TIFF 2016: Top Ten

19 Sep, 2016 Posted in: Toronto

Film4.com Editor Michael Leader runs through ten standouts from the Toronto International Film Festival…


The Oath

I’d already seen three of the four Film4-backed films screening in Toronto (including Free Fire, which picked up the Midnight Madness People’s Choice award) before the festival. The fourth, Baltasar Kormákur’s The Oath, was high on my most-anticipated list, and not just because I was interviewing the actor/director/writer/producer while out there. Kormákur is one of the most versatile directors working today – and after the starry adventure movie Everest, he’s returned to his native Iceland for a chilly, existential thriller that sits comfortably alongside his 2006 detective gem Jar City, and his recent TV serial Trapped, as the best the Nordic Noir genre has to offer.

My Entire High School Sinking Into The Sea

Animated over the course of 5 years in Brooklyn, this feature debut from erstwhile graphic novelist Dash Shaw bears all the hallmarks of the artist’s distinct visual style – bold washes of colour leaking across the frame; intricate scribbles and paper collage; playful line art that takes inspiration from Hergé and Charles M Schulz. It certainly looks nothing like your typical animation, but Shaw’s offbeat storytelling voice – not to mention the literally distinctive voices of Jason Schwartzman, Lena Dunham, Susan Sarandon and Maya Rudolph – brings to mind the esoteric tone of 90s animation. Best to think of this as Daria’s droller, disaster-movie cousin.

Heal The Living

Simply recounting the plot for this devastating French drama makes me choke up, so I’ll be brief. Katell Quillévéré’s powerful medical drama is essentially a procedural, deep-diving into a single heart transplant case. What would be a minor story thread in an episode of ER is here handled with incredible care, clarity and humanity, as Quillévéré foregoes the tension and twists of conventional drama to trace the invisible threads that unite an ensemble of characters via the miracle of modern medicine.

The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography

There’s a temptation to label this film as something of a B-Side itself, coming out while documentarian Errol Morris toils away on his upcoming Netflix series. But don’t underestimate this generous, quietly complex documentary about Morris’s friend, photographer Elsa Dorfman, whose large-format Polaroid pictures possess a unique, unadorned power. What starts as an entertaining introduction to the woman’s life, work and personality works up tremendous poignancy as Dorfman gently touches on her life-long friendship with poet Allen Ginsberg, the undimmed magic of portrait photography, and the insidious, institutional processes that threaten her reputation and legacy.


I was gutted to miss Julia Ducournau’s French cannibal horror (much-hyped by my colleague Catherine Bray) at Cannes – but I can’t think of a better place in the world to have seen it than at the Ryerson Theatre, in TIFF’s legendary Midnight Madness strand. The MM crowd are smart and savvy genre diehards, and they took to Raw perhaps too well – if you believe the stories that ambulances were called to the cinema to tend to passed-out cinemagoers. To some, that’s testament enough – you can judge for yourself when Raw plays at the London Film Festival in October.



Another must-see at the LFF, Alice Lowe’s directorial feature debut is a revenge-themed black comedy with a twist. Lowe stars as Ruth, a heavily-pregnant woman on a killing spree inspired by the voice of her unborn child. Darkly humorous, Prevenge jabs at the heart of the presumptuous and patronising culture that surrounds pregnancy. A cult classic in the making. Plus points for a strong supporting cast, featuring Jo Hartley, Kate Dickie and Kayvan Novak – and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo from Tom Meeten (who’s also appearing at the LFF, alongside Alice Lowe, in The Ghoul).

Blue Jay

One for fans of the Duplass brothers’ HBO series Togetherness, this black-and-white two-hander directed by seasoned cinematographer Alex Lehmann stars Mark Duplass and Sarah Paulson as middle-aged friends meeting by chance after two decades. Your mileage may vary based on how much you like either of those actors, or the prospect of storytelling as a metaphorical onion – where character relationships, personalities and histories are slowly revealed, layer by layer, through dialogue. That’s precisely the sort of film I love – and after appreciating her supporting turns in Carol, 12 Years A Slave and Martha Marcy May Marlene, I’m now a paid-up member of the Sarah Paulson fan club.

