Oscar bait? Twelve films set to make a splash at Toronto


By Tim Masters- BBC Arts and entertainment correspondent

The Oscars may be more than five months away, but this year’s hopefuls are already jostling for position.

The Toronto Film International Festival kicks offs on Thursday, with almost 400 films set to screen.

As previous years have shown, success at Toronto often leads to recognition during film awards season – especially at the Academy Awards.

Here’s a look at 12 of the films receiving their world premiere at Toronto that will be hoping to make waves beyond the shores of Lake Ontario.


American Pastoral

Director: Ewan McGregor

Cast: Uzo Aduba, Jennifer Connelly, Dakota Fanning, Ewan McGregor, David Strathairn

Ewan McGregor makes his directorial debut and stars in this 1960s-set drama, based on Philip Roth’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. McGregor plays Seymour “Swede” Levov, a successful businessman whose comfortable family life is shattered when his daughter Merry (Fanning) disappears after being accused of an act of violence.



Director: Vikram Gandhi

Cast: Ellar Coltrane, Jenna Elfman, Ashley Judd, Anya Taylor-Joy, Devon Terrell

Devon Terrell makes his acting debut as the young Barack Obama in this biopic about his time at Columbia University in 1981. It is not the only Obama-related film out this year. Romantic drama Southside with You, which premiered at this year’s Sundance film festival, was inspired by Barack and Michelle Obama’s first date, on a summer day in 1989.


Brain on Fire

Director: Gerard Barrett

Cast: Richard Armitage, Thomas Mann, Chloe Grace Moretz, Carrie-Anne Moss, Tyler Perry

Based on Susannah Cahalan’s bestselling memoir, this is the story of a New York Post journalist (Moretz) who is repeatedly misdiagnosed after she starts having seizures and hearing voices.


Burn Your Maps

Director: Jordan Roberts

Cast: Marton Csokas, Vera Farmiga, Virginia Madsen, Suraj Sharma, Jacob Tremblay

Jacob Tremblay, the young star of 2015’s Toronto audience prize winner, Room, plays an eight-year-old boy who, after a family tragedy, becomes convinced he is a Mongolian goat herder and leads his parents (Farmiga and Csokas) on an unforgettable journey.


Deepwater Horizon

Director: Peter Berg

Cast: Kate Hudson, Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, John Malkovich, Gina Rodriguez

This action drama tells the story of the oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 that killed 11 crew members and became one of world’s worst environmental catastrophes. Wahlberg plays Mike Williams, an electrician on the rig, with Malkovich as a bullying BP boss.


Gaza Surf Club

Image copyright TIFF

Directors: Philip Gnadt and Mickey Yamine

A documentary about the surfing enthusiasts on the Gaza Strip’s Mediterranean coastline.



Director: Garth Davis

Cast: Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara, Dev Patel, David Wenham

An Indian boy is adopted by an Australian couple after he takes a wrong train and is separated from his family at the age of five. Twenty-five years later he uses Google Earth to attempt to find his lost home.


The Magnificent Seven

Director: Antoine Fuqua

Cast: Haley Bennett, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Byung-Hun Lee, Chris Pratt, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Peter Sarsgaard, Martin Sensmeier, Denzel Washington

Toronto’s opening night film is Antoine Fuqua’s remake of the 1960 western classic about seven gunslingers protecting the town of Rose Creek from the deadly grip of industrialist Bartholomew Bogue. It reunites Fuqua with Washington after they worked together on 2014’s action thriller The Equalizer.


A Monster Calls

Director: J A Bayona

Cast: Felicity Jones, Toby Kebbell, Lewis MacDougall, Liam Neeson, Sigourney Weaver

This big screen adaptation of the award-winning children’s book by Patrick Ness tells the story of a lonely 12-year-old boy with a terminally ill mother who is visited by an ancient monster who tells him stories.


Queen of Katwe

Director: Mira Nair

Cast: David Oyelowo, Madina Nalwanga, Lupita Nyong’o

The true story of a young Ugandan girl called Phiona Mutesi (newcomer Nalwanga) whose life in a Kampala shantytown changes when she discovers her affinity for chess. Oscar-winner Nyong’o plays her hard-working mother, while Oyelowo is the missionary who helps Phiona follow her dream of becoming an international champion.



Director: Garth Jennings

Cast: Beck Bennett, Taron Egerton, Jennifer Hudson, Garth Jennings, Scarlett Johansson, Leslie Jones, Tori Kelly, Nick Kroll, Seth MacFarlane, Matthew McConaughey, Nick Offerman, Jay Pharoah, John C Reilly, Jennifer Saunders, Peter Serafinowicz, Reese Witherspoon

A first look at this animated musical comedy, due out around Christmas, about a koala (McConaughey) who puts on a singing contest in an attempt to save his theatre. Witherspoon voices the character of Rosita the pig while Johansson plays a punk porcupine.



Director: Oliver Stone

Cast: Nicolas Cage, Melissa Leo, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Timothy Olyphant, Zachary Quinto, Shailene Woodley

In this real-life political thriller, Gordon-Levitt plays the US National Security Agency contractor who leaked top secret intelligence files and became one of the world’s most wanted men.

The 41st Toronto International Film Festival runs from 8 to 18 September.



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