What's New - Festival Highs

The 45th Toronto International Film Festival, Re-defined

Uma da Cunha


September 10 to 19, 2020

TIFF’s crisp spread of 50 new features, curtailed due to COVID, offers scintillating viewing, even while it faced re-defining. Major problematic areas were managing international and domestic travel as well as the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds that are a norm at festivals, whether outdoors or within cinema houses. Social distancing is hard to adhere to in the convivial surrounds of a film festival.

With travel being affected in terms of guests from abroad, and also, audiences from all over Canada, Festival Head Cameron Bailey and Joana Vicente, Executive Director and Co-Head, decided not only on TIFF’s manageable 50 new feature films on view, but also to screen their 2020 festival line-up strategically to meet today’s needs. The films will screen in select festival cinema houses at physically distanced indoor and outdoor venues. TIFF has kept in mind the enthusiastic audiences that head to Toronto, not only its own inhabitants but also from the rest of Canada, from neighbouring USA, as well as other countries across the world.

Apprehending its reduced attendance, TIFF astutely decided to make this year’s event held as both, virtual in select local festival cinemas, as well as on-line. This strategy has enabled those who cannot be physically present, as well as its regular attendees, film representatives in all fields and the Press, to actively participate, despite the constraints.

TIFF 2020 will have both physical screenings and drive-ins, as well as digital screenings, virtual red carpets, press conferences and industry talks. Its concentrated lineup lists 50 new feature films, five segments of short films, augmented with interactive talks, film cast gatherings, and question/answer sessions with cast and filmmakers.

Over its first five days, TIFF’s complete programme will premiere as physical, socially distanced screenings. In addition, participants can also enjoy drive-ins and outdoor events that are linked to the Festival.

For the first time, TIFF has launched a digital platform for its programme, enabling audiences beyond Toronto to reach out to their feast of films, partnering with Shift72 to develop this industry-leading online platform. Over its ten days, the platform will host digital screenings alongside numerous talks and special events.

TIFF 2020 welcomes its frontline guests - TIFF Ambassadors, 50 celebrated filmmakers and actors invited to boost TIFF in allits glory and strength. These include leading lights known to India, Anurag Kashyap, Priyanka Chopra, Riz Ahmed, along with celebrities such as Nicole Kidman, Martin Scorsese, Nadine Labaki, Isabelle Huppert, Claire Denis, Atom Egoyan, Alfonso Cuarón, Rian Johnson, to name a few.

TIFF’s 50 New Feature Films on Show,
Highlighting India

Extract: TIFF’s official website

Special Presentations

The Disciple

Directed by ChaitanyaTamhane
India, 2020, 127 minutes, Marathi, Hindi, English, Bengali

Cast AdityaModak, Dr. Arun Dravid, Sumitra Bhave, Deepika Bhide Bhagwat, KiranYadnyopavit, Abhishek Kale, Neela Khedkar, Makarand Mukund, Kristy Banerjee, Prasad Vanarse Cinematography Michal Sobocinski Editing Chaitanya Tamhane Executive Producers Alfonso Cuarón, RakeshMehra Producer Vivek Gomber Production Company Zoo Entertainment Pvt Ltd Production Designers PoojaTalreja, Ravin D. Karde Screenplay Chaitanya Tamhane Sound Anita Kushwaha, Naren Chandavarkar Publicist Cinetic International Sales Agent New Europe Film Sales US Sales Agent Endeavor Content

Chaitanya Tamhane’s masterfully composed second feature examines a lifetime journey devoted to the art of Indian classical music.

From a young age, Sharad (AdityaModak) was nurtured into the world of Indian classical music through his father’s passion and scholarly pursuits. As a vocalist, he is fixated on succeeding where his father failed in the competitive performance niche, studying intonation and precise phrasing under the tutelage of a strict and quietly demanding master, Guruji. His lifetime of surrender and sacrifice is guided by the secretly recorded theoretical teachings of Maai, an almost mythical figure who espouses unbending discipline. Despite Sharad’s devotion to his master and his art, the realities of life and the modern world — with its rapidly degrading musical standards that threaten to render classical techniques extinct — force him into an existential crisis.

