Additional titles have been announced for the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival today and some high-profile selections like DEAR EVAN HANSEN and THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE will be debuting here in Toronto this September! The former has been selected as the Festival’s Opening Night selection and makes its way to the screen after critical adoration on Broadway, with star Ben Platt reprising his award-winning role. The Film will be premiering at Roy Thomson Hall on September 9, 2021 with additional screenings at Visa Screening Room at the Princess of Wales Theatre, at the RBC Lakeside Drive-In at Ontario Place, and digitally on the digital TIFF Bell Lightbox platform.
Iconic Director Zhang Yimou will be presenting his latest, One Second at the Festival with the Film closing out the Festival. The Cultural Revolution-set Drama previously was censored in its homeland China.
This brings the announced titles to 11 Galas and 21 Special Presentations thus far, with more titles to come. The Festival runs September 9-18, 2021.
GALA PRESENTATIONS 2021 *previously announced
*Belfast Kenneth Branagh | United Kingdom World Premiere
Clifford the Big Red Dog Walt Becker | USA/United Kingdom/Canada World Premiere
*Opening Night Film* Dear Evan Hansen Stephen Chbosky | USA World Premiere
The Electrical Life of Louis Wain Will Sharpe | United Kingdom Canadian Premiere
*Jagged Alison Klayman | USA World Premiere
*Last Night in Soho Edgar Wright | United Kingdom North American Premiere
*The Mad Women’s Ball (Le Bal des folles) Mélanie Laurent | France World Premiere
*Night Raiders Danis Goulet | Canada/New Zealand North American Premiere
*Closing Night Film* One Second Zhang Yimou | China North American Premiere
The Survivor Barry Levinson | USA/Canada/Hungary World Premiere
SPECIAL PRESENTATIONS 2021 *previously announced
Ali & Ava Clio Barnard | United Kingdom North American Premiere
All My Puny Sorrows Michael McGowan | Canada World Premiere
*Benediction Terence Davies | United Kingdom World Premiere
Bergman Island Mia Hansen-Løve | France International Premiere
*Charlotte Eric Warin, Tahir Rana | Canada/France/Belgium World Premiere
*Dionne Warwick: Don’t Make Me Over Dave Wooley, David Heilbroner | USA World Premiere
Drive My Car Ryusuke Hamaguchi | Japan North American Premiere
Encounter Michael Pearce | United Kingdom/USA International Premiere
The Eyes of Tammy Faye Michael Showalter | USA World Premiere
*The Guilty Antoine Fuqua | USA World Premiere
I’m Your Man Maria Schrader | Germany North American Premiere
Inexorable Fabrice du Welz | Belgium/France International Premiere
*Lakewood Phillip Noyce | Canada World Premiere
The Middle Man Bent Hamer | Norway/Canada/Germany/Denmark World Premiere
Official Competition (Competencia Oficial) Mariano Cohn, Gastón Duprat | Spain/Argentina North American Premiere
Paris, 13th District (Les Olympiades) Jacques Audiard | France North American Premiere
*Petite Maman Céline Sciamma | France Canadian Premiere
*The Starling Theodore Melfi | USA World Premiere
The Story of My Wife Ildikó Enyedi | Hungary/Germany/Italy/France North American Premiere
Three Floors (Tre Piani) Nanni Moretti | Italy/France North American Premiere
Violet Justine Bateman | USA International Premiere
The Worst Person In The World (Verdens Verste Menneske) Joachim Trier | Norway/France/Sweden/Denmark North American Premiere
UPDATE(7/28/21): Additional titles at TIFF ’21 have been announced today in Contemporary World Cinema, Special Presentations and Galas! Among those surfacing at the Festival are ONE NIGHT, premiering as a Gala, starring Keira Knightley, Annabelle Wallis and Matthew Goode. A TIFF Rewind retrospective also will be a component of the Festival in partnership with Crave and Bell.