A Monster Calls

Based on Patrick Ness’s best-selling ‘low’ fantasy novel, about a troubled boy and his nightly visits from a wise, if fearsome, oak tree, A Monster Calls sees director JA Bayona returning to the gothic mould of his Guillermo del Toro-produced debut, the Spanish chiller The Orphanage, bringing with him a few of the tricks learned from Oscar-friendly disaster drama The Impossible. This is a new entry in that small canon of allegorical reality-meets-fantasy stories, joining the likes of My Neighbour Totoro, Coraline, and del Toro’s own Pan’s Labyrinth – although remarkably honed-in on working through one specific, complicated emotional conundrum. Props to Bayona and casting director supreme Shaheen Baig for discovering young Lewis MacDougall, whose versatile performance ably matches the heavyweights on screen (Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones) and carries the complex emotional drama in scenes with the CGI, Liam Neeson-voiced Monster.

The Limehouse Golem

A compelling, full-throated gothic murder-mystery adapted from Peter Ackroyd’s novel by screenwriter Jane Goldman, The Limehouse Golem is dripping with London lore – from raucous music halls to the grime of the Victorian East End. There’s a strong, contemporary feminist undercurrent running through the twisty-turny investigation, as Bill Nighy’s detective is led through a deeply patriarchal society in pursuit of the identity of the Limehouse Golem, as well as the evidence that will clear the name of a famed actress wrapped up in the case (Me And Earl And The Dying Girl’s Olivia Cooke). But, frankly, this is delightful dress-up – the sort of chilling page-turner that will play perfectly as the nights draw in.

Sand Storm

Elite Zexer’s Bedouin drama picked up awards in Sundance and Locarno, and was the last film I saw before returning to the UK. Sand Storm tells the story of a teenage girl and a love affair that puts her at odds with her mother, father and the traditions of her community. On the face of it, Sand Storm is not too dissimilar to 2015′s Turkish crowd-pleaser Mustang, but substitute the thrill of seeing young women rage against the boundaries imposed on them by the older, patriarchal generation with tougher social questions, and even tougher compromises. It might prevent Zexer’s film from capturing the international crowd – but the film is all the more powerful for it.

Baltasar Kormakur on The Oath

16 Sep, 2016 Productions Posted in: Festivals, Toronto

As his Film4-backed Icelandic thriller The Oath premieres in Toronto, director/writer/actor Baltasar Kormakur speaks with Film4.com editor Michael Leader about making films in Hollywood, returning to Iceland, and the danger of tyranny.


After making a series of films in Hollywood – Contraband, 2 Guns and Everest being three of them – you’re now back in Iceland for The Oath. What brought you back?

It’s where I grew up. It’s where I feel most true. It’s the landscape, it’s the weather – it’s who I am. When you live on an island that’s full of volcanoes… We’re living on a planet that’s alive. We are constantly reminded of that. And I need to make films in other places, but it seems like I’m drawn back – the more opportunities I get, the more I want to come back. Maybe it’s Stockholm Syndrome!

Your first film as director, 101 Reykjavik, was a very spirited portrayal of Icelandic nightlife and drug culture – now, 16 years later, The Oath takes a darker look at that lifestyle. In that time, has Iceland changed, or have you changed?

I’ve changed probably more than Iceland. It’s not that I want to be a moraliser, saying that kids shouldn’t have fun, but it’s different. Iceland didn’t used to have this culture of criminals, at all. And they weren’t celebrated in the media they way they are now. You cannot turn a blind eye because you have a nice house, and you live in a nice neighbourhood. These problems occur in every home.

But I try in the film not to take sides. It’s almost the anti-American movie. If you take all these movies where fathers go and save their kids, and bring them home still a virgin – like Taken or something – if you think that’s what you can do, and you go into that criminal world, this might be the outcome. There’s only one shot fired, and the consequences of that one shot are so great. 2 Guns is the opposite of that. You can shoot and shoot and you never see the consequences of it. I’m interested in the consequences of violence.

