Much-anticipated new films from Barry Jenkins, Steve McQueen and Michael Moore are set to be unveiled at this year’s Toronto film festival, beginning this week.
In one of the festival’s stronger lineups in recent years, there will be 138 world premieres featuring a long list of stars, including Judi Dench, Julia Roberts, Steve Carell, Colin Farrell, Robert Pattinson, Viola Davis and Kristen Stewart.
The Oscar-winning writer-director Barry Jenkins will debut the follow up to his best picture winner Moonlight, an adaptation of James Baldwin’s If Beale Street Could Talk. The 70s drama follows a couple torn apart by a false accusation of rape and stars newcomer Kiki Layne alongside Race star Stephan James and Emmy winner Regina King.
The 12 Years a Slave director Steve McQueen will be premiering his new star-studded crime thriller Widows, based on the Lynda La Plante miniseries with a script from the Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn. Viola Davis, Liam Neeson, Colin Farrell, Daniel Kaluuya, Jacki Weaver, Michelle Rodriguez and Robert Duvall all star.
“It’s a genre picture,” McQueen said to Variety. “I liked the idea of going into a genre, but still having social realism involved. Chicago had all the elements that I wanted to investigate, those of race, class, religion, policing … It’s such a fertile narrative environment. It has this criminality that goes all the way back to Al Capone.”
Set to be one of the festival’s most talked-about titles is Fahrenheit 11/9, the latest documentary from Michael Moore. It’s a look at America under the presidency of Donald Trump, its title a reference to the day he was elected. “My choir is the American people,” Moore said to HuffPost. “The old guard of the Democratic party has failed to speak to them. I will at least give them a song they can belt out.”
Toronto also gives Oscars prognosticators a chance to put this year’s race into focus, with many hyped films and performances set to debut. After breaking out last year with Call Me by Your Name and scoring himself a best actor nomination, Timothée Chalamet could return to the conversation with his role as a meth-addicted teen in Beautiful Boy, also starring Steve Carell.
Julianne Moore, whose winning performance in Still Alice premiered at the festival in 2014, will return with the lead role as a woman facing first dates in her later years in Gloria Bell, a remake of the acclaimed Chilean drama Gloria, both directed by Sebastian Lelio. Last year’s ceremony saw Lelio take home the Oscar for best foreign language film for A Fantastic Woman.
Best supporting actor winner Mahershala Ali hopes to repeat his Moonlight success with a role in 50s drama Green Book alongside Viggo Mortensen. The film sees the pair taking a road trip in the deep south and encountering racial divisions.
The festival has previously been home to world premieres for major awards contenders, including Silver Linings Playbook, The Martian and The Theory of Everything.
Other much-anticipated world premieres include the adaptation of award-winning police brutality YA novel The Hate U Give, Jamie Lee Curtis’s long-awaited return to face Michael Myers in Halloween, Judi Dench playing the KGB’s longest-serving British spy in Red Joan, Sam Taylor-Johnson’s adaptation of James Frey’s controversial bestseller A Million Little Pieces, Kristen Stewart playing an unlikely literary sensation in fact-based drama Jeremiah Terminator LeRoy and Robert Pattinson heading into space for High Life, the latest film from Claire Denis.
Both Taylor-Johnson and Denis join an impressive list of female directors premiering their films at the festival after this year’s Venice film festival came under fire for its largely male list of film-makers. Cameron Bailey, who acts as both co-head and artistic director, is set to sign a charter that aims for 50/50 gender parity at the festival by 2020.
The move will be part of the festival’s Share Her Journey rally aimed at shining a light on both women’s stories in film and the harassment many of them face behind the scenes. This year’s event will also see Geena Davis and the British director Amma Asante speak.
Toronto arrives after both the Venice and Telluride festivals unveiled the first set of Oscar contenders. The most buzz has been circulating around Lady Gaga’s performance in Bradley Cooper’s remake of A Star is Born, Olivia Colman’s turn as Queen Anne in Yorgos Lanthimos’s period comedy The Favourite and Alfonso Cuarón’s Netflix drama Roma.