CONTEMPORARY WORLD CINEMA Presented by Sunlife
Are You Lonesome Tonight? Wen Shipei | China North American Premiere
The Box (La Caja)Lorenzo Vigas | USA/Mexico North American Premiere
Costa Brava, Lebanon (Costa Brava)Mounia Akl | Lebanon/Norway/Sweden/France/Spain/Denmark/Qatar North American Premiere
The Daughter (La Hija) Manuel Martín Cuenca | Spain World Premiere
The Hill Where the Lionesses Roar (Luaneshat e kodrës)Luàna Bajrami | Kosovo/France North American Premiere
Întregalde Radu Muntean | Romania North American Premiere
Kicking Blood Blaine Thurier | Canada World Premiere
La Soga 2 Manny Perez | USA World Premiere
Maria Chapdelaine Sébastien Pilote | Canada World Premiere
Medusa Anita Rocha da Silveira | Brazil North American Premiere
Murina Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović | Croatia/Brazil/USA/Slovenia North American Premiere
Nobody Has to Know Bouli Lanners | France/Belgium/United Kingdom World Premiere
The Odd-Job Men (Sis dies corrents) Neus Ballús | Spain North American Premiere
The Other Tom (El otro Tom)Rodrigo Plá, Laura Santullo | Mexico/USA North American Premiere
OUT OF SYNC (Tres) Juanjo Giménez | Spain North American Premiere
Terrorizers Ho Wi Ding | Taiwan World Premiere
Unclenching The Fists Kira Kovalenko | Russia North American Premiere
Vengeance is Mine, All Others Pay Cash (Seperti Dendam, Rindu Harus Dibayar Tuntas) Edwin | Indonesia/Singapore/Germany North American Premiere
The Wheel Steve Pink | USA World Premiere
Whether the Weather is Fine (Kun Maupay Man It Panahon) Carlo Francisco Manatad | Philippines/France/Singapore/Indonesia/Germany/Qatar North American Premiere
DISCOVERY Presented by Dyson
Aloners Hong Sung-eun | South Korea International Premiere
Anatolian Leopard (Anadolu Leoparı) Emre Kayış | Germany/Denmark/Turkey/Poland World Premiere
As In Heaven (Du som er i himlen) Tea Lindeburg | Denmark World Premiere
A Banquet Ruth Paxton | United Kingdom World Premiere
Dug Dug Ritwik Pareek | India World Premiere
Farha Darin J. Sallam | Jordan/Sweden/Saudi Arabia World Premiere
The Game Ana Lazarevic | Serbia/USA World Premiere
Learn To Swim Thyrone Tommy | Canada World Premiere
Lo Invisible Javier Andrade | France/Ecuador World Premiere
Paka (River of Blood)Nithin Lukose | India World Premiere
Quickening Haya Waseem | Canada World Premiere
Scarborough Shasha Nakhai, Rich Williamson | Canada World Premiere
Snakehead Evan Jackson Leong | USA International Premiere
To Kill The Beast Agustina San Martín | Argentina/Brazil/Chile World Premiere
Tug of War (Vuta N’Kuvute)Amil Shivji | Tanzania/South/Africa/Germany/Qatar World Premiere
Wildhood Bretten Hannam | Canada World Premiere
The Good House Maya Forbes, Wallace Wolodarsky | USA World Premiere
Silent Night Camille Griffin | United Kingdom World Premiere
The Worst Person In The World (Verdens Verste Menneske) Joachim Trier | Norway/France/Sweden/Denmark North American Premiere (*Previously announced as a Special Presentation)
SPECIAL PRESENTATIONS Presented by Visa
The Falls (Pu Bu) Chung Mong-Hong | Taiwan North American Premiere
The Humans Stephen Karam | USA World Premiere
Inu-Oh Masaaki Yuasa | Japan/China North American Premiere
Lingui, The Sacred Bonds (Lingui) Mahamat-Saleh Haroun | Chad/France/Germany/Belgium North American Premiere
Mothering Sunday Eva Husson | United Kingdom North American Premiere
The Power of the Dog Jane Campion | Australia/New Zealand Canadian Premiere
Sundown Michel Franco | Mexico North American Premiere
Wolf Nathalie Biancheri | United Kingdom/Ireland/Poland World Premiere
TIFF Rewind presented by Bell
Confirmed films and guests in this program include:
Antoine Fuqua on Training Day Director Antoine Fuqua revisits his acclaimed police thriller about a rookie cop who spends 24 hours in Los Angeles gang territory with a corrupt senior narcotics officer, which marks the 20th anniversary of its North American premiere at the Festival in 2001. The film earned Denzel Washington his first Academy Award for Best Actor after two previous nominations (and an earlier Oscar win for Best Supporting Actor).
Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara on Best in Show Director and co-writer Christopher Guest and stars Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy revisit the making of their cult classic about the competitive world of dog shows, which made its world premiere at the Festival in 2000.
Patricia Cardoso and America Ferrera on HBO’s Real Women Have Curves Director Patricia Cardoso and star America Ferrera discuss their breakout hit about a young Mexican American woman coming of age in Los Angeles, which was helmed by a Latina creative team and had its international premiere at the Festival in 2002.
Viggo Mortensen on Eastern Promises Viggo Mortensen revisits his second collaboration with David Cronenberg, a crime thriller set in the nebulous, cut-throat underworld of Russian organized crime in London, which made its world premiere at the Festival in 2007 and won the People’s Choice Award.
Best news all year! We’re so excited to hear confirmed today a return to the in-person component at this Fall’s Toronto International Film Festival. Along with that, the first wave of Films to screen at the Festival September 9-18, 2021 have been announced!
Denis Villeneuve‘s DUNE will headline the Festival with a special screening at the historic Cinesphere IMAX Theatre. Other high-profile films to debut at the Festival include: Le Bal des Folles, Belfast (Kenneth Branagh), Benediction (Terence Davies), Charlotte (Eric Warin, Tahir Rana), Dionne Warwick: Don’t Make Me Over (Dave Wooley), The Guilty (Antoine Fuqua), Jagged (Alanis Morissette Documentary by Alison Klayman), Lakewood (Philip Noyce), Last Night in Soho (Edgar Wright), Night Raiders (Danis Goulet), Petite Maman (Céline Sciamma), and The Starling (Theodore Melfi) are part of TIFF‘s Official Selection.
What does this mean? With Quarantine rules having relaxed in Ontario, we could be seeing the likes of Melissa McCarthy, Timothy Olyphant, Zendaya, Timothée Chalamet, Anya Taylor-Joy, Catriona Balfe, Jamie Dornan, Alanis Morissette, Riley Keough, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ethan Hawke, Jeremy Irvine and several more in-town this September!
In total there will be 100 films premiering at TIFF ’21 plus public digital experiences presented by Bell, with film screenings on digital TIFF Bell Lightbox available across Canada. In Conversation With… talks and interactive Q&A sessions with actors and creators will be hosted on TIFF Bell Digital Talks, available worldwide.
The 2021 TIFF Tribute Awards once again will be returning this year, and will be broadcast nationally by CTV and streamed internationally by Variety.
Digital ticket package sales start June 30, 2021 for TIFF’s Contributors Circle Members and all ticket dates are available at tiff.net/tickets. Ticket sales are serviced online and by phone only.
TIFF celebrates Pride month with a selection of Films and Conversations as part of their QUEER BECOMING Programme.
Overview: Queer Becoming challenges the commonly used “coming out” trope, and instead highlights a spectrum of powerful “coming into” stories that explore queer identity, queer community, or queer family. Through various tales of self-discovery — some whimsical, others heart-wrenching — these intersectional films demonstrate queer self-actualization at every stage of life, from childhood to late adulthood.
FILMS TO SCREEN (digital TIFF Bell Lightbox)
Cowboys dir. Anna Kerrigan (Vortex Media) A father (Steve Zahn) and his adoring young trans son (Sasha Knight) take to the Montana wilderness to get away from the boy’s transphobic mother. Rental includes a special introduction from Sasha Knight.
The True Adventures of Wolfboydir. Martin Krejčí (Vertical Entertainment) A young boy who feels like an outcast runs away from home to find his estranged mother, meeting a colourful cast of characters along the way.
The Heiressesdir. Marcelo Martinessi (Luxbox) After her partner of 30 years is jailed, a woman rediscovers herself and her identity, in Paraguayan director Marcelo Martinessi’s debut feature.
Tongues Untied dir. Marlon T. Riggs (Frameline) Through poetry readings, music, dance and personal testimony, Marlon T. Riggs’ lyrical documentary examines the homophobia and racism Black gay men face.
