41st Toronto International Film Festival Coverage: Day Six

September 13th, 2016 by Ian Evans

I started day six of TIFF by attending a screening of Denial, which premiered here on day four. The Mick Jackson film stars Rachel Weisz as historian Deborah Lipstadt, in the true story of the libel case brought against her by Holocaust denier David Irving (Timothy Spall). In a true story where you know the outcome, the real work is in the performances and Denial does not disappoint. Weisz and Spall are worthy adversaries, but for me the real highlight is in the performance by Tom Wilkinson, who plays the trial lawyer working for Lipstadt. Look for the film to be released in North America later this month.

Deepwater Horizon kicked things off at Roy Thomson Hall. The Peter Berg film tells us the true story of the 2010 oil rig explosion that killed eleven crewmen and led to the largest oil spill in U.S. history. The cast includes Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, John Malkovich, Gina Rodriguez and Kate Hudson. Earlier in the day, Wahlberg was the subject of an In Conversation event and had high praise for director Berg, saying that, “Pete is a force of nature when it comes to his talent. I’ll go to war with that man every chance I get.” The upcoming Patriots Day will be the third time Berg has directed a film produced by and starring the Boston native.

Up next was Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids, a music documentary directed by Jonathan Demme and shot in Vegas during Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience tour. Though many might think of Philadelphia, The Silence of the Lambs and Married to the Mob when they hear of Demme’s name, he’s also the director of one of the best concert movies of all time, Stop Making Sense, the 1984 film that captured Talking Heads in all of their glory. Timberlake wanted Demme badly and admitted to the audience before the screening that “I basically stalked Jonathan Demme to do this.” Again, blurring the lines of what constitutes a film festival film, this production is from Netflix and will begin streaming on the service on October 12.

Writer-director Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea started the evening off at the Princess of Wales Theatre. Casey Affleck plays Lee Chandler, who lives a sad life as a handyman. When his older brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) dies, Lee discovers that he has been made legal guardian of his nephew, Patrick (Lucas Hedges). Returning to his hometown, Lee confronts his past and has to navigate his present. Affleck, Lonergan, Hedges and Chandler were joined at the premiere by co-star Michelle Williams and a little-known producer by the name of Matt Damon. Damon and pal John Krasinski came up with the idea and commissioned Lonergan to write it. When his schedule wouldn’t allow Damon to be in the film, he made sure that Casey Affleck got the role.

Next up at the POW was Wakefield. Directed by Robin Swicord and based on a short story by E.L. Doctorow, Wakefield tells the tale of a successful lawyer (Bryan Cranston) who feels the impulse to run away from his life and ends up just hiding out in the attic to observe how his wife (Jennifer Garner) and children deal with his absence.

Nathan Morlando’s Edwin Boyd — Citizen Gangster, won Best Canadian First Feature at TIFF 2011 and now in 2016 his latest film, Mean Dreams, opened the night over at Ryerson. Josh Wiggins plays Jonas, a teenager struggling to keep the family farm afloat as his mother battles depression. Casey (Sophie Nélisse) moves in down the road and the two hit it off, much to the chagrin of her drunken, violent father (Bill Paxton). When her father and the local sheriff (Colm Feore) rip off a biker gang, the young couple see a chance at their way out.

Suki Waterhouse and Jason Momoa walked the carpet next for The Bad Batch, Ana Lily Amirpour’s follow-up to A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. Waterhouse plays a girl in a dystopian U.S. exiled to the desert where she is captured by a community of cannibals. She escapes them only to end up helping Miami Man (Momoa), one of her former captors, with his quest. Fans of Game of Thrones were excited to see Jason in Toronto.

The night’s Midnight Madness film was Rats, director Morgan Spurlock’s documentary about man’s furry nemesis. It may seem odd to see a doc in the Midnight Madness programme — usually home to violent action and horror films — but let’s face it, rats terrify us and they’re all around us in real life. Can you say that about a zombie?