But at the same time, it’s a thriller. It’s about a man who’s built up the perfect life. He’s a heart surgeon, he has a beautiful wife, he has a beautiful home. But there are still some cracks, if you look deeply into it.


The character you play in the film, Finnur, tries to assert control over every aspect of his life. Power over his patients as a surgeon, power over his family, even power over his body with his intense exercise routine. You are the director, producer, co-writer and star of The Oath – is that theme of control relevant to you off-screen as well as on?

Yes, I might be directing with some big stars in America, and you’re like God and people do what you tell them, but then you come home and you can’t control your kids. You can’t control your private life.

As a producer, director, writer, owner of the company – and I built this all up – the danger of tyranny and that behaviour is everywhere. So what you have to do is let go of control. Part of that is to let the projects come to you, and not to force your style on it. I’ve heard directors talk about themselves in the third person, and it’s weird. The film will ask for what it needs – it doesn’t mean you don’t do the homework, but don’t over-prepare yourself.

It’s as simple as listening to your cast and crew. As soon as you listen to somebody, they’ll be empowered to tell you something again. And to be able to do that, you’ll need to have a lot of self esteem, so you can listen to people but then go and make your own decisions.

What did you learn from going to America and making films there? And what was the appeal?

When I did it I didn’t have a plan. I wanted to break out of Iceland, I was suffocating a little bit. I wanted a bigger market. Better financing, and stuff like that. And then you do two films like that – Contraband and 2 Guns – and then you start asking ‘what is the purpose of this? Is it only money?’

And that’s when I did Everest, which is a much more serious movie, and challenging on many levels, technical levels. And then I was offered a lot of franchises – $250 million movies. And I thought… How many steaks can you eat? It doesn’t really make that much sense to continue on a path that, yes, may make you a lot of money, but it’s not necessarily the life you were seeking. So I go home and make The Oath which is far more personal.

I’m the first Icelandic guy to have done this – so there is no path. Most of the Scandinavians before, they went there and came right back home after one or two films because they flopped. There are a lot of stories like that. On those terms, I’ve been successful – I’ve had box office hits, and each one has been bigger than the others – but where’s that going to lead me?

So what I did was, I went to Hollywood, brought some Hollywood money back, I built a studio in Iceland, and I’m now bringing Iceland to the world.

Midnight Madness opener Free Fire first of five Film4 films to screen at Toronto International Film Festival

08 Sep, 2016 Productions Posted in: Festivals, Toronto

Ben Wheatley’s high octane action thriller Free Fire kicks off the Toronto International Film Festival’s Midnight Madness section tonight, the first of five Film4 backed films to screen at the festival:


World Premiere / Midnight Madness Opening Night

Massachusetts, late ‘70s. Justine (Brie Larson) has brokered a meeting in a deserted warehouse between two Irishmen (Cillian Murphy, Michael Smiley) and a gang led by Vernon (Sharlto Copley) and Ord (Armie Hammer) who are selling them a stash of guns. But when shots are fired in the handover, a heart stopping game of survival ensues. Wheatley’s first US-set action picture is executive produced by Martin Scorsese.

Director Ben Wheatley

Cast Sharlto Copley, Armie Hammer, Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Jack Reynor, Babou Ceesay, Enzo Cilenti, Sam Riley, Michael Smiley, Noah Taylor

Writers Amy Jump & Ben Wheatley, Producer Andrew Starke

Production Company Rook Films, Sales agent Protagonist Pictures



World Premiere / Special Presentation

Three generations of the Cutler family live as notorious outlaws in Britain’s richest countryside. They spend their time hunting, looting and tormenting the police. In the midst of it all, Chad (Michael Fassbender) finds himself torn between respect for his father (Brendan Gleeson) and a desire for a better life for his children. With the law cracking down on his clan, the decision might not be his to make… Music for the film is an original score from The Chemical Brothers.

Director Adam Smith

Cast Michael Fassbender, Brendan Gleeson, Lyndsey Marshal, Rory Kinnear, Sean Harris, Killian Scott

Writer Alastair Siddons, Producers Andrea Calderwood, Gail Egan, Alastair Siddons

Production Company Potboiler Productions, Sales agent Protagonist Pictures


World Premiere / Special Presentation

Baltasar Kormákur plays the part of a father, who sets off on a mission to try to pull his daughter away from the world of drugs and petty crime, only to discover that danger can be found where you least expect it.