No Ordinary Man dirs. Chase Joynt & Aisling Chin-Yee (levelFilm) 🍁 The legacy of Billy Tipton, a 20th-century American jazz musician and trans icon, is brought to life by a diverse group of contemporary trans artists.
Rafiki dir. Wanuri Kahiu (Film Movement) The latest from Wanuri Kahiu charts a precarious love story between two young Kenyan women in a society where homosexuality is banned.
A Fantastic Womandir. Sebastián Lelio (Mongrel Media) Sebastián Lelio’s 2017 drama follows a young trans woman struggling with both her own grief and societal prejudice after the death of her older lover.
Spa Nightdir. Andrew Ahn (Strand Releasing) A closeted Korean American teenager, desperate to support his struggling family, finds work at a Korean spa — where he experiences both fear and a strange thrill as he discovers his own sexuality.
Pariahdir. Dee Rees (Entertainment One) Dee Rees’s 2011 narrative feature debut, about a teen claiming her identity as a lesbian, remains a revelation nearly a decade since it first screened at TIFF.
This selection of films was programmed by TIFF’s LGBTQ+ Staff Advisory Committee.
Digital Talks + Events
Free on TIFF’s social accounts and Zoom
June 2 at 7pm ET
Ahead of the Curve Q&A Free on TIFF’s Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube
With a fistful of credit cards, a lucky run at the horse track, and chutzpah for days, Frances “Franco” Stevens launched the bestselling lesbian lifestyle magazine Curve. The team behind the documentary Ahead of the Curve — including Stevens, co-directors Jen Rainin and Rivkah Beth Medow, and subjects Kim Katrin and Andrea Pino-Silva — join us to discuss the intricacies of making a documentary about your spouse, the lived experiences of queer women and non-binary people in America, and the love that brought them all together.
June 24 at 7pm ET
Deep Focus: Poetic Becoming with Syrus Marcus Ware Live on Zoom
TIFF Community Impact hosts artist, activist, and scholar Syrus Marcus Ware for a free interactive workshop inspired by the themes of TIFF’s Queer Becoming programme and Marlon T. Riggs’ documentary Tongues Untied (1989). Join us to explore poetry as a vehicle for self-expression, community building, and activism.
Registration will open June 9. Space is limited, with priority for registrants who self-identify as LGBTQ+ and BIPOC.
Please note that films and event dates are subject to change.
TIFF NEXT WAVE 2021 kicks-off later this week, running Friday, February 12-15, 2021. Celebrating youth-oriented films and programming, the Festival adapts to a virtual format this year, allowing for safe, pyjama-comfort enjoyment right from home!
Our Justin Waldman (@DubsReviews) got to preview some of the most-anticipated titles of the Festival and here are some of his thoughts.
DEATH OF NINTENDO
Death of Nintendo has a lot right going for it, including ’90s nostalgia. The Movie focuses on a group of teenage boys living in Manila, taking place before the Mt. Pinatubo eruption, with a heavy dose of Nintendo throwback, as this group comes into their own identity.
The Film focuses on Paolo (Noel Comia Jr), Kachi (John Vincent Servilla), and Gilligan (Jiggerfelip Sementilla) who are all friends trying to come into their own. At once, they are escaping their own individual issues whether they be problems at home, heartbreak, or not being satisfied with what they have. Everyone is trying to overcome their own personal issues/demons. Their greatest escape is playing Nintendo and being able to escape into their own world, something we might know a thing or two about right now.
Death of Nintendo has some excellent performances from its trio of leads. The universally relatable story by Valerie Castillo Martinez and direction from Raya Martin help these stories excel. The future looks bright for everyone featured here. Death of Nintendo does fall into some coming of age tropes, but the high points are definitely worth the journey.
DEATH OF NINTENDO premieres at TIFF Next Wave Friday, February 12,2021.
Leonie Krippendroff’s Berlin-set Feature Cocoon takes place in the summer of ’18 with themes of exploration, discovery, and change. The Film boasts some fantastic performances from its Cast. This is a beautiful story of self-discovery.
