prankish, David Attenborough-esque voiceover that sets up the sociopolitical backdrop, the film explores the potential of a new generation of young visionaries—imagine American Graffiti (1973) reworked as an articulation of contemporary Nigerian culture.…

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Close Relations (Vitaly Mansky, Latvia/Germany/ Estonia/ Ukraine) — TIFF Docs

By Alysia Urrutia / September 3, 2016

By Alysia Urrutia Adding to the robust shelf of documentaries that have scavenged Ukrainian soil in the wake of the Euro-Maidan Revolution, Vitaly Mansky’s Close Relations takes a sharp turn away from a propagandist approach and steers into the up-close-and-personal framework of a home movie. Its intimate and conversational nature, along with Mansky’s bold decision…

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Gimme Danger (Jim Jarmusch, US) — TIFF Docs

By Jose Teodoro / September 3, 2016

  By José Teodoro As with Year of the Horse (1997), Gimme Danger is an outlier in Jim Jarmusch’s filmography in that it’s both a documentary and a temporary vacation from the strictures of a signature style for this most style-conscious of filmmakers. Combining interviews executed in laundry nooks and public washrooms with archival materials…

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Saying Something: The Films of Angela Schanelec

By Blake Williams / September 3, 2016

By Blake Williams “The everyday is platitude (what lags and falls back, the residual life with which our trash cans and cemeteries are filled: scrap and refuse); but this banality is also what is most important. It brings us back to existence in its very spontaneity and as it is lived—in the moment when, lived,…

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Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade, Germany) — Special Presentations

By Mark Peranson / September 3, 2016

From Cinema Scope #67 (Summer 2016) A Battle of Humour: Maren Ade on Toni Erdmann By Mark Peranson Of all the notable omissions in the Cannes awards this year, zilch for Maren’s Ade’s third feature Toni Erdmann stands out as the most egregious in the 15 years I’ve been attending the festival. To nobody’s surprise,…

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Hissein Habré: A Chadian Tragedy (Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, France/Chad) — Masters

By Richard Porton / September 3, 2016

By Richard Porton At a time when documentaries are increasingly resorting to gimmicky ruses, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun’s simple and austere film on the bloody legacy of Hissein Habré, the Chadian dictator who was found guilty of war crimes by a court in Senegal in May, is a breath of fresh air. Completed before the trial ended,…

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X Quinientos (Juan Andrés Arango, Canada/Colombia/ Mexico) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Adam Nayman / September 2, 2016

By Adam Nayman The sinister shadow of Iñárritu hangs over Juan Andrés Arango’s tripartite character study, which doesn’t explicitly interconnect its stories Babel-style but nevertheless seems similarly intended as a commentary on universal issues of displacement and alienation (sans international movie stars, of course; this is a Canadian co-production after all). As such, it’s pretty…

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The Salesman (Asghar Farhadi, Iran) — Special Presentations

By Richard Porton / September 2, 2016

By Richard Porton “Attention must be paid”—the most famous line from Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman might well sum up the narrative trajectory of Asghar Farhadi’s latest. The protagonists of The Salesman are both performers in an amateur production of Miller’s play that functions as a de facto framing story, and the late American…

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Julieta (Pedro Almodóvar, Spain) — Masters

By Jose Teodoro / September 2, 2016

By José Teodoro A melodrama draped in reds and blues, Almodóvar’s 20th feature spans decades and geography to spin a mother-daughter love story populated by sickly women, meddlesome housekeepers, and virile but inconstant men. Bobbing in the heart of this tempest is the eponymous madrileña whose only child, Antía, went to some spiritual retreat in…

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Brooks, Meadows and Lovely Faces (Yousry Nasrallah, Egypt) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Ethan Vestby / September 2, 2016

By Ethan Vestby In the small Egyptian town of Belqas, two brothers work for their father’s catering service:  Reefatis a lovable oaf; Galal lives with the disgrace of being a draft dodger. Polar opposites, they’re nevertheless both defined by their romantic entanglements: Reefat has his eyes on Shadia, a rich divorcee who can’t bring herself…

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It’s Only the End of the World (Xavier Dolan, Canada/France) — Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 2, 2016

  By Adam Nayman As in Tom at the Farm (2013), It’s Only the End of the World finds Xavier Dolan more or less on his best behaviour, humbly (as much as that’s possible for him) adapting a pre-existing play (by the late Québécois writer Jean-Marc Lagarce) rather than weaving his melodrama out of whole…

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After Love (Joaquim Lafosse, France/Belgium) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Aurelie Godet / September 2, 2016

By Aurelie Godet One of the boxes automatically checked by most critics on the occasion of After Love’s Cannes premiere was high praise for the film’s lead actors, Bérénice Béjo and Cédric Kahn. (See such comments as “they carry the film.”) Indeed, this account of the final stages in a couple’s separation is permanently focused…

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Ta’ang (Wang Bing, Hong Kong/France) — Wavelengths

By Shelly Kraicer / September 2, 2016

From Cinema Scope #66 (Winter 2016) Wang Bing Films Souls: On Ta’ang and Other Recent Work By Shelly Kraicer The violent convulsions in the Middle East and Africa and grotesque asymmetries of wealth and poverty between north and south have put fundamental pressures on wealthier, conservative, defensive societies of Europe and North America. Refugees are…

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Goldstone (Ivan Sen, Australia) — Platform

By Ian Barr / September 2, 2016

By Ian Barr The eponymous setting of Ivan Sen’s Goldstone—the director’s follow-up and loose sequel to Mystery Road (2013), which sees the return of Indigenous detective Jay Swan (Aaron Pedersen)—is a small Outback Australian locale that’s less a town than a palimpsest. Within the tenuously bordered area and its scattering of dilapidated shacks, caravans and demountable…

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Certain Women (Kelly Reichardt, US) — Masters

By Blake Williams / September 2, 2016

By Blake Williams Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women was the best film I saw this year in Park City, and is sure to wind up on my shortlist of the year’s truly beautiful things. Reichardt has tended to train her attention on subjects trying, and inevitably failing, to navigate the world outside of the established order.…

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Death in Sarajevo (Danis Tanović, Bosnia-Herzegovina/France) – Contemporary World Cinema

By Diana Dabrowska / September 2, 2016

By Diana Dabrowska In Death in Sarajevo, Danis Tanović directs his camera towards his homeland and its tragic history, still torn between a traumatic past and a fragile present. Although the story is loosely inspired by Bernard-Henri Lévy’s theatrical piece Hotel Europa, Tanović incurs deeper debts to another artist, as his multiplicity of overlapping themes…

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The Rules of the Game: Paul Verhoeven’s Elle

By Adam Nayman / September 2, 2016

By Adam Nayman In Elle, Michèle (Isabelle Huppert) slaps her adult son in the face, sleeps with a hammer under her pillow, deliberately smashes into her ex-husband’s car and later pepper-sprays him, accidentally crashes her own car, buys a gun, and forces a much younger male employee at her video-game company to show her his…

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Mister Universo (Tizza Covi & Rainer Frimmel, Austria/Italy) — Contemporary World Cinema)

By Jay Kuehner / September 2, 2016

By Jay Kuehner An unfit lion tamer quits his circus and sets out on the road in rural Italy in search of a lost iron amulet, bent by a notorious strongman years before. So goes the wandering premise of Mister Universo—seemingly descended from the stock mythology of Fellini but quite contrarily possessed of its own…

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