Films By Women at TIFF 2016

The whole industry is talking about inclusion in a way it hasn’t in a long time. We never want to say ‘[diversity] is the goal’ because I don’t think that’s the right way to do it. But we do want to make sure we’re paying attention and maybe looking more deeply for stories that will help continue that conversation.

—Cameron Bailey, TIFF artistic programmer

Since its inception 1976, Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) has been known as a locus for the best films made each year. TIFF is a pivotal event for the film industry’s economy, so we were thrilled to compile this list of SEVENTY-TWO films directed by women that will screen at Toronto this year. The festival runs from September 8-18. If you plan to attend, please support some of these fantastic films with your presence. If you can’t make it this fall, you can still show your support by watching their trailers, following their stories, and posting about them on social media. #52FilmsByWomen

 

Select World Premieres

queen-of-katwe

The Edge of Seventeen

Directed by Kelly Fremon Craig
Produced by Cathy Schulman (President, Women In Film)

Gala Presentations

Oscar nominees Hailee Steinfeld and Woody Harrelson star in this hilarious, edgy and poignant coming-of-age tale about an endearingly witty but self-absorbed teen whose life goes into a tailspin after her older brother starts dating her best friend.

 

queen-of-katwe

Queen of Katwe

Directed by Mira Nair

Gala Presentations

David Oyelowo (Selma) and Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave) star in the true story of a young girl from rural Uganda (played by newcomer Madina Nalwanga) who discovers a passion for chess, and sets out to pursue her dream of becoming an international champion.

 

queen-of-katwe

Anatomy of Violence

Directed by Deepa Mehta

Masters

Celebrated filmmaker Deepa Mehta investigates one of India’s most notorious crimes — the 2012 gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman on a Delhi bus — in her angry, impassioned and essential new film.

 

 A United Kingdom

A United Kingdom

Directed by Amma Asante

Gala Presentations

Amma Asante (Belle) helms this biopic of Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo), the former African royal who courted controversy with his interracial marriage to Englishwoman Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike) and later led his nation to independence from the British Empire as the first president of Botswana.

 

 An Insignificant Man

An Insignificant Man

Directed by Khushboo Ranka, Vinay Shukla

Docs

Filmmakers Khushboo Ranka and Vinay Shukla follow Arvind Kejriwal, “the Bernie Sanders of India,” as he shakes up the complacent and corrupt status quo of Indian politics as the head of the Common Man’s Party.

 

 Their Finest

Their Finest

Directed by Lone Scherfig

Gala Presentations

Danish filmmaker Lone Scherfig (An Education, The Riot Club) directs a sterling British cast — including Gemma Arterton, Bill Nighy, Jack Huston and Richard E. Grant — in this period comedy-drama about a group of filmmakers struggling to make an inspirational film to boost morale during the Blitz of London in World War II.

 

 Girl Unbound

Girl Unbound

Directed by Erin Heidenreich

Docs

An intimate portrait of Maria Toorpakai, who defies threats to herself and her family from Islamic fundamentalists in order to represent Pakistan as an internationally competitive squash player.

 

More Films by Women

 Raw

Raw

Directed by Julia Ducournau

Midnight Madness

A shy, vegetarian student at a veterinary college develops an insatiable lust for flesh as the result of a gruesome hazing ritual, in this grisly and gory tale of a cannibalistic coming of age.

 

 The Bad Batch

The Bad Patch

Directed by Ana Lily Amirpour

Vanguard

A young girl wanders a savage desert wasteland in a dystopian future United States, in Ana Lily Amirpour’s highly anticipated follow-up to A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night.

 

 Karl Marx City

Karl Marx City

Directed by Petra Epperlein, Michael Tucker

Docs

A powerfully personal journey through the former East Germany, as Epperlein investigates her father’s 1999 suicide and the possibility that he may have worked as a spy for the dreaded Stasi security service.

 

 Planetarium

Planetarium

Directed by Rebecca Zlotowski

Gala Presentations

In 1930s France, two sisters (Natalie Portman and Lily-Rose Depp) who perform as supernatural mediums cross paths with a visionary film producer.

 

 Paraya

Paraya

Directed by Sheetal Magan

Short Cuts

A troubled young mother drifts through the bustling city of Durban in search of the disappeared father of her child.Paraya is a stark portrayal of a woman’s attempt to shape her future.