Nora (Lena Urzendowsky) follows her sister Jule (Lena Klenke) around, along with her friend Aylin (Elina Vildanova). Nora endures a horrific accident in school. Retreating to the bathroom in complete embarrassment, she meets Romy (Jella Hasse) and discovers that she feels for Romy, realizing she isn’t interested in boys and vying for their attention, like Jule and Aylin.
Cocoon is metaphoric of the awakening Nora goes through, but also applies to the breakout performances in this Film. There is something so genuine and captivating about Urzendowsky and Hasse’s work that transcends the screen.
COCOON premieres at TIFF Next WaveSaturday, February 13, 2021.
There are a lot of uncomfortable things that occur in this directorial Feature debut from Olivia Peace and first Screenplay by Jess Zeidman. However, Tahara handles some serious subject matter with a bit of levity and comedy, making it a bit tragic, comedic, yet undeniably brilliant.
Tahara takes place in Rochester, NY at a funeral service/Hebrew school. It revolves around a few friends, love interests and classmates as they mourn the passing of their fellow classmate. The Film focuses on Hannah (Rachel Sennott) and Carrie (Madeline Grey DeFreece) as they explore their sexual abilities with each other, so Hannah can make a move on Tristan (Daniel Taveras). Carrie and Hannah realize there might be more to their friendship than initially thought, and things become awkward between them.
Both Sennott and DeFreece deliver fantastic performances with a great, emotion-filled comedic punch. Their chemistry also breaks the tension of the backdrop of the story, losing a classmate at such a young age. Zeidman’s Script delivers, with Peace’s direction focused. This is a must-see!
TAHARA premieres at TIFF Next WaveFriday, February 12, 2021.
Just announced, Rachel Sennott will appear on TIFF‘s Instagram Live 7:30 PM ETFebruary 12, 2021, discussing her career and her Comedy. More details here.
Shawn Mendes fans will be delighted about this! A new Documentary about Pickering’s finest is set to arrive on Netflix next month!
GRAMMY nominated, multi-platinum singer/songwriter Shawn Mendes and longtime manager Andrew Gertler partner with Netflix to release “IN WONDER” globally on November 23. The debut feature length documentary, a TIFF special event selection, from acclaimed music video director Grant Singer (The Weeknd, Lorde, Sam Smith), is a portrait of Mendes‘ life, chronicling the past few years of his rise and journey. Executive produced by Andrew Gertler, Shawn Mendes, & Ben Winston; produced by Saul Germaine, p.g.a and James Haygood. This announcement comes on the heels of the release of “Wonder,” the title track off Mendes’ forthcoming album.
I knew I’d be in for a treat being paired with the 2020 Acura ILX Tech A-Spec for the Toronto International Film Festival this year. And it never disappoints. The sleek and sporty ride in a stunning Apex Blue Pearl is pure power and style, but spacious enough and loaded with features to nail the marks in practicality.
The ILX Tech A-Spec is powered by a 2.4-litre, 16-valve, DOHC, i-VTEC® 4-cylinder engine and 201 horsepower @ 6800 rpm. Premium Unleaded fuel is recommended.
There are several things which make the ILX sophisticated and elegant. Firstly, its red Ultrasuede™/leather-trimmed seating surfaces is an aesthetic we can get behind. Its leather-wrapped steering wheel add that touch of style that elevate the driving experience. Driver and Front Passenger have heated seating, a luxury as the temperatures drop these coming months. The former has 10-way adjustable seating and the latter gets 4-way adjustment. All this under a power moonroof which we enjoyed particularly this year in our Drive-In experiences at the Festival! Pure ambience.
Safety features are abundant in this offering from Acura, including 3-point seat belts with Automatic Tensioning System (front), Anti-lock Braking System* (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist, Collision Mitigation Braking System™ (CMBS®), Blind Spot Information System, Cross-Traffic Monitoring System, Lane Departure/Keeping Assist Warning (LDW) system,Front side airbags and Side Curtain Airbags are reasons to drive assured knowing the ILX has your back always.
We can’t stress enough the importance of having Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA®) with Traction Control especially when we drive into rural conditions and on the roads in the winter. It’s a game-changer and life-saver. A multi-angle rear-view camera makes parking and backing-out simple and this plus auto headlights mean we have one less thing to worry about so we can focus on our driving.
