With few big sales titles available at TIFF this year — a Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin two-hander and Lin-Manuel Miranda-produced YA feature excepted — business coming out of the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival looks muted at best.
The vast majority of TIFF films already have domestic distribution in place — with studios and indie players like Neon and A24 looking to use the North America festival as an awards season springboard. What’s left is a smattering of sales titles, Cannes holdovers and a handful of out-of-festival buyers screenings to stir up interest.
Focus Features’ production and acquisitions head Kiska Higgs is optimistic that the sluggish indie theatrical market will eventually bounce back from its COVID slump and pull people away from streaming services — “I can’t imagine a world in which I want to be on my couch for any second longer than I have to be” — but TIFF looks unlikely to be where that happens.
Still, there is a smattering of available films packing serious star power and prestige potential that could make big waves in shallow waters.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
DIRECTOR Aitch Alberto
THE BUZZ This LGBTQ coming-of-age drama, based on Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s 2012 YA bestseller, follows two Mexican American teens in 1980s Texas and looks like a sleeper hit. With Lin-Manuel Miranda producing, buyers should be lining up.
DIRECTOR Flying Lotus
THE BUZZ In what seems likely to be a solid piece of high-concept sci-fi from the genre specialists at XYZ, this thriller, which is preselling at TIFF, sees Tessa Thompson play a woman who wakes up on a distant planet to find that the other residents of her space station have been murdered. She must decide whether to trust the man (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) sent to rescue her.
SALES XYZ Films
DIRECTOR Matt Smukler
STARS Kiernan Shipka, Jacki Weaver, Jean Smart
THE BUZZ This family drama, starring Kiernan Shipka as a young woman who cares for her intellectually disabled parents, supported by diametrically opposed grandmothers Jacki Weaver and Jean Smart, could be a smart sleeper success for the right distributor.
SALES CAA/ eOne/WME
DIRECTOR Paul Weitz
STARS Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Malcolm McDowell
THE BUZZ Before COVID, golden-agers were a boom market for indie distributors, and this dramedy, featuring Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda as estranged friends who team up after a mutual friend’s funeral to exact revenge on her widower (Malcolm McDowell), might be just the ticket to win back the over-60 crowd.
DIRECTOR Catherine Hardwicke
THE BUZZ Hardwicke’s pedigree as the director of Twilight and sleeper hit Thirteen should convince buyers they are in safe hands with this drama-thriller, featuring Brian Cox as a dying convict with a violent past trying to connect with his daughter (Kate Beckinsale) and the grandson he’s never known.
Patrick and the Whale
DIRECTOR Mark Fletcher
THE BUZZ With shades of My Octopus Teacher, the feature doc delves into how whales interact and express emotions by following veteran marine videographer Patrick Dykstra’s relationship with a sperm whale named Dolores.
DIRECTORS Gina Gammell, Riley Keough
THE BUZZ A solid bet for specialty distributors, this feature debut of actress-turned-director Keough, who co-helms with Gammell, won over Cannes audiences — and snagged the best first feature Camera d’Or (plus the Palm Dog for its canine star, a poodle named Brit) — with its moving portrayal of two Lakota boys growing up on Pine Ridge Reservation.
SALES Protagonist Pictures/ CAA Media Finance
DIRECTOR Gabriela Cowperthwaite
THE BUZZ The first non-fiction feature from Cowperthwaite since 2013’s Blackfish is part globe-trotting thriller and part investigative piece about the global food chain and the fight for the last free farmable land on Earth.
DIRECTOR Mary Harron
STARS Sir Ben Kingsley, Barbara Sukowa, Christopher Briney
THE BUZZ Great artist biopics have built-in promotional and audience potential, which should favor this portrait of Spanish surrealist painting Salvador Dalí (Kingsley), as seen through the eyes of a young gallery assistant (Briney). Sukowa plays Gala, Dalí’s wife and muse.
SALES Bankside Films
What’s Love Got to Do With It?
DIRECTOR Shekhar Kapur
THE BUZZ A cross-culture rom-com to appeal to mainstream indie buyers, the latest from Elizabeth director Kapur features Yesterday and Pam & Tommy star Lily James as a documentary filmmaker who follows her childhood friend (Penny Dreadful breakout Shazad Latif) as he seeks an arranged marriage.
This story first appeared in the Sept. 6 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.