As the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) announces the final films in its program the prospect of seeing a cross-section of the 372 entries (289 features, 83 shorts) across 15 programs remains as daunting as ever, especially since the festival will screen the largest number of world premieres in its history.
Since the initial announcements a number of Australian films have made it into the festival. World premiering in the Discovery program, for first or second features by directors from around the world, is Satellite Boy (pictured), the first feature by writer-director Catriona McKenzie, who has worked extensively in television. Shot in the Kimberleys, it tells the story of Pete, a 10-year-old boy who lives in the outback with his grandfather David Gulpilil in an old abandoned outdoor cinema. When his grandfather's home is threatened with demolition, Pete sets off for the city with his best friend to try and save his home. A nationwide search was held to find the two young leads, which in the end were both cast from Kimberley communities. Cameron Wallaby plays Pete and Joseph Pedley his best friend Kalmain. McKenzie and 10-year-old Wallaby will travel to Toronto to present the film.
Satellite Boy joins the other Aussie films selected for the festival: Dead Europe, Lore, The Sapphires and Storm Surfers 3D, which have all screened in Australia. The festival will also include the world premiere of the television movie Underground, which follows the early life of Julian Assange and will debut later this year on Network Ten. Its inclusion in TIFF is yet another indication that festivals have to program well-crafted, weighty television dramas as they struggle to be made into cinema movies. Not that Underground is uncinematic. With director Robert Connolly (Balibo) at the helm and producer Helen Bowden (The Slap) pulling it all together, it's bound to be incisive too.
Along a similar vein is Amy Berg's West of Memphis, where Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh fought to have the real-life experiences of the so-called Memphis Three made into a feature film. Screening in the Mavericks program where onstage conversations are a feature, Amy Berg's film follows the wrongful imprisonment of three teenagers, Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, for the heinous 1993 murders of three eight-year-old Arkansas Cub Scouts. Their plight galvanised supporters including Johnny Depp and The Dixie Chicks' Natalie Maines, who appear in the film. A pre-taped video introduction by Jackson will precede the screening, which will be followed by a live discussion about the case and the movement it inspired with Berg, Echols, Maines and Depp.
The Mavericks program also includes the world premieres of the documentaries American Masters: Inventing David Geffen, where the usually reclusive movie mogul together American Masters creator and executive producer Susan Lacy will hit the stage (Robert Weide's Woody Allen: A Documentary is part of the American Masters PBS series), and Tom Donahue's Casting By, a look at Hollywood history through the legacy of casting director Marion Dougherty. The latter film features interviews with Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Clint Eastwood, Glenn Close and Robert Duvall and the screening will culminate with a live onstage discussion with Donahue, Danny Glover, and casting director Ellen Lewis (Hugo, Hyde Park on Hudson—one of the most anticipated of the TIFF films).
Also world-premiering in Discovery are the American entries The Brass Teapot, the story of a struggling young married couple starring Juno Temple, and The Land of Eb about a family unhappily living in Hawaii after being displaced from their home in the Marshall Islands because of nuclear weapons testing.
If it's thrills and spills you're after, TIFF's Midnight Madness section could prove enticing—and I suspect our local distributors will gobble them up. Australia's Abbie Cornish appears in probably the mildest film of them all, Seven Psychopaths, UK playwright Martin McDonagh's second feature (after In Bruges), which releases here on November 1 through Hopscotch.
MIDNIGHT MADNESS PROGRAM—as provided by TIFF
The ABCs of Death
Twenty-six directors... 26 ways to die! The ABCs of Death is perhaps the most ambitious anthology film ever conceived, featuring segments directed by over two dozen of the world's leading talents in contemporary genre film. With each director assigned a letter of the alphabet, they were then given free rein in choosing a word to create a story involving a tale of mortality. It's an alphabetical arsenal of destruction orchestrated by some of the most exciting names in global horror including Ben Wheatley (Kill List), Ti West (The Innkeepers), Jason Eisener (Hobo with A Shotgun), Adam Wingard (You're Next), Xavier Gens (Frontiere(s)), and Nacho Vigalondo (Timecrimes).
