Contemporary World Cinema
Compelling stories, global perspectives.
Friends from France
Set in Odessa in 1979, this uniquely emotional political thriller recreates meticulously the deep-freeze of the Soviet Union at the crest of the Cold War while following a pair of French cousins in their clandestine effort to reach out to the so-called refuseniks — Jews repressed by the Brezhnev regime.
Le Grand Cahier
János Szász’s gripping adaptation of Agota Kristof’s award-winning novel, about two boys sent to live with their wicked, estranged grandmother during World War II, is a grim, atmospheric drama about fraternal bonds and survival. Szász remodels his wartime coming-of-age story into a Brothers Grimm-like fairy tale, colouring the twins’ environment through the golden and earthy cinematography of Christian Berger (The White Ribbon, Festival 2009).
PLEASE NOTE: The Contemporary World Speakers screening of Qissa (originally Sept. 9), has been rescheduled for Thursday, Sept. 12 at 12:45pm (TIFF Bell Lightbox Cinema 2). Ticket holders for the Monday screening can visit the Festival Box Office or call 416-599-8433 before 7pm on Wednesday, Sept. 11 to reserve a ticket. You will need your Sept. 9 ticket stub in order to place your reservation and pick up your new ticket.
Set amidst the ethnic cleansing and general chaos that accompanied India’s partition in 1947, this sweeping drama stars Irrfan Khan — also appearing at the Festival in The Lunchbox — as a Sikh attempting to forge a new life for his family while keeping their true identities a secret from their community.
An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker
Acclaimed director Danis Tanovic won the Grand Jury Prize at the Berlin Film Festival for this unflinching exposé of the prejudices faced by Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Roma minority, starring the real-life couple whose harrowing ordeal became a national scandal.
The stunning conclusion to Austrian provocateur Ulrich Seidl’s Paradise trilogy unfolds in a diet camp, where its 13-year-old heroine falls for the 40-year-old camp doctor.
Romanian director Calin Peter Netzer won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival for this sardonic tale about a wealthy, aging Bucharest matriarch who greases more palms than she can shake as she tries to buy her son’s way out of a hit-and-run conviction.
Judy Kibinge’s daring yet elegant film is an uplifting parable about atonement, set against the deadly violence that followed the 2007 elections in Kenya.
Someone is out to get Constantino Zegarra, a judge with an impressive conviction rate — and any number of enemies. So why is it so hard for others to believe he’s the victim of a conspiracy? This black comedy and offbeat crime procedural combines elements of a paranoid thriller and with social commentary.
Une Jeune Fille (A journey)
Inspired by Robert Bresson’s classic Mouchette, the new film from Catherine Martin (Trois temps après la mort d’Anna, L’esprit des lieux) follows a teenage girl who flees an unbearable home life for the rugged beauty of Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula.
This short by Akosua Adoma Owusu offers a spellbinding, semi-autobiographical interpretation of a traditional Ghanaian folktale in which the contemporary collides with the mythological in both content and form.
Mourning the recent death of his wife and wrestling with the demons of his past, a retired art historian (Ciaran Hinds; Munich) takes lodging at a seaside cottage under the eye of a watchful housekeeper (Charlotte Rampling), in this adaptation of revered Irish author John Banville’s Man Booker Prize-winning novel.
Formally fascinating and sexually frank, the audacious latest from director Robin Campillo takes us to the edge of discomfort as it presents a middle-aged Frenchman’s entanglement with a group of young Eastern European hustlers — and gives way to a love story with a conscience.
PLEASE NOTE that the 5pm screening (TIFF Bell Lightbox 1) of UNBEATABLE on Sunday, September 15 has moved to 5:45pm (TIFF Bell Lightbox 3).
Fleeing to Macau to escape loan sharks, a former mixed-martial arts champion becomes embroiled in the lives of a psychologically troubled single mother and a young wannabe fighter, in Hong Kong auteur Dante Lam’s stylish and compelling action-drama.
This gripping drama by writer-director Yuri Bykov is an indictment of police corruption and the collateral damage it leaves behind.
Director Richie Mehta follows his award-winning debut feature Amal with this powerful and heart-rending tale about a poor Delhi street merchant desperately searching for his missing young son.
Gifted Russian director Alexey Uchitel (The Edge) returns to the Festival with this explosive crime drama about the violent rivalry that erupts when an elite police operative falls for a gangster’s moll.
Stop the Pounding Heart
The teenage daughter of Christian goat farmers in rural Texas rebels against her arranged marriage in this half-fiction, half-documentary hybrid from Italian director Roberto Minervini, shot with non-professional actors performing in their real homes.
Toa Fraser’s beautifully photographed film captures the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s staging of the classic — about a deceptive nobleman’s punishment at the hands of vengeful spirits — while suggesting a fictionalized, parallel love story offstage between the two lead dancers.