Director Baltasar Kormákur

Cast Baltasar Kormákur, Hera Hilmar, Gísli Örn Gardarsson, Margret Bjarnadottir

Writers Ólafur Egill Egilsson & Baltasar Kormákur

Producer Magnus Viðar Sigurðsson

Production Company RVK Studios, Sales agent XYZ Films


North American Premiere / Special Presentation

Star (Sasha Lane), a teenage girl from a troubled home runs away with a travelling sales crew that drives across the American mid-west selling magazine subscriptions door to door. Finding her feet in this gang of teenagers, one of whom is Jake (Shia LaBeouf), she soon gets into the group’s lifestyle of hard partying, law-bending and young love.

Writer / Director Andrea Arnold

Cast Shia LaBeouf, Sasha Lane, Riley Keough

Producers Lars Knudsen, Jay Van Hoy, Thomas Benski, Lucas Ochoa

Production Companies Parts & Labor, Pulse Films, Sales agent Protagonist Pictures

** Jury Prize winner at 2016 Cannes Film Festival; A24will release in the US on 30th September and Focus Features release in the UK on 14th October **


Canadian Premiere / Special Presentation

When a young woman unexpectedly arrives at an older man’s workplace, looking for answers, the secrets of the past threaten to unravel his new life. Their confrontation will uncover buried memories and unspeakable desires. It will shake them both to the core.

Director Benedict Andrews

Cast Rooney Mara, Ben Mendelsohn, Riz Ahmed

Writer David Harrower, based on his own play BLACKBIRD

Producers Jean Doumanian, Patrick Daly, Maya Amsellem

Production Company & Sales agent WestEnd Films

Michael Leader’s picks for the London Film Festival 2016

05 Sep, 2016 Posted in: London Film Festival

Free Fire

First, some score settling. My colleague Catherine and I fought over a few of our picks, so let me add my voice to the close harmony of recommendation for Gareth Tunley’s impressive debut psychological drama The Ghoul, as well as express my anticipation for the likes of Prevenge, Raw, Manchester By The Sea, Elle and Toni Erdmann. Now, with that out of the way…

The LFF is so packed with gems this year that, frankly, you could blind-buy a ticket and odds are you’ll hit upon a hotly-tipped festival favourite, cult classic in the making, or delightful deep cut from one of the festival’s expertly curated strands and selections. There’s much to see and enjoy, but to get you started here is an alphabetical handful of my suggestions…

After The Storm, dir. Hirokazu Koreeda

If you ask me, Hirokazu Koreeda is the most consistent filmmaker working today, and After The Storm – which reunites Kirin Kiki and Hiroshi Abe, who previously played mother and son in his 2008 masterpiece Still Walking – continues the director’s winning streak of winsome domestic dramas, joining I Wish, Like Father, Like Son and Our Little Sister.

Certain Women, dir Kelly Reichardt

Movie maths time: Kelly Reichardt + Michelle Williams = something very special indeed. A reunion of the director and star of both Meek’s Cutoff and Wendy & Lucy would be inviting enough, but throw in both Laura Dern and Kristen Stewart, and we have Reichardt’s most formidable ensemble to date, gathered to tell perhaps her most ambitious story, which interweaves the lives of three women in smalltown Montana, taking inspiration from the short stories of American writer Maile Meloy.

City Of Tiny Lights, dir. Pete Travis

After offering strong support alongside Jake Gyllenhaal in 2014’s Nightcrawler, Riz Ahmed is making 2016 count. Star Wars spin-off Rogue One will no doubt catapult him to a new level of stardom, but for now he’s appearing in two films at the LFF: Benedict Andrews’ Film4-backed drama Una and this London-set neo-noir, directed by Dredd’s Pete Travis. Riz fans, rejoice!

