TIFF 2021 featured numerous films from a variety of genres, including science-fiction, thrillers, documentaries, and animation. We round up the genre films from the festival that we loved.
Céline Sciamma (director and writer), Claire Mathon (cinematographer), Julien Lacheray (editor)
Joséphine Sanz, Gabrielle Sanz, Nina Meurisse, Stéphane Varupenne, Margo Abascal (cast)
September 9, 2021 (TIFF)
After losing her grandmother, a little girl makes a friend who looks startlingly like her. There may be a more unusual connection between them than either of them realises.
A melancholic rumination on grief and family, Petite Maman was also delightfully mysterious. I loved the way the film blended genres so subtly — it caught me completely by surprise. With memorable performances from the two young protagonists, this film is a must-see.
Phillip Noyce (director), Chris Sparling (writer), John Brawley (cinematographer), Lee Haugen (editor)
Naomi Watts (cast)
September 12, 2021 (TIFF)
A woman sends her children off to school and goes on a relaxing run, only to learn that there has been an incident at the school when she’s too far away to help.
Like The Guilty, Lakewood is a high-concept film that embraces sound as well as visuals — and beautiful visuals they are. Focusing solely on Naomi Watts’ Amy Carr, most of the plot takes place via phone and video calls. The audience learns about the unfolding situation just as Amy does. Watts puts in a strong performance and effortlessly carries the entire film. But considering the subject matter, the denouement felt too neatly wrapped up for me.
The Pink Cloud
Iuli Gerbase (director and writer), Bruno Polidoro (cinematographer), Vicente Moreno (editor)
Renata de Lélis, Eduardo Mendonça, Helena Becker, Girley Paes, Lívia Perrone Pires, Kaya Rodrigues (cast)
September 14, 2021 (TIFF)
The Pink Cloud is an eerily prescient film about pandemic-living. Written and shot before 2020, in the film, a toxic cloud forces the world into an interminable lockdown, including two strangers who end up stuck indoors together. Told mostly from the perspective of these two strangers, Yago and Giovana, we learn how this fictitious world copes with a similarly very real circumstance.
In some ways, The Pink Cloud is prescient in its portrayal of lockdowns, with the struggles of isolation, the job insecurity, the move to online living. In other ways, the film is almost too simplistic in dealing with such a world-changing event. By focusing only on Yago and Giovana, we lose out on how varied the experience is for different people. We get snippets of other lives, but it made me wish to learn more about those people. It almost feels like there was a greater, more diverse story to tell, but we didn’t get to see it.
Eric Warin (director), Tahir Rana (director), Erik Rutherford (writer), David Bezmozgis (writer), Roderick Deogrades (editor), Sam Patterson (editor)
Keira Knightley, Brenda Blethyn, Jim Broadbent, Sam Claflin, Henry Czerny, Eddie Marsan, Helen McCrory, Sophie Okonedo, Mark Strong (cast)
September 14, 2021 (TIFF)
Content warning: suicide
The true story of German Jewish artist Charlotte Salomon and how she created her seminal work, Leben? oder Theater?: Ein Singspiel (Life? or Theater? A Song-play) before her untimely death during the holocaust.
I have not encountered Salomon’s work before but this film makes me want to seek out exhibitions of her paintings. Salomon’s life was plagued by sorrow and loss, and this animated film captures the melancholy of such grief.
The animation is beautiful, particularly the landscapes which were breathtaking. The faces of the characters weren’t to my liking, but that’s a stylistic choice I can’t argue with. I loved how the art of the animation blended effortlessly into Salomon’s art. It made the story and the artist come to life for me.
Jonas Poher Rasmussen (director and writer), Amin (writer), Mauricio Gonzalez-Aranda (cinematographer), Janus Belliskov Jansen (editor)
Daniel Karimyar, Fardin Mijdzadeh, Milad Eskandari, Belal Faiz, Elaha Faiz, Zahra Mehrwarz, Sadia Faiz (cast)
September 14, 2021 (TIFF)
Flee is an animated documentary based on the true story of a family who escaped Kabul, Afghanistan, in the 1990s. Director Jonas Poher Rasmussen interviewed his friend, who goes by the pseudonym Amin Nawabi, about his harrowing journey from Kabul to his eventual arrival in Copenhagen, Denmark. It’s a heartbreaking story that somehow also manages to include moments of humour.
A sadly relevant film considering the events happening in Afghanistan in 2021, Flee is a tough documentary to watch. The animation is beautiful but the movie doesn’t shy away from the horrors faced by Amin, his family and their fellow refugees. An absolutely stunning and powerful film to watch.
Jean Luc Herbulot (director and writer), Gregory Corandi (cinematographer), Alasdair McCulloch (editor), Sébastien Prangère (editor), Nicolas Desmaisons (editor)
Yann Gael, Evelyne Ily Juhen, Roger Sallah, Mentor Ba (cast)
September 16, 2021 (TIFF)
A group of mercenaries find their plans waylaid during an extraction of merchandise. They land on one of the islands in the Sine-Saloum Delta, a place that holds personal significance for one of the mercenaries.
A genre-bending action adventure that turns into a full-blown horror film, Saloum delivers on everything it promises to be, as well as so much more. A compelling plot that never lets you settle, along with complex and layered characters, this film is a rollercoaster ride you never want to leave. The absolutely gorgeous cinematography will spark your wanderlust, while the tragic stories of the characters will break your heart. A magnificent film to experience.