Did we mention the car is Proximity Entry? We loathe fumbling for keys and it always is a joy knowing we don’t have to stress about this!
We love a car with several charging options and under the Driver’s Armrest are a few options to stay connected always. It also comes equipped with the Acura Navigation System with Voice Recognition™ and 8″ display, plus a Multi-Information Colour Display for our audio entertainment. The audio system itself is an ELS Studio® Premium Audio System with AM/FM/CD/SiriusXM™, 10 speakers and hard disk drive (HDD) media storage. It also has a CD player. We love it! Syncing via Bluetooth with our phone was a breeze. Where we did have connectivity issues was connection on the AM dial and songs would stop playing via Bluetooth occasionally via our phone. We’d notice long blank audio gaps occasionally but this is a small issue.
While we wish Acura would follow the lead of its sister company Honda and introduce an ECON mode as well, we can’t complain about the ILX‘s Fuel Economy especially with fuel prices dipping of late. It tallies-in at 9.9/7.0/8.6 L/100 km for city/highway/combined.
Some of our highlights at TIFF ’20, which we couldn’t have done with this beauty! While this Festival was very different from others, we are grateful still to have gotten to experience it and we’re grateful for the ILX being there for us.
In addition to this, the ILX Tech A-Spec got us to our interviews safe and efficient, which we appreciate more than ever especially during a Pandemic when we worry about the safety other means of transportation.
And did we mention we’re a Dad again? Our beanie was born during TIFF ’20 (how fitting!) and we had to rush to be by her side to welcome her into this world. We will be bringing her home end of October. So stoked!
As always, everything happens at once in our world, and we were thrilled to be only one of a few outlets granted access to North America’s most historic horse race, the Queen’s Plate – now in its 161st edition at Woodbine Racetrack.
DISCLAIMER: Bruised is screening as a work-in-progress at TIFF ’20
Halle Berry makes her directorial debut with Bruised. It follows disgraced MMA fighter Jackie “Justice” (Halle Berry) who has been struggling to get by after losing an important match years ago. Since then, she’s been living with her Manager-Bboyfriend Desi (Adan Canto). One night, Desi tricks Jackie into an underground fight and her passion for the sport reignites. That same night, her six-year-old son whom she abandoned years ago, is left at her doorstep. This sends Jackie on a redemption path both to prove herself both in the ring, and as a mother to Manny.
Bruised follows the classic Athlete/Fighter redemption archetype, told through a new lens. While this has been explored before with a central female character, typically see these stories with men in the lead. Berry is well aware that a woman can pack a punch too. Early, she throws us right into the ring in Jackie’s enraged world. Her short-temper is shown in the opening scene where she attacks a teenager because he films her while she’s changing. Jackie’s brute force is shown also to us immediately. In the underground match, we see just how violent and ruthless she can be when faced with a worthy competitor.
At the center of everything is Berry’s performance. She does an excellent job channeling Jackie’s pent-up rage, but also showing her weaknesses. It’s clear in the First Act that Jackie is ready to fire after her previous match. Also, there is tenderness to her when she is paired with Manny. Those quiet moments between mother and son allow Berry to show her range. It’s also an honest depiction of the female personality, that a duality of tough and gentle can co-exist.
Berry has surrounded herself with strong talent. Toronto’s own, and TIFF ’19 Rising Star Shamier Anderson is great as Jackie’s newly-minted Manager with an agenda. Canto turns-in a strong performance as Jackie’s supportive, yet abusive Manager-Boyfriend. However, the most memorable performance from the Supporting Cast comes from TIFF ’20 Rising Star Sheila Atim. She commands the screen as Jackie’s ‘zen’ Trainer.
Berry sets her Film amidst the tough streets of Newark, New Jersey, taking us into Jackie‘s heart and soul. She shoots the training and fight scenes with passion and intensity. The Film’s blockbuster fight scenes are its brightest moments. While the story veers often to other competing plot lines surrounding her family and love, which ultimately fail to come to full fruition and get resolved, we wanted more training and fights and that always should have been the central focus. A bit more judicious editing and a shorter run time would benefit this work-in-progress.