 

 Window Horses

Window Horses

Directed by Ann Marie Fleming

Special Presentations

Sandra Oh, Ellen Page and Don McKellar lend their voices to this warm and witty animated feature by Ann Marie Fleming (The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam), about a young Canadian poet who undergoes a life-changing experience when she attends a poetry festival in Iran.

 

 Heal the Living

Heal the Living

Directed by Katell Quillevere

Platform

Ivory Coast-born filmmaker Katell Quillévére adapts Maylis de Kerangal’s Booker Prize–longlisted novel for this elegant and affecting film which draws three seemingly unrelated stories together into a tale about the moment when tragedy meets hope.

 

 Paris Can Wait

Paris Can Wait

Directed by Eleanor Coppola

Special Presentations

Eleanor Coppola (Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse) directs this sexy and charming road movie, about a fiftysomething empty-nester (Diane Lane) with a workaholic husband (Alec Baldwin) who embarks on an impromptu, two-day journey through the French countryside with a rakish bon vivant (Arnaud Viard).

 

 350 MYA

350 MYA

Directed by Terra Long

Wavelengths

In Terra Long’s 350 MYA, a sheet whips before the camera, shaped by the same wind that forms the rigid, undulating lines of sand below it as the film conjures the continued presence of the now vanished Rheic Ocean in the Tafilalt region of the arid Sahara Desert.

 

 Jean of the Joneses

Jean of the Joneses

Directed by Stella Meghie

Discovery

A whip-smart tale about the twentysomething scion of an all-female Brooklyn clan wrestling with her literary aspirations, romantic mishaps, and the chaotic preparations for her estranged father’s funeral.

 

 Half a Man

Half a Man

Directed by Kristina Kumric

Short Cuts

Two sisters in 1991 Croatia prepare a special homecoming for their father on the day he’s set to return after three months as a prisoner of war. Kristina Kumric crafts a powerful portrait of a family that’s just beginning to see the damage it’s suffered.

 

 Prevenge

Prevenge

Directed by Alice Lowe

Vanguard

Alice Lowe (Sightseers) is a triple threat as the writer, director and star of this pitch-black comedy about a pregnant woman whose unborn child psychically spurs her on to murder.

 

 One Sings, the Other Doesn't

One Sings, the Other Doesn’t

Directed by Agnes Varda

TIFF Cinematheque

Agnès Varda’s 1977 masterwork is simultaneously a musical, a protest film, a portrait of a generation and, most importantly, a tender and insightful exploration of female friendship.

 

 Maudie

Maudie

Directed by Aisling Walsh

Special Presentations

Academy Award nominees Sally Hawkins (Happy-Go-Lucky,Blue Jasmine) and Ethan Hawke star in the true story of Maud Lewis, who overcame the physical challenge of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis to become one of Canada’s premier folk artists.

 

 Nelly

Nelly

Directed by Anne Emond

Vanguard

A creatively imagined biopic of controversial Quebec writer Nelly Arcan, who scandalized the French literary world with her semi-autobiographical novel based on her experiences as a sex worker.

 

 Foreign Body

Foreign Body

Directed by Raja Amari

Special Presentations

Seeking refuge from her Islamist radical brother whom she informed on, a young woman arrives in France illegally following Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution and discovers a new world of both hope and danger, in the fourth feature from writer-director Raja Amari (Satin Rouge, Buried Secrets).

 

 The Cinema Travellers

The Cinema Travellers

Directed by Shirley Abraham, Amit Madheshiya

Docs

This lyrical documentary chronicles the vanishing tradition of the mobile “tent cinemas” that bring films to far-flung towns and villages across India.

 

 Carrie Pilby

Carrie Pilby

Directed by Susan Johnson

Special Presentations

Awkward, isolated and disapproving of most of the people around her, a precocious 19-year-old genius is challenged to put her convictions to the test by venturing out on to the NYC dating scene, in this adaptation of Caren Lissner’s best-selling 2003 novel.

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 The River of My Dreams: A Portrait of Gordon Pinsent

The River of My Dreams: A Portrait of Gordon Pinsent

Directed by Brigitte Berman

Docs

Director Brigitte Berman profiles Canadian icon Gordon Pinsent, who left Newfoundland in the late 1940s to launch a storied, seven-decade career as one of the leading actors and most beloved figures in Canadian film and television.