David Lynch: The Art Life, dir. John Nguyen / Blue Velvet Revisited, dir. Peter Braatz

It’s not long until David Lynch is back on our (small) screens with the long-awaited third season of Twin Peaks, so LFF are whetting our appetites with a double-dose of documentaries about this one-of-a-kind filmmaker. Blue Velvet Revisited is an archive feature of behind-the-scenes footage from his 1986 masterpiece, while The Art Life is a reflective, intimate bio-doc narrated by the man himself. Don’t make me choose. See both.

Ethel and Ernest, dir. Roger Mainwood

The most personal work of illustrator and bona fide national treasure Raymond Briggs (The Snowman, When The Wind Blows), Ethel And Ernest is a social history of 20th century working class Britain disguised as a gently moving biography of his mother and father. This long-gestating adaptation finally makes it to the big screen, with Brenda Blethyn and Jim Broadbent giving voice to the title characters. A recently-released trailer suggests that it has been worth the wait.

Free Fire, dir. Ben Wheatley

After High-Rise’s skyscraping ambition, Free Fire is a single-location thriller with laser-sharp focus on recreating the shoot-em-up cinema of Sam Peckinpah – with a gun-toting ensemble of glittering contemporary stars, including Brie Larson, Armie Hammer, Sharlto Copley, Cillian Murphy and Wheatley regular Michael Smiley. Don’t miss Wheatley’s Screen Talk the day before Free Fire’s premiere for a chance to hear directly from the straight-shooting, and refreshingly candid, filmmaker himself.

Further Beyond, dirs. Justine Molloy & Joe Lawlor

This curious essay film, screening in the Experimenta strand, stars Aidan Gillen as an actor recreating the journey of an Irish-born Spanish colonialist from Ireland to Chile. Mister John, the last collaboration between Gillen directors Justine Molloy and Joe Lawlor, was something of a cult gem on release in 2013 – Further Beyond seems destined for similar status.

Lake Bodom, dir. Taneli Mustonen

Fans of extreme Finnish metal band Children of Bodom will already be familiar with the enduring urban legend surrounding the grisly, unsolved murders of a group of teenagers at Lake Bodom in 1960. Taneli Mustonen’s film takes inspiration from this cultural touchstone, as a gang of modern-day teens visit the infamous lake to get to the bottom of the mystery. What sounds like a great riff on 80s slashers, though, might in fact be more surprising; BFI Cult strand programmer Michael Blyth writes that Lake Bodom ‘delights in slaying expectations and slicing up conventions’.

Mifune: The Last Samurai, dir. Steven Okazaki

Possibly the most recognisable Japanese actor in the world, thanks to his ongoing collaboration with director Akira Kurosawa, Toshiro Mifune is the sort of cinematic titan who surely should have had a career-spanning bio-doc by now. So, in steps director Steven Okazaki – a filmmaker with a certain heft, better known for documentaries grappling with Japanese and Japanese American experiences in the Second World War – to tell the story of this unique and formidable talent. I suspect this will be a little more nourishing than your standard talking-head fare.

A Monster Calls, dir J.A. Bayona

J.A. Bayona may now be ‘the director who brought you The Impossible’, but I’ll always remember him for the Guillermo Del Toro-produced Spanish gothic horror The Orphanage. Before he goes off to direct the next Jurassic Park movie, Bayona might have just made his Pan’s Labyrinth – an adaptation of Patrick Ness’s best-selling fantasy novel about a young boy who befriends a monstrous yew tree, voiced by Liam Neeson.

My Life As A Courgette, dir. Claude Barras

A serious contender for my film of the year, this French-Swiss stop-motion animation, adapted from a children’s novel about an orphan adjusting to life in a group home, is guaranteed to melt the coldest of hearts. If you see one film at the LFF this year, I’d recommend this one.

The Red Turtle, dir. Michaël Dudok de Wit

If you’re still in mourning over Studio Ghibli’s production hiatus following Hayao Miyazaki & Isao Takahata’s retirement from feature filmmaking, here’s the perfect tonic. The Red Turtle, the feature debut from Oscar-winning Belgian animator Michaël Dudok de Wit, not only shares some of Studio Ghibli’s pet themes (chiefly, man vs nature), it also features the names of co-producer Toshio Suzuki and ‘artistic producer’ Isao Takahata in its credit block.

