Diversity on Screen: TIFF 2019 Will Represent the Myriad Communities and People Who Love Film

By Alisha Mughal

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Diversity is the name of the game this year at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Cultural, social, thematic, artistic, and all sections in between. With various and textured representations of happiness and sadness and struggle and strength, the films to be screened at this year’s festival seem to reflect back to Torontonians a diversity and complexity that is both unique to the city, and simultaneously universally felt as central to what it means to be human.

Alanis Obomsawin will screen her 53rd film, “Jordan River Anderson, The Messenger.” (TIFF)

With 333 titles to be screened, 21 of them will be LGBTQIA stories, and 84 countries and regions will be represented in all. Thirty-six per cent of the titles are directed, co-directed, or created by women, and 4,400 pounds of popcorn are expected to be prepared at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.

Notably, a high amount of Indigenous work is to be screened. Veteran filmmaker and one of the most acclaimed Indigenous directors in the world, Alanis Obomsawin (Abenaki) brings to TIFF her challenging and affecting “Jordan River Anderson, The Messenger,” which is also her 53rd film. This is a movie that, among many other things, is about governmental disregard. Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers (Sámi/Blackfoot/Blood), a newcomer of many talents and strengths, a veritable multi-hyphenate, will screen with co-director Kathleen Hepburn “The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open.”

Zacharias Kunuk, whose 2001 film “Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner,” the first feature film to be released entirely in Inuktitut, was named the greatest Canadian film of all time by a 2015 TIFF poll, brings “One Day in the Life of Noah Piugattuk” to this year’s festival. The picture is a poignant representation of Inuit-settler relations and colonialism. Jesse Wente, Director of the Indigenous Screen Office, will moderate a post-screening Q&A with the director.

First still from the set of WW2 satire, JOJO RABIT. (From L-R): Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) has dinner with his imaginary friend Adolf (Writer/Director Taika Waititi), and his mother, Rosie (Scarlet Johansson). (Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation/Kimberley French)

Also in the city for the festivities is comedian and filmmaker Taika Waititi. The New Zealand director of “Thor: Ragnarok” will be awarded the TIFF Ebert Director Award at the TIFF Tribute Gala.

Another exciting highlight will be Agnès Varda’s final piece, “Varda by Agnès”. Varda passed away in March of this year. The film documents the prolific French director’s experience as the “Mother of the French New Wave.”

Also set to be screened is the provocative “Touch Me Not,” a transgressive film by Romanian director Adina Pintilie. Pintilie depicts judgement-free safe spaces and bodies that don’t often get seen in mainstream films. Her protagonists are complex and facilitate one of Pintilie’s goals of challenging the audience’s ideas of self-knowledge.

Agnès Varda’s final film “Varda by Agnès” documents the French director’s experiences. (TIFF)

These are just some of the intriguing films studding the starry lineup of this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. To get the full schedule, you will need to go to the TIFF website, as the festival is going paperless in an attempt to be more environmentally friendly. To browse a more interactive schedule of events, head over to TIFF’s Twitter to scroll through every 2019 film announced.

Prepare to traverse vast ideological and imaginative lands. The schedule promises something for everyone. An event that will be the film-lover’s paradise, TIFF 2019 will reflect a multiformity that will be very much at home in Toronto.

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