 

 We Can't Make the Same Mistake Twice

We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice

Directed by Alanis Obomsawin

Masters

The new film from celebrated documentarian Alanis Obomsawin (Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance) chronicles the events following the filing of a human-rights complaint by a group of activists, which charged that the federal government’s woefully inadequate funding of services for Indigenous children constituted a discriminatory practice.

 

 The Journey is the Destination

The Journey is the Destination

Directed by Bronwen Hughes

Gala Presentations

A recreation of the inspiring life story of the late photojournalist, artist and activist Dan Eldon, who abandoned a comfortable life in London to document the struggle, heartbreak and hope of a war-torn and famine-ridden region of Africa.

 

 Forever Pure

Forever Pure

Directed by Maya Zinshtein

Docs

Filmmaker Maya Zinshtein embeds herself inside the locker room of Jerusalem’s Beitar football club, which became a flashpoint for controversy in 2012 when the signing of two Muslim players brought down the racist wrath of the team’s long-time fans.

 

 Boundaries

Boundaries

Directed by Chloe Robichaud

Contemporary World Cinema

A tiny island nation off Canada’s east coast enters the global arena when its natural resources become the focal point for international wheeling, dealing and politicking, in this energetic political satire from Quebec director Chloé Robichaud (Sarah Prefers to Run).

 

 Strange Weather

Strange Weather

Directed by Katherine Dieckmann

Gala Presentations

Academy Award winner Holly Hunter stars in this poignant drama about a grieving mother who travels the backroads of the Deep South to settle a score.

 

 The War Show

The War Show

Directed by Obaidah Zytoon, Andreas Dalsgaard

Docs

A Syrian radio DJ documents the experiences of herself and her friends as their dreams of hope and liberation in the wake of the 2011 Arab Spring give way to the grim realities of repression, forced emigration and extremism.

 

 Buster's Mal Heart

Buster’s Mal Heart

Directed by Sarah Adina Smith

Vanguard

A troubled man (Mr. Robot’s Rami Malek) on the run recalls the mysterious events that brought him to his present fugitive state, in the enigmatic, elliptical and moving second feature from director Sarah Adina Smith (Midnight Swim).

 

 Toni Erdmann

Toni Erdmann

Directed by Maren Ade

Special Presentations

An alternately hilarious and mortifying comedy about the fraught relationship between a repressed corporate consultant and her incessantly prank-playing dad.

 

3 Way (Not Calling)

Directed by Molly McGlynn

Short Cuts

Mel talks her boyfriend into a threesome on the eve of a milestone birthday — and they get involved with a Tinder-fatigued millennial who wants in on the comforts of their relationship. 3-Way (Not Calling) cleverly and comically exposes the flip-flop of eros and domesticity.

 

A Death in the Gunj

Directed by Konkona Sensharma

Special Presentations

Award-winning actor Konkona Sensharma makes her feature debut as a writer-director with this coming-of-age story about a shy young Indian student who quietly and fatefully unravels during a family road trip.

 

A Funeral for Lightning

Directed by Emily Kai Bock

Short Cuts

Seven months pregnant and stuck in a sleepy corner of Tennessee, a young woman begins to see through the promises made by her charismatic husband. Every moment of Emily Kai Bock’s quietly wrenching film is infused with emotions both light and dark.

 

American Honey

Directed by Andrea Arnold

Special Presentations

Acclaimed filmmaker Andrea Arnold (Fish Tank, Wuthering Heights) won the Jury Prize at Cannes for her first film set in America, about a crew of hard-partying teenagers criss-crossing the Midwest while working as travelling magazine salesmen.

 

And the Whole Sky Fit in the Dead Cow’s Eye

Directed by Francisca Alegria

Short Cuts

In this poetic magic-realist tale, 85-year-old Emetria has an encounter with the ghost of her former employer. Contrary to her expectations, he hasn’t come to escort her to the beyond; he has other plans. Then again, so does she.

 

Anna

Directed by Or Sinai

Short Cuts

On a hot, sticky day in the desert, Anna goes looking for a man. This Cannes Cinéfondation First Prize winner spins a deeply sensual tale of lust and love, and of a woman who discovers the difference between the two.

 

Battalion to My Beat

Directed by Eimi Imanishi

Short Cuts

A restless and rebellious teen girl feels confined by the restrictive duties of daily life in a Saharawi refugee camp — and runs away to join the army, seeking to liberate both her people and herself.