Trespass Against Us, dir. Adam Smith

An assured and accomplished feature debut from Adam Smith, Trespass Against Us is by turns a thrilling crime caper and a melancholic portrait of a waning way of life, as a generation gap forms between father and son in a brood of outsider outlaws. The starry cast – Michael Fassbender, Brendan Gleeson, Sean Harris – may be the draw, but this is a showcase for Smith, who skilfully balances volatile family drama and hair-raising car-chase set-pieces.

The Wailing, dir. Na Hong-Jin

Part crime procedural, part supernatural nightmare, this genre-bending thrill-ride from director Na Hong-Jin (The Yellow Sea) is an exhilarating and exhausting exercise in cinematic gaslighting. Nothing in the LFF lineup is like this: prepare yourself for 156 minutes jam-packed with creepy goings-on, cacophonic shaman rituals and bizarre narrative twists. Oh, and wailing. So much wailing.

We Are X, dir. Stephen Kijak

I bang on about the LFF’s superlative selection of music documentaries every year, and 2016′s most eye-catching offering in the Sonic strand is Stephen Kijak’s intimate dive into the extravagant and tumultuous history of glam rockers – and visual kei pioneers – X Japan. Expect this to sit perfectly in a double bill with Sacha Gervasi’s Anvil! The Story of Anvil in years to come.

Your Name, dir. Makoto Shinkai

Japanese animation is often given short shrift by the UK theatrical scene, but you can always trust the LFF to give anime a much-deserved big screen showcase. Director Makoto Shinkai now joins the likes of Studio Ghibli and Mamoru Hosoda in the LFF anime canon, but with a welcome and remarkable twist: this emotionally-charged tale of boy-bodyswaps-with-girl is the first animated film, period, to appear in the festival’s Official Competition selection.

Catherine Bray’s picks for the London Film Festival 2016

Sacha Lane stars in Andrea Arnold's American Honey

Sacha Lane stars in Andrea Arnold’s American Honey

This year, narrowing down my list of picks from the London Film Festival’s stellar line up has proven even more difficult than usual – there’s such a wealth of potential riches in the 2016 line-up. My colleague Michael has also contributed his picks, so for more top choices, click here – as usual, we’ve had to fight it out over some titles. Here are the 19 I managed to bag – in alphabetical order…

All This Panic, dir. Jenny Gage

I’m a sucker for an intimate coming-of-age movie, and All This Panic, which arrives in London with great buzz out of Tribeca, is exactly that in observational documentary form, filmed over three years in Brooklyn and focusing on two sisters, Ginger and Dusty, as they navigate the perils of high school politics and teen angst.

American Honey, dir. Andrea Arnold

When Andrea Arnold’s freewheeling road movie (which embeds us within a motley crew of young drifters as they travel the US scratching a living) premiered at Cannes, I was expecting many things, but not a show-stopping scene in a supermarket set to Rihanna’s We Found Love. For that – and other reasons – I can’t wait to revisit.

Divines, dir. Houda Benyamina

Divines snuck up on me. To begin with, it felt like a fairly unremarkable girls-in-the-hood yarn, but as the characters bedded in, I found myself swept up in the energy and emotion of the piece. I’m keen to see if a second viewing can replicate that rush.

Elle, dir. Paul Verhoeven

Of all the films on my list, this is the one. This is the one that I have an urgent need to re-watch which amounts to an almost physical itch. Tough, dangerous, funny, graceful, horrifying, mischievous, mortifying, it flies along on one of the best performances I’ve ever seen from Isabelle Huppert – or indeed anyone else. (Bonus content: there’s also a Paul Verhoeven ScreenTalk scheduled – expect provocations.)

La La Land, dir. Damien Chazelle

The raves greeting the world premiere of La La Land at the Venice Film Festival suggest that Damien Chazelle has not only equalled his breakout hit Whiplash, but may actually have surpassed it. Throw an appealing cast into the mix in the form of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone and this could be one of the LFF’s most satisfying offerings.