Alicia Vikander (A Royal Affair) stars in this comedy-drama as a recovering control freak who finds support and a new lease on life when she enters group therapy.
In a small New Zealand town in the early 20th century, three very different women — a Maori medicine woman, a wealthy, sharp-tongued white housewife, and a controlling housekeeper — are brought together by a scandalous secret, in this complex and mesmerizing tale of culture clash and social mores based on a novella by the author of Whale Rider.
Rags and Tatters
Escaping from prison amid the turbulence of the 2011 Tahrir Square demonstrations, a nameless fugitive desperately seeks warmth and shelter in the outer regions of Cairo, in director Ahmad Abdalla’s vivid and captivating portrait of the fallout from the Arab Spring.
The stoic patriarch of a Quebec farmstead makes a dramatic sacrifice on behalf of his daughter in this poignant sophomore feature from filmmaker Sébastien Pilote (The Salesman).
The estranged daughter of a famous, recently deceased Québécois filmmaker undertakes a mission to mount a retrospective of her father’s work, in this slyly funny family drama from director Terry Miles.
Larger-than-life characters populate director Nejib Belkadhi’s spellbinding combination of film noir and magic realism, which follows a downtrodden orphan — now grown but still saddled with a cruel nickname — who has a reversal of fortune and takes on the thugs who control his ghetto.
The Kids from the Port
In this charming neorealist gem set on the sleepy outskirts of Valencia, young Miguel and his friends undertake a seemingly simple mission on behalf of Miguel’s grandfather that teaches them all a lesson in real independence.
This Is Sanlitun
A pair of hapless ex-pats discover that Beijing isn’t the hotbed of entrepreneurial opportunity they had anticipated in this hilarious and timely look at the West’s obsession with the East, directed by Róbert I. Douglas (Eleven Men Out).
The Animal Project
A Toronto theatre director endures a series of creative and personal travails in this affecting and typically inventive new film from Festival favourite Ingrid Veninger (MODRA, i am a good person/i am a bad person).
Life's a Breeze
A Dublin family races to recover their grandmother’s mattress — and its hidden stash of over a million euros in carefully squirreled-away savings — in this delightful comedy from director Lance Daly.
Lewis Carroll meets Carol Reed in this dizzyingly funny and fantastical farce from Israeli director Avi Nesher, about a good-natured slacker who becomes embroiled in a labyrinthine conspiracy in the weird criminal-religious underbelly of Jerusalem.
A Place in Heaven
The fateful contract between a secular Israeli army officer and a devout young Holocaust survivor has profound and unexpected consequences, in this sprawling, decades-spanning epic from director Yossi Madmony (Restoration).
Heart of a Lion
The leader of a gang of racist skinheads finds his prejudices and misplaced loyalties pitted against his desire for love and family when he falls for a waitress whose son is of African descent.
Acclaimed Icelandic filmmaker Ragnar Bragason (Children, Parents) directs this darkly comic drama about a grief-stricken young woman who adopts the persona — and decibel-blasting predilections — of her deceased brother.
The Dick Knost Show
Bruce Sweeney (Last Wedding) directs this keenly observed and wickedly funny media satire about a self-absorbed sports-radio shock jock whose controversial social-media missive makes him the target of network scrutiny.
Palestinian director Rashid Mashawari follows his widely acclaimed dark comedy Laila’s Birthday with this compelling and ironic drama about two brothers on the West Bank who, rendered homeless by an Israeli air strike, hustle odd jobs to raise enough money to emigrate to Canada.
In this quirky comic thriller from writer-director Noh Young-seok (Daytime Drinking), a screenwriter retreats to a secluded cabin in the woods only to be rudely interrupted by some uninvited guests.
The arrival of an uninvited guest casts a shadow over an idyllic wedding celebration in this wonderfully fraught meditation on guilt and forgiveness, directed by prolific Czech filmmaker Jan Hrebejk (The The Holy Quaternity).
Manuscripts Don't Burn
Director Mohammad Rasoulof’s latest tackles head-on the machinations of censorship in Iran, detailing the true story of a failed 1995 assassination plot by the Iranian regime against twenty-one writers and journalists.
Lars Daniel Krutzkoff Jacobsen’s corrosive look at contemporary Norwegian society is also a hilarious and provocative comedy that cuts across class lines and rampages through notions of good taste, as it follows an ex-soldier and a single mother who go into the prostitution business after getting kicked off welfare.
Loosely based on legendary Brasilia rock band Legiao Urbana’s seminal folk song, René Sampaio’s lyrical, fable-like debut feature follows a young man from the provinces who decides to try his luck in the capital, where he falls in with a rough crowd — and falls for a senator’s daughter.