 

Beauties of the Night

Directed by Maria Jose Cuevas

Docs

A captivating group portrait of iconic showgirls who enthralled thousands during the disco-era heyday of Mexico’s burlesque culture.

 

Below Her Mouth

Directed by April Mullen

Special Presentations

One of the boldest and sexiest dramas of the year, the new film by Canadian actor-director April Mullen (Dead Before Dawn) tells the story of an unexpected romance between two women whose passionate connection changes their lives forever.

 

Black Head Cow

Directed by Elizabeth Nichols

Short Cuts

A bright student in a Maasai village learns that her arranged marriage to a much older man is imminent. Written by students in rural Tanzania, Black Head Cowintelligently outlines the pressures of traditional expectations.

 

Blind Sun

Directed by Joyce A. Nashawati

Vanguard

During a scorching Greek summer, a stranded foreigner finds himself in a bureaucratic purgatory as he tries to retrieve his residence permit, while the crushing heat threatens to send him over the edge into paranoia and madness.

 

Cleo

Directed by Sanja Zivkovic

Short Cuts

When Cleo goes to buy a cellphone she saw advertised on Craigslist, she keeps her guard up, unsure of her new surroundings — and of the anonymous seller’s motives — in this surprisingly tender urban drama.

 

Dadyaa

Directed by Pooja Gurung, Bibhusan Basnet

Short Cuts

In their remote village, haunted by memories, Atimaley and Devi find themselves faced with a dilemma when a dear friend leaves without saying goodbye.

 

Daughters of the Dust

Directed by Julie Dash

TIFF Cinematheque

A landmark in the history of American independent cinema, Julie Dash’s masterpiece was the first American feature directed by an African American woman to receive a general theatrical release.

 

Four Faces of the Moon

Directed by Amanda Strong

Short Cuts

This intricate stop-motion animation interlaces Canada’s colonial past with writer-director Amanda Strong’s personal family history — and illuminates Cree, Métis, and Anishinaabe reclamation of culture, language, and Nationhood.

 

Home

Directed by Fien Troch

Platform

Challenging our notions of cinema for young adults, the new film from Belgian director Fien Troch (Kid, Unspoken) is a daring and nuanced exploration of three troubled teenagers’ relationships both with each other and the adult world around them.

 

Import

Directed by Ena Sendijarevic

Short Cuts

A family of Bosnian refugees must try to make sense of life in their small Dutch village. The sly observation of this comedic short reveals the Kafkaesque illogic of the immigration process.

 

Layla M.

Directed by Mijke de Jong

Platform

Radicalized by her adopted country’s anti-Muslim measures, a Moroccan teenager marries a devout jihadist and leaves Amsterdam to join an Islamist cell in the Middle East — only to discover that her new community has its own restrictions and prejudices.

 

Next

Directed by Elena Brodach

Short Cuts

After rising from the bed where her nude lover still sleeps, a woman rearranges her apartment into a mysterious tableau vivant. Artistry and elegance distinguish this nocturnal vignette by Moscow’s Elena Brodach.

 

Nothing about Mocassins

Directed by Eden Mallina Awashish

Short Cuts

Director Eden Mallina Awashish struggles to understand why her grandmother refuses to allow her to shoot a film about moccasins. Her failed attempt turns into a playful deconstruction of cultural loss, a record of the resolve to protect Atikamekw tradition.

 

Nutag

Directed by Alisi Telengut

Short Cuts

During World War II, the Kalmyk people of the Soviet Union were forcibly relocated to Siberia, and nearly half of them died before the return home some 14 years later. This magnificently hand-painted visual poem is a heart-wrenching lament expressing loss and longing.

 

Red of the Yew Tree

Directed by Marie-Helene Turcotte

Short Cuts

A pheasant hunt becomes a spellbinding elemental odyssey in animator Marie-Hélène Turcotte’s visionary rendering of femininity and intuition.

 

Sevince

Directed by Suheyla Schwenk

Short Cuts

Peri, a Turkish housewife and mother living behind the veil in Germany, is stunned when her husband brings home news that will uproot the family yet again. Restricted as she is by her daily routine, Peri has nonetheless found a sliver of pleasure in this new, Western life, and she is loath to let go of it.

 

Shahzad

Directed by Haya Waseem

Short Cuts

Shahzad is a young Pakistani boy recently arrived in Canada. The friendships he strikes up with his new, easygoing buddies seem in sharp contrast to his rigid relationship with his father… until Shahzad discovers what lies beneath the formality.