Nicolás López, USA/Chile
In Chile, an American tourist's vacation goes from good to great when he meets some beautiful women travellers. But when an earthquake ravages the underground nightclub they're in, a fun night quickly turns to terror. Escaping to the surface is just the beginning as they face nightmarish chaos above ground. Starring Eli Roth and Selena Gomez.
Barry Levinson, USA
A brutal and harrowing film about a deadly parasite, The Bay chronicles the descent of a small Maryland town into absolute terror.
Come Out and Play
Beth and Francis vacation before the birth of their child. Francis insists on venturing to a more serene island, Beth hesitantly agrees. They set out to a beautiful island but soon discover it's mysteriously abandoned and the only people on the island are children. Beth and Francis are left to uncover the mystery of the disappearances, and a day in paradise quickly turns into a struggle for survival. Cast includes Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Vinessa Shaw and Daniel Gimenez Cacho.
Pete Travis, USA/United Kingdom/India
The endlessly inventive mind of writer Alex Garland (28 Days Later...) and director Pete Travis bring the iconic masked police officer Judge Dredd to life in this futuristic neo-noir action film. Filmed in 3D with stunning slow-motion photography sequences, the film returns the celebrated comic book anti-hero to his dark, violent and visceral roots. Starring Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby and Lena Headey (Game of Thrones).
JT Petty, USA
Hellbenders, an R-rated 3D exorcism comedy, follows the Order of Hellbound Saints (Brooklyn Parish), a highly secretive and profoundly blasphemous men of God, as they battle demonic forces too terrible to be cast out by traditional Vatican-approved methods. Cast includes Clancy Brown, Clifton Collins Jr., Robyn Rikoon and Andre Royo.
John Dies at the End
Don Coscarelli, USA
In John Dies at the End, it's all about the Soy Sauce, a drug that promises an out-of-body experience with each hit. Users drift across time and dimensions. But some who come back are no longer human. Suddenly, a silent otherworldly invasion is underway, and mankind needs a hero. What it gets instead is John (Rob Mayes) and David (Chase Williamson), a pair of college dropouts who can barely hold down jobs. Can these two stop the oncoming horror in time to save humanity? No. No, they can't. Adapted from David Wong's audacious trans-genre horror novel, John Dies at the End is written and directed by Don Coscarelli (Bubba Ho-Tep) and also stars Clancy Brown and Paul Giamatti.
The Lords of Salem
Rob Zombie, USA/United Kingdom/Canada
Heidi, a radio station DJ, receives a wooden box containing a record. Heidi listens and the bizarre sounds within the grooves immediately trigger flashbacks of Salem's violent past. Is Heidi going mad or are the Lords of Salem returning for revenge on modern day Salem?
No One Lives
Ryuhei Kitamura, USA
From the director of Versus and The Midnight Meat Train, No One Lives is a smart and original horror movie with, at its heart, a killer in the grip of a dark and twisted love affair. A ruthless criminal gang takes a young couple hostage and goes to ground in an abandoned house in the middle of nowhere. When the captive girl is killed, the tables are unexpectedly turned. The gang finds itself outsmarted by an urbane and seasoned killer determined to ensure that no one lives. Featuring Luke Evans, Adelaide Clemens, Derek Magyar, Lee Tergesen and America Olivo.
Martin McDonagh, USA/UK
World Festival Premiere
Written and directed by academy award winner Martin McDonagh, the comedy Seven Psychopaths follows a struggling screenwriter (Colin Farrell) who inadvertently becomes entangled in the Los Angeles criminal underworld after his oddball friends (Christopher Walken and Sam Rockwell) kidnap a gangster's (Woody Harrelson) beloved Shih Tzu. Co-starring Abbie Cornish, Tom Waits, Olga Kurylenko and Zeljko Ivanek.