With few major sales titles available at TIFF this year — excluding a Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin two-hander and Lin-Manuel Miranda-produced YA feature — things coming out of the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival are looking muted at best. from.
The vast majority of TIFF movies already have domestic distribution – with studios and indie players like Neon and A24 looking to use the North America festival as a springboard for prize season. What’s left is a few sales titles, Cannes property, and a handful of showings from buyers outside the festival to spark interest.
Focus Features’ head of production and acquisition, Kiska Higgs, is optimistic that the sluggish indie theatrical market will eventually recover from the COVID slump and pull people away from streaming services – “I can’t imagine a world where I want to sit on my couch sit for a second longer than I need to be” – but TIFF seems unlikely where that happens.
Still, there are a few available movies with serious star power and prestige potential that can make big waves in shallow water.
Aristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the universe
DIRECTOR Aitch Alberto
THE BUZZ Based on the 2012 YA bestseller by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, this LGBTQ coming-of-age drama follows two Mexican-American teens in 1980s Texas and looks like a sleepover hit. Now that Lin-Manuel Miranda is producing, buyers should be lining up.
DIRECTOR flying lotus
THE BUZZ In what is likely a solid piece of high-concept sci-fi from the genre specialists at XYZ, this presale thriller at TIFF sees Tessa Thompson play a woman who wakes up on a distant planet to find that the other inhabitants of her space station were killed. She must decide whether to trust the man (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) sent to save her.
SALE XYZ Movies
DIRECTOR Matt Smukler
STARS Kiernan Shipka, Jacki Weaver, Jean Smart
THE BUZZ This family drama, starring Kiernan Shipka as a young woman caring for her mentally challenged parents, supported by diametrically opposed grandmothers Jacki Weaver and Jean Smart, could be a smart sleeper for the right distributor.
DIRECTOR Paul Weitz
STARS Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Malcolm McDowell
THE BUZZ Before COVID, golden-agers were a boom market for independent distributors, and this dramedy, featuring Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda as estranged friends who team up after a mutual friend’s funeral to take revenge on her widower (Malcolm McDowell) may just be the ticket to win back the over 60s.
Daughter of the prisoner
DIRECTOR Catherine Hardwicke
THE BUZZ Hardwicke’s family tree as director of Twilight and sleeper hit Thirteen must convince buyers they are in safe hands with this drama thriller, which stars Brian Cox as a dying convict with a violent past trying to make contact with his daughter (Kate Beckinsale) and the grandson he never knew.
Patrick and the whale
DIRECTOR Mark Fletcher
THE BUZZ With shades of My Octopus TeacherThe documentary explores how whales interact and express emotions by following veteran marine videographer Patrick Dykstra’s relationship with a sperm whale named Dolores.
DIRECTORS Gina Gammell, Riley Keough
THE BUZZ A solid bet for specialist distributors, this feature film debut from director-turned-director Keough, who co-hosts Gammell, won the Cannes audience — scooping best first feature Camera d’Or (plus the Palm Dog for his dog star, a poodle named Brit) – with its touching portrayal of two Lakota boys growing up on Pine Ridge Reservation.
SALE Main character Photos/ CAA Media Finance
DIRECTOR Gabriela Cowperthwaite
THE BUZZ Cowperthwaite’s first non-fiction film since 2013 blackfish is part world-reaching thriller and part investigative piece about the global food chain and the struggle for the last free farmland on Earth.
DIRECTOR Mary Harron
STARS Sir Ben Kingsley, Barbara Sukowa, Christopher Briney
THE BUZZ Large artist biopics have built-in promotion and audience potential, which should favor this portrait of the Spanish surrealist painting Salvador Dalí (Kingsley), seen through the eyes of a young gallery assistant (Briney). Sukowa plays Gala, Dalí’s wife and muse.
SALE Bankside Movies
What Does Love Have To Do With It?
DIRECTOR Shekhar Kapur
THE BUZZ A cross-cultural rom-com to appeal to mainstream indie buyers, the latest from Elizabeth director Kapur features Yesterday and Pam & Tommy star Lily James as a documentary filmmaker who follows her childhood friend (Penny Terrible breakout Shazad Latif) while looking for an arranged marriage.
This story first appeared in the September 6 issue of News Kidda magazine. Click here to subscribe.