 

Small Fry

Directed by Eva Michon

Short Cuts

A car ride gets bumpier for an American teenager trying to bond with her dad while visiting him in Poland. This tightly controlled, consistently surprising two-hander by Toronto’s Eva Michon makes the most of a breakout turn by Lucia Santina Ribisi and a hard-rocking musical interlude.

 

Snip

Directed by Terril Calder

Short Cuts

In this richly layered stop-motion animation, Annie and Gordon travel through a portal in time to help two children escape the horrors of residential school. Written and narrated by award-winning author Joseph Boyden, Snip is a potent indictment of Canada’s residential school policy and its profound impact on young Indigenous people.

 

Standby

Directed by Charlotte Regan

Short Cuts

Gary and Jenny share the same cramped “office space” as all beat cops: the front seat of a patrol car. Their evolving relationship is an emotional rollercoaster ride that stands in often-comedic contrast to the procession of thugs and criminals filling the back seat.

 

Submarine

Directed by Mounia Akl

Short Cuts

Lebanon, 2017: a garbage crisis has led to terrible health threats, and acid rain triggers a town’s evacuation. But while Hala refuses to leave, she doesn’t want to be left alone either.

 

Summer Camp Island

Directed by Julia Pott

Short Cuts

For anyone who’s ever dreamed of owning talking pyjamas, no other selection at TIFF 2016 will elicit more giddy joy than the first episode of Julia Pott’s forthcoming Cartoon Network series. Glitter glue, singing marshmallows, and dance contests figure prominently in Pott’s gloriously askew take on adolescence at its most awkward.

 

 

The Road to Webequie

Directed by Tess Girard, Ryan Noth

Short Cuts

A mining company has promised to create opportunities for the remote Webequie First Nation. Through the eyes of three youths facing an uncertain future, this observational yet expansive documentary shows the struggles — and hopes — of a community confronting challenges that many Canadians will never experience.

 

The Smoke

Directed by Rebecca Addelman

Short Cuts

In this hilariously acerbic slice of middle-age malaise, a woman returns to her hometown for a Bat Mitzvah and becomes stuck in the abyss of mortification that only family can deliver so well.

 

Things to Come

Directed by Mia Hansen-Love

Special Presentations

A delicate and affecting tale about a middle-aged professor whose carefully structured life is thrown into disarray when her husband leaves her for another woman, and who finds an unlikely new companion in a former student and radical young communist.

 

Transition

Directed by Milica Tomovic

Short Cuts

Jana prepares to leave her family for a new life across the Atlantic. But her carefully crafted plans can’t cover up the secrets she has so expertly kept hidden from her family, and the façade is in danger of crumbling.

 

Trespass

Directed by Mirrah Foulkes

Short Cuts

A woman walking her dog alone in the forest finds company she didn’t expect and an enigma she can’t comprehend. Trespass is a thriller about the nature of sympathy… and the merits of keeping your pet on a leash.

 

Tshiuetin

Directed by Caroline Monnet

Short Cuts

A trip on an Indigenous-owned train line in northern Québec, shot in exquisite black and white, becomes an eloquent symbol of the pride and dignity that come with autonomy.

 

Untitled, 1925

Directed by Madi Piller

Wavelengths

Evincing formal echoes of Bruce Baillie, Madi Piller’sUntitled, 1925 is a personal, experimental travelogue that traces the voyage of Piller’s grandfather through the highlands of Peru.

 

Werewolf

Directed by Ashley McKenzie

Discovery

The hardscrabble existence of two homeless, twentysomething drug addicts is portrayed with sensitivity and brutal honesty in the debut feature by Ashley McKenzie.

 

Wild Skin

Directed by Ariane Louis-Seize

Short Cuts

In this adaptation of a story by Quebec writer Fannie Loiselle, a solitary woman’s encounter with a baby python triggers a remarkable process of transformation and liberation. Fuelled by Marilyn Castonguay’s mesmerizing performance, Ariane Louis-Seize’s film is both sensual and surreal.

 

Your Mother and I

Directed by Anna Maguire

Short Cuts

Julia Sarah Stone (a TIFF 2014 Rising Star) and the one and only Don McKellar are in top form, playing a skeptical daughter and her impressively loquacious father, in Anna Maguire’s funny and poignant adaptation of a Dave Eggers story.