Stars including Kate Winslet and Mark Wahlberg will be unveiling new Oscar-aiming films at an unconventional Toronto film festival over the next two weeks.
The festival, typically viewed as a major stop on the trail to awards, will consist of a combination of socially distanced physical premieres and virtual screenings as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Non-Canadian press have been advised to cover the festivities from home.
“We began this year planning for a 45th festival much like our previous editions but along the way we had to rethink just about everything,” said Cameron Bailey, artistic director and co-head of the festival. “This year’s lineup reflects that tumult. The names you already know are doing brand new things this year, and there’s a whole crop of exciting new names to discover.”
While masks are required within the festival’s main headquarters, where attendees often congregate, they were originally deemed optional while seated in cinemas, a point that led to concern. Organisers reversed this at the last minute, deciding to close all concession stands, meaning masks must be worn during films, following the advice of public health experts.
This year, major festivals have created a non-competitive alliance that has allowed them to collaborate and share their slates. That means the romantic drama Ammonite, which was originally scheduled for a Cannes premiere, will now have its first screening at Toronto. The film, directed by Francis Lee (God’s Own Country), tells the story of the underappreciated British palaeontologist Mary Anning, played by the Oscar winner Kate Winslet, in the early 19th century.
When it was revealed that the drama would focus on a romance between Anning and a female friend, played by the Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan, despite the lack of historical basis, there was unrest among Anning’s relatives. But Lee has stated that “it’s not a biopic” and is a film about women finding liberation during an oppressed time.
“It’s a story about women speaking up, speaking out,” said Winslet. “I think uncovering stories where women were repressed in such a systemic way is highlighting how history has covered up those successes. We’re not going to do that any more, world.”
The Oscar nominee Mark Wahlberg is hoping to return to the race with the fact-based drama Good Joe Bell from Reinaldo Marcus Green, the acclaimed director of Monsters and Men, and the Oscar-winning screenwriters of Brokeback Mountain. The film tells the true story of a father whose son kills himself after homophobic bullying and his mission to travel the country to warn others about bigotry.
“I’m open to however the film needs to be released,” Green said, aware of an unusual awards season that could see a number of hybrid digital and physical releases. “I do hope they will get it out this year, given everything and the election. I think it could strike a nerve.”
The festival will also see directorial debuts from actors such as Halle Berry, whose drama Bruised sees her starring as an MMA fighter, and David Oyelowo, whose family fantasy The Water Man sees him starring alongside Rosario Dawson. Other stars with big premieres include Idris Elba, leading the urban cowboy tale Concrete Cowboy, and Rosamund Pike, heading up the thriller I Care A Lot alongside Peter Dinklage.
Last year’s festival saw the premieres of the Oscar contenders Jojo Rabbit, Knives Out, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, and Harriet.
Article by: Benjamin Lee for the Guardian.