Ah, TIFF. So many movies to see, so little time to see them all. When it comes to narrowing down our selections, we have to admit that we always love a movie with a little historical context.
You know the films we’re talking about—the biopics, the movies that are based-on-a-real story, the documentaries with swagger, and the films that tell tales we thought we already knew in a complex and revelatory way. There are plenty of those types of movies hitting up the Toronto International Film Festival this year, and here are our top picks.
In December 2014, a report more than 500 pages long was released to the public, detailing some pretty extreme and shocking interrogation methods that the CIA used in a post 9/11 world. This movie, which continues our obsession with all things Adam Driver, tells the fictionalized story of how that report came to be. Jon Hamm, Michael C. Hall, Annette Bening, Maura Tierney and Corey Stoll also star.
Dolemite is my Name
Eddie Murphy is making a comeback, and that comeback is named Dolemite. This biopic stars the Oscar nominee as legendary Ruby Ray Moore, the comedian and rapper whose 1970s alter ego, Dolemite, shot to fame as a result of the boom of Blaxploitation flicks. Murphy is in good company with this film, too. Wesley Snipes, Craig Robinson, Titus Burgess, Keegan-Michael Key and Chris Rock are all playing with him onscreen.
Ford v Ferrari
Fast cars and friendships are the name of the game in this racing biopic, in which American car designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and British driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale) team up to design and race a Ford that will rival and take down a Ferrari. Be warned that you’ll probably have a newfound respect for Shelby Mustangs and those who drive them after screening this romp.
We thought we knew the complicated and heroic story of Harriet Tubman, but as the trailer for this TIFF selection proves we—like Jon Snow—know nothing. We can’t look away from Cynthia Erivo’s compelling take on the iconic hero, as the story traces her fight to free hundreds of slaves via the Underground Railroad. This historical tale focuses on the woman behind the mythic acts and we’re already gripped.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Tom Hanks playing Fred Rogers? We’ve been excited about that casting for months. Finally, after what seems like an epic wait, the Mister Rogers biopic is here, with its big gala debut at TIFF. The movie opens with a cynical reporter (Matthew Rhys) interviewing Rogers for a profile, but his own skepticism is eventually brushed aside when he realizes the good this man is doing in the world. It’s the bright-spot film we could all use in our lives right about now.
Full disclaimer: we’d sign up for strip-tease lessons from JLo, who proves she’s still got it at the age of 50. Don’t let the glitter fool you, though: Hustlers goes beyond the stage to examine female empowerment and friendship, while tackling capitalism culture and consumerism. It all started with a 2015 “modern Robin Hood” story in New York Magazine, which told the tale of strippers purposely taking Wall Street clients for a ride. Need more reason to watch? Constance Wu, Cardi B and Lili Reinhart also star.
If biopics have taught us anything it’s that the life of a beloved celebrity is never as easy as you’d think. Judy Garland is the latest icon whose story has been developed for the big screen, and this time it’s Renee Zellweger at the helm. The TIFF selection follows Garland in the years after The Wizard of Oz, when she was broke and fought for a revival in order to provide for and be with her children.
David Foster: Off the Record
Let’s talk musical legends for a second, shall we? Because when it comes to iconic (not to mention prolific) producers, Canadian David Foster is pretty much top of that list. He’s helped to elevate some of the best musical chops in the biz, from Celine Dion and Whitney Houston to Michael Bublé and Seal, and has armfuls of awards, nominations and sales to back it up. This Bell Media Studios and Melbar Entertainment Group doc sheds new light on his accomplishments, and we’re very much here for it.
We say that with selections like these, art can imitate life anytime it wants.
The 44th Toronto International Film Festival runs September 5-15, 2019.