10 can’t-miss picks for the 2017 edition of TIFF

The Toronto International Film Festival has reduced the number of programmed movies by 20 per cent from previous years, but it still includes 339 films to feast your eyes on. With 27,438 minutes of celluloid from 83 countries being projected on screens, there will be something for everyone. 

1. Charlie Hunnam and Rami Malek headline a remake of the 1973 penal colony escape flick Papillon. The new film is based on the autobiography of Parisian safecracker Henri Charrière—played here by Hunnam — and the script for the Steve McQueen, Dustin Hoffman original. 

2. Direct from Sundance comes Novitiate, a ’60s period drama that sees a young nun work through issues of sexuality and spirituality. It stars Margaret Qualley, Andie MacDowell’s daughter, and Oscar winner Melissa Leo. 

3. Shot in western Canada, The Mountain Between Us is a survival two-hander with Idris Elba and Kate Winslet. They play strangers who must bond after a devastating plane crash leaves them badly injured and stranded in a mountain wilderness.

4. The love of Michael Jackson is behind an Egyptian film making its world premiere. Sheikh Jackson is the story of an Islamic cleric’s crisis of faith in the wake of the King of Pop’s death. A study of masculinity and modern Islam, it’s being touted as one of the feel-good, international hits of the year.

5. Joel and Ethan Coen wrote Suburbicon’s story of the soured American dream in 1986. George Clooney was once attached to star but now takes over as director to a cast that includes Academy Award winners Matt Damon and Julianne Moore.

6. Guillermo del Toro, a director whose Pan’s Labyrinth electrified TIFF audiences in 2005, returns with another creature feature, The Shape of Water. Doug Jones, a del Toro regular who was the otherworldly Pale Man in Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy’s merman Abe Sapien, plays the film’s amphibious creature.

7. Mark Felt — The Man Who Brought Down the White House sheds light on mysterious whistleblower Deep Throat. Liam Neeson plays an FBI agent who provided Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward with the information that led to the Watergate. Director Peter Landesman is an award-winning investigative reporter. 

8. Director Mina Shum is back with Meditation Park, a bittersweet look at 60-year-old Maria’s (Cheng Pei Pei) attempts to change her life after her husband cheats on her. Festival favourites Don McKellar and Sandra Oh co-star. 

9. Darkest Hour, director Joe Wright’s look at Winston Churchill’s battle against the Nazis, is already being hyped as a surefire Oscar nomination for star Gary Oldman. The film is dedicated to John Hurt, who was cast as Neville Chamberlain but died before production began. 

10. Battle of the Sexes chronicles the televised 1973 tennis match between top-ranked Billie Jean King and ex-champ Bobby Riggs. Emma Stone and Steve Carell star, recreating the game and King’s pre-game offering to Riggs, a squealing piglet — an emblem of male chauvinism. 

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