Adroitly written and directed by South African filmmaker Donovan Marsh, this action-packed heist thriller — about a pair of cops battling corrupt colleagues as well as a gang of armoured-car thieves — boasts an oddball cast that brings comic relief to the ruthless thuggery.
A Wolf at the Door
In Brazilian filmmaker Fernando Coimbra's suspenseful feature, panic breeds suspicion and love turns to hate as two parents deal with the kidnapping of their child.
Filmmaking partners Guillaume Giovanetti and Cagla Zencirci immersed themselves in the magical world of Japanese folklore to create this intricate and delightfully amusing modern-day parable.
Set in the Dominican Republic, Leticia Tonos Paniagua’s uniquely Caribbean retelling of Romeo and Juliet chronicles the love between a kind-hearted teenager, ostracized for his mixed Haitian-Dominican descent, and the beautiful sister of a local drug kingpin he’s hired to protect.
When Evening Falls on Bucharest or Metabolism
A director (Bogdan Dumitrache) with two weeks left on his latest film fakes an ulcer in order to delay production and pursue a romance with his lead actress and muse (Diana Avramut). In the hands of Romanian fimmaker Corneliu Porumboiu, this seemingly simple love story becomes a force of cinematic deconstruction similar to his meta police procedural, Police, Adjective.
While vacationing at a beachside resort, a single mother faces inevitable separation anxiety when her 15-year-old son — who is also her best friend — discovers magical chemistry with a girl his own age. Director Fernando Eimbcke approaches the subject with sensitivity while also presenting it as a wonderfully awkward, laugh-out-loud comedy.
Determined to see "the river," two young children living in Los Angeles leave home to embark on a magical urban odyssey, in the marvelous new film by American indie icon Alexandre Rockwell (In the Soup).
A hothead cop (David Morse) learns a young man (Cory Monteith, in one of his final film roles) he helped put away seven years ago is back out on the streets — and carries with him an uncomfortable secret. This tough, tension-riddled action-drama is a showcase for Morse’s intensity and Monteith’s charisma.
Empire of Dirt
Three generations of First Nations women struggle to deal with the demons of their past, in this powerful and affecting drama from actor-turned-director Peter Stebbings (Defendor).
Director Gotz Spielmann follows his acclaimed thriller Revanche with this visually captivating character study, in which a family reunion at a mountainside inn lays bare old wounds and reveals long-held secrets.
Under the Starry Sky
A transcontinental drama that delves into the shadowy world of undocumented travel, the debut feature from Senegalese filmmaker Dyana Gaye charts the interconnected destinies of three far-flung sojourners.
A nine-year-old boy’s preening obsession with straightening his hair elicits a tidal wave of homophobic panic in his hard-working mother, in this tender but clear-eyed coming-of-age tale from Venezuelan writer-director Mariana Rondón.
Ladder to Damascus
Mohamad Malas, recognized widely as Syrian cinema’s first auteur, resurrects the ghosts of his country’s thirty-year-old dictatorship with this searing drama, shot in Damascus under a shroud of secrecy and at great risk after the outbreak of the 2011 insurgency.
Levan Koguashvili’s film — about a lonely 40-year-old schoolteacher who takes up with the wife of a soon-to-be-released convict — is a compassionate tragicomedy commenting on relationships and the profound emotional responsibilities they trigger.
Adapting a Dutch bestseller inspired by a shocking real-life crime, Menno Meyjes (screenwriter of The Color Purple and Lionheart) directs this excoriating assessment of Europe’s contemporary social ills.
The Bit Player
Vilma Santos, the enduring Grand Dame of the Philippine film industry, delivers a performance of grace, courage, and peerless comic timing as a single mother toiling as a lowly TV extra in the latest film from veteran director Jeffrey Jeturian (Trespassers).
Homecoming (African Metropolis)
Kenyan Jim Chuchu’s short film casts a voyeur’s obsession with the girl next door, blurring the lines between fantasy and reality, science fiction and fiction.
Berea (African Metropolis)
South African Vincent Moloi’s Berea is a compelling drama about the anxiety of an elderly gentleman disoriented by the radical urbanization of his neighbourhood.
To Repel Ghosts (African Metropolis)
Jean-Michel Basquiat’s voyage of spiritual atonement to the Ivory Coast shortly before his death is the inspiration for Ivoirian Philippe Lacôte’s To Repel Ghosts, a captivating re-enactment of the artist’s experience.
This modern adaptation of a Benjamin Britten one-act opera on the myth of Noah’s flood is sung entirely in Xhosa, with South African opera star Pauline Malefane as Noah, and is a striking metaphor for man’s inhumanity to man. A stunning feat from a troupe whose U-Carmen eKhayelitsha won the Golden Bear at Berlin in 2005.
Raisa Bonnet’s naturalistic short sketches an almost wordless tale of the relationship between a young girl and her grandmother. Beautifully shot, it never tries to do too much within its limited running time.