Bruised screens at TIFF ’20:
Sat, Sep 12 6:00pm
Online at Bell Digital Cinema
Sat, Sep 12 7:45pm Visa Skyline Drive-In at CityView
Fri, Sep 18 9:00pm Visa Skyline Drive-In at CityView
In the woods of the Piedmont region of Northern Italy, there are truffles buried in the Earth. The culinary delight is beloved by many, but few know how they reach our tables. The Truffle Hunters profiles a group of individuals who deal in the Truffle trade, from buying and selling, to the men and their dogs who find them.
The Truffle Hunters is a delight from start to finish. In a year that has literally been a dystopic nightmare for so many, it is genuinely refreshing to watch a wholesome, feel good movie primarily about men who look for truffles with their dogs. I was smiling and laughing throughout the Film, especially during the ridiculous sequences of back alley truffle dealing (yes, it is a thing and yes, it looks just as wild as you imagine it does). Somehow, these moments are not even the most outrageous and unbelievable scenes in the Movie. My experience with truffles is limited, but seeing them discussed at length here was both educational and enlightening. Directors Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw could have approached the Film and its topic as being inconsequential and silly, but they give these individuals a voice to share their passion of choice. And even though I am a cat person, it was absolutely wonderful watching these older men interacting with their dogs.
Speaking of dogs, there are two scenes that are shot from their point of view – and I am literally shrieking with joy just thinking about them. The camera is mounted on the dog’s head and we feel their joy as they get to run through the forest foraging for truffles. It is an intriguing Cinematography choice from Dweck and Kershaw that could have gone horribly wrong, but ends up working marvelously. When was the last time you can remember watching a film scene where a dog’s snout bounces in and out of the frame? Or when you last saw a camera shaking-off whatever was on it? I cannot recall a dog’s POV being utilized like this before, but it really complements the Film and literally makes the act of digging for truffles feel even more authentically-realized here. Now I just hope all dog-related productions learn from this Film and add in more POV footage from their angle.
THE TRUFFLE HUNTERS screens at TIFF ’20 as follows:
Joe Bell (Mark Wahlberg) is a bit of a tough Dad. He loves his family, but he has a hard time showing it. When his son Jadin (Reid Miller) ‘comes out’ as gay, Joe is begrudgingly supportive of his decision but not at all subtle with his embarrassment. After Jadin faces an onslaught of relentless bullying at school, Joe decides to walk and speak to groups across America to raise awareness about bullying and the effects it can have on others.
Good Joe Bell is a movie with its heart in the right place. It is based on an emotional true story and addresses an important topic that is sadly more relevant than ever. And Wahlberg, while not exactly the best candidate for the lead role, has rarely ever played a character like this before. He digs a bit deeper than usual, beyond being the brash jerk who yells and swears off the cuff, and has a few moments of true introspection. You can see and feel the genuine emotional range in his patchy bearded face. It is not his best work, but his soulful turn here continues his trend of trying to stretch beyond the Bostonian wise-ass archetype he can play in his sleep. Miller is very effective as Jadin, but he takes a back seat to Wahlberg’s redemption tale far too often (which may or may not have been the best narrative choice). And even though he does not have much to do, it was positively delightful to see Gary Sinise for a bit part in the Film’s Last Act.
But having good intentions does not save Good Joe Bell from being a complete mess. The Film employs a flashback structure that works in some instances, but does more harm than good by jumbling-up the timeline. The narrative gaps are practically endless, with crucial information removed from the Film entirely in favour of a zippy running time. Worse, its initial framing device to explain the plot is abandoned less than half way into the Film. Instead of addressing it properly, the pivot is treated as a barely consequential twist. Supporting Characters exist but have literally no bearing on what happens (and barely any explanation of who they are). Motivations are thin, and the Film has a bad habit of not properly showing or telling.
All of these elements and more make Good Joe Bell a crushing disappointment, especially when taking into consideration the wonderful talent behind the camera – which includes the Oscar-winning Screenwriters of Brokeback Mountain, Larry McMurty and Diana Ossana. There is a great film buried somewhere deep within Good Joe Bell, and it is a disservice to this important story for this to be the final product.