Lady Macbeth, dir. William Oldroyd

Word has it that Lady Macbeth is the film that will elevate the likeable Florence Pugh to the status of bona fide star, in what is reportedly a thrillingly effective period drama driven by passion and infidelity.

LFF Connects: Television – Black Mirror
Black Mirror is one of the most exciting small screen shows of the past five years, so I’m raring to see creators Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones, plus Joe Wright (who directs the first episode of the new series), discuss the dystopian series live.

Manchester by the Sea, dir. Kenneth Lonergan

Starring Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams and Kyle Chandler, Manchester By The Sea is only Kenneth Lonergan’s third film as a director. Following on from the lush epic that was Margaret, if it’s even half as good as that film, it will be well worth your time.

Mindhorn, dir. Sean Foley

Julian Barratt is MI5 Special Operative Bruce Mindhorn, who has a super-advanced optical lie detector in place of his left eye, enabling him to literally “see the truth.” Sold.

Nocturnal Animals, dir. Tom Ford

Whether you loved or loathed director Tom Ford’s glossy high-end commercial aesthetic in A Single Man, Nocturnal Animals will be worth a watch. An adaptation of Tony & Susan, a strange and compelling art house page-turner of a novel, the book’s meta-textual thriller structure should provide Ford’s visual flourishes with a more robust underlying skeleton.

Planetarium, dir. Rebecca Zlotowski

Rebecca Zlotowski’s Grand Central was a memorable Un Certain Regard entry for me in 2013, with scorching hot chemistry between leads Tahar Rahim and Léa Seydoux. Her follow-up, Planetarium, was anticipated as a likely Cannes entry this year and didn’t make an appearance, so I’m now extra curious to see what a combination of Natalie Portman, Lily-Rose Depp and supernatural shenanigans in pre-war France can offer up.

Prevenge, dir. Alice Lowe

Dating back to Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, Alice Lowe has always been a talent to watch, but the electrifying response from those who’ve already seen her directorial debut about a pregnant serial killer in which she also stars suggests she’s about to take it to a whole new level…

Raw, dir. Julia Durcournau

This is one I’ve already seen, but am chomping at the bit to see again. Grisly cannibal horror meets campus hijinks in a Suspiria-esque hermetically-sealed universe, where logic bends and warps as a freshman student finds herself acquiring a taste for human flesh. A must-see.

Safari, dir. Ulrich Seidl

After training an unflinching lens on the frequently bizarre goings on in Austrian basements in off-beat doc In The Basement, Ulrich Seidl brings his darkly humorous formality and impeccable composition to the world of big game trophy hunting, in what is likely to be one of the most upsetting watches of the festival.

The 13th, dir. Ava DuVernay

Tracing the history of racial prejudice in the US justice system, Ava DuVernay’s The 13th couldn’t be tackling a more timely subject. The title refers to the 13th amendment, which supposedly outlaws slavery, but contains the notable get out clause: “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.”

The Autopsy of Jane Doe, dir. André Øvredal

A corpse is perfectly preserved on the outside – but inside, is dissected and burned in a possibly ritualistic mutilation. It’s a grisly, gripping set-up that evokes small screen procedurals like Hannibal, a show I’ve still yet to find an effective replacement for in my TV viewing. Perhaps this will do the trick.

The Ghoul, dir. Gareth Tunley

A splendidly twisty low-budget head-scratcher from actor-turned-writer-director Gareth Tunley, The Ghoul is an auspicious debut that announces a new voice in British filmmaking. Get in on the ground floor and catch his debut now.

Toni Erdmann, dir. Maren Ade

This three hour German comedy came completely out of the left field for me when I saw it in May. There’s very little about it on paper that hints at quite how glorious, moving and funny it is – it’s a real one-off, with everything from broad comic set-pieces to heart-wrenching father-daughter bonding. Essential.

Una, dir. Benedict Andrews

After her performance in Carol last year, I will watch literally anything with Rooney Mara in, but it doesn’t hurt that the Film4-backed Una also stars the ever-brilliant Ben Mendelsohn and is based on the acclaimed play Blackbird.