Moving on from his critically lauded 2014 debut, ‘Court’, director Chaitanya Tamhane meticulously dedicates every frame to observing and illuminating the relationship between student and master. Retaining his layered style, he brings a depth of insight to Sharad’s creative journey. The serene score transports audiences from one expertly composed scene to the next, as if entranced by not only the motivations but also the internal, sublime experience of the artist.

With an incomparable mentor and executive producer in Alfonso Cuarón, and a years-long education in the world of Indian classical music he previously knew little about, Tamhane displays an adept commitment to his own craft with The Disciple. The fidelity of this portrait of an artist is sure to resonate with audiences as he continues to establish his transcendent cinematic voice - 

ChaitanyaTamhane is a writer-director from Mumbai. His films include the short ‘Six Strands’ (11) and his feature directorial debut, ‘Court’ (14), which premiered at Venice and won Best Director at the Mumbai Film Festival. ‘The Disciple’ (20) is his latest feature.

(Film Still. The Disciple)

Closing Film
A Suitable Boy, UK/India 
(Episodes 1–6)
Directed by Mira Nair

A young woman in post-partition India struggles to balance family duty and personal independence, in Mira Nair’s six-part drama series adaptation.

The in-person screening on September 19 includes two 20-minute intermissions.

Vikram Seth’s sweeping 1993 novel A Suitable Boy was inspired by a conversation he overheard on a city bus, between a mother and daughter who were debating arranged marriages. It seems appropriate, then, that acclaimed director Mira Nair (‘Monsoon Wedding’, ‘Queen of Katwe’) and prolific screenwriter Andrew Davies (BBC miniseries Pride and Prejudice and War & Peace) begin their episodic adaptation of his novel with a vibrant wedding.

Nair and Davies focus the series on two of the novel’s central characters: sister- and brother-in-law Lata Mehra (Tanya Maniktala) and Maan Kapoor (Ishaan Khatter). Lata’s mother (Mahira Kakkar) tries to dictate her love life, while Maan’s father (Ram Kapoor) attempts to make him more politically engaged. Both young people feel the weight of their parents’ expectations while trying to find their independence. India, in 1951, is no different. It’s the post-partition era, and the country is approaching its first general election. Lata and Maan’s rebellious energies mirror the political landscape of a country in transition.

Anyone familiar with Nair’s work knows that this is not her first cinematic treatment of nuptials. Her modern masterpiece ‘Monsoon Wedding’ was inspired in part by her favourite novel, A Suitable Boy. It is also among seven of the director’s works to be selected by TIFF to date — though its Festival screening on September 11, 2001 was cancelled due to the seismic tragedy that unfolded that day. Two decades later, in yet another very difficult if very different year, we are proud to be closing Festival 2020 with her latest. Storytelling with a global reach has never been more important, and Mira Nair is an absolute master of it. - GEOFF MACNAUGHTON

(Film still. A Suitable Boy)

TIFF’s 50 Films

Special Events category.
*US: Tommy Oliver’s ‘40 Years a Prisoner’
*Canada: Akilla’s Escape ‘Charles Officer’
*Democratic Republic of the Congo, France,
*Belgium : Dieudo Hamadi’s ‘Downstream to Kinshasa’
*Canada: Stacey Lee’s ‘Underplayed’
*US: Matthew Heineman’s ‘The Boy from Medellín’
*Italy/US/Greece: Michael Dweckand Gregory Kershaw’s ‘The Truffle Hunters’
*US: David Oyelowo’s ‘The Water Man’
*US: Dawn Porter’s ‘The Way I See It’
*Ireland/Luxembourg/France: Tomm Moore and
*Ross Stewart’s ‘Wolfwalkers’

Cover Photo: Film Still - A Suitable Boy

An edited version of this article originally appeared on the online daily newspaper thecitizen.in