toronto filmfest

Indian American filmmaker Mira Nair speaks during the 2018 TIFF Tribute Gala, honoring Piers Handling and celebrating women in film, at Fairmont Royal York on Sept. 7, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)

“A Suitable Boy,” by Indian American filmmaker Mira Nair, and “The Disciple,” by Indian director Chaitanya Tamhane are among the films featured in the lineup for the Toronto International Film Festival unveiled July 30, bearing little in common with its normal barrage of awards contenders and premier fall films, according to the Associated Press.

Set to run Sept. 10-19, TIFF has plotted a largely virtual 45th edition due to the pandemic. In normal years, it is the largest film festival in North America. This year, it has drastically scaled down its plans and scraped together 50 films or TV series from around the world, leaning on projects set to debut on streaming services or television this fall.

Cameron Bailey, artistic director and co-head of the festival, acknowledged it was far from TIFF’s regular lineup.

“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,” Bailey said. “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.”

To ensure star wattage for the Toronto festival amid the COVID-19 crisis, organizers have also recruited around 50 top industry directors and actors to serve as TIFF Ambassadors and appear online throughout the 10-day event, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Many are veterans of the Canadian festival such as Riz Ahmed and Priyanka Chopra, it noted.

Some of the notable films include the 90-year-old Frederick Wiseman’s “City Hall,” a portrait of Boston’s City Hall; Regina King’s drama about a young Muhammad Ali, then Cassius Clay, titled “One Night in Miami”; Herzog and Clive Oppenheimer’s Apple TV+ meteorite documentary “Fireball: Visitors from Darker Worlds”; “Pieces of a Woman,” Kornel Mundruczo’s family drama with Shia LaBeouf; and Glendyn Ivin’s “Penguin Bloom,” with Naomi Watts.

A Lookout Point production for BBC One, Nair’s “A Suitable Boy” is the first screen adaptation of Vikram Seth’s international bestseller of the same name, penned by the award-winning British screenwriter Andrew Davies. As reported earlier in India-West, true to form, Nair has cast a thrilling ensemble of well-known actors and rising stars in some of the key supporting roles.

“A Suitable Boy” tells the story of spirited university student Lata coming of age in North India in 1951 at the same time as the country is carving out its own identity as an independent nation. It recounts how Lata’s mother is determined to find her a husband – a suitable boy. But Lata, torn between family duty and the excitement of romance, embarks on her own epic journey of love and self-discovery. The first two episodes of the six-part drama will close the festival, according to screendaily.com.

The Marathi film, “The Disciple,” Tamhane’s second feature film has also been selected in the Main Competition of the Venice Film Festival 2020. Several films included in the Toronto festival will play first at the much smaller Venice Film Festival the week prior in September.

“The Disciple” is a masterfully composed film that examines a lifetime journey devoted to the art of Indian classical music, according to TIFF. It follows the journey of Sharad Nerulkar, who has devoted himself to becoming an Indian classical vocalist, said the Times of India, but as the years pass, he will be forced to negotiate between the complex realities of life in contemporary Mumbai and his chosen path.

The major fall festivals — Venice, Toronto, Telluride and New York — earlier announced an alliance, saying they would collaborate on programming. Since then, Colorado’s Telluride has been canceled but reborn as a drive-in series in Los Angeles. The festivals earlier announced Chloe Zhao’s “Nomadland” will debut across all four events.

Toronto organizers say they continue to work with health officials to determine how and if it can host in-person events. With travel restricted between the U.S. and Canadian border, it has urged many festival-goers who flock to Toronto to stay home.

(With AP reports)

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