There are hundreds of films to choose from over the next couple of weeks at the Toronto International Film Festival. Here are a few we think are worthy of your time.


The film deals with themes such as struggling with identity and tradition, and dealing with family loss and complicated relationships. Belle, the lead character, has been butting heads with her mother since she came out as a lesbian years prior,  Her father has just passed away, and the family meets once again to organize the funeral. Belle returns to her rural Nova Scotia home for her father’s funeral. Having caused her mother Nancy considerable consternation when she came out as a lesbian teen, Belle is now desperate to keep secret from her mother that she’s been in a relationship with a man for the last two years. 

Sofia Banzhaf (CLOSET MONSTER) stars in the leading role as Belle, a young woman whose sexual identity is fluid. Shelley Thompson (Trailer Park Boys) stars as Belle’s traditionalist mother Nancy. Bailey Maughan, and Callum Dunphy round out the starring cast. Directed by Thom Fitzgerald (previous winner of Best Canadian Feature at TIFF for THE HANGING GARDEN).

The film will also be screened as the Opening Night Gala Presentation for the FIN Atlantic International Film Festival in Halifax, Nova Scotia on Thursday, September 13th.

Watch The Trailer

Birds of Passage

During the marijuana bonanza of the 1960s and 70s, a violent decade that saw the origins of drug trafficking in Colombia, Rapayet and his indigenous family get involved in a war to control the business that ends up destroying their lives and their culture. Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra (Embrace of the Serpent) once again team up for this exquisitely detailed story of a Wayuu man’s downward spiral — and its effects on his community — as he becomes increasingly involved in northern Colombia’s drug trade.

This one plays out like one of those epic type movies, reminiscent of other drug related films, like Traffic, or Latin American classics, like Motorcycle Diaries. A bit long clocking in at two hours, but it does give a somewhat realistic view into the problems illegal drugs, and the money earned from them, can cause on unsuspecting individuals just trying to make a better life for themselves.

Documenting the true-to-life rise and fall of rival Wayuu clans in northern Colombia, the latest film by Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra, Birds of Passage is an unexpected take on the cartel genre. With incredible attention to the detail of Colombia’s indigenous Wayuu customs, traditions, and celebrations, Gallego and Guerra weave an epic tragedy of pride, greed, and the clash between the old and new worlds.

Raphayet (José Acosta) is captivated by Zaida (Natalia Reyes) at her “coming out” ceremony, and is determined to come up with the enormous dowry her mother and family matriarch Úrsula (Carmiña Martínez) demands. The solution to his money woes appears when he and his friend Moisés (Jhon Narváez) meet up with some hippie Peace Corps volunteers (in the country to hand out anti-Communist propaganda) who are looking for weed. This encounter will eventually have disastrous consequences for all involved.

As everyone’s wealth increases, so too does Moisé’s ego, and his trigger-happy attitude annoys the Wayuu who have been suspicious of this alijuna (outsider) from the get go. When Moisés targets Raphayet’s cousin’s clan, a rapid downward spiral ensues, bringing everyone along with it.

Perfectly blending professional and non-professional actors, trappings of Western influence, and exquisite colourful Wayuu attire, Gallego and Guerra’s Birds of Passage is a fascinating tale of Shakespearean proportions.

Sep 10, 9:45 pm, TBLB 2; Sep 11, 3:30 pm, TBLB 2; Sep 16, 12:15 pm, Scotiabank 2

El Angel

Loosely based on the infamous Argentinian serial killer dubbed “Death Angel,” this cautionary drama follows an innocuous-looking but deeply sinister thief whose lawlessness escalates exponentially when he takes up with a career criminal.

Carlitos’s blond curls and angelic blue eyes belie a confused and violent soul. From a young age, he has stolen just because he can. It’s a fascination he cannot shake, much to the chagrin of his loving and upstanding parents (Cécilia Roth and Luis Gnecco). When he meets Ramon (Chino Darín), the son of career criminals, the attraction he feels causes him to up the ante and engage in more serious criminal activity. Soon, the young men are killing.

Loosely based on the real-life Argentine serial killer Carlos Robledo Puch, nicknamed the “Death Angel” for his innocent, cherubic good looks, this film by Luis Ortega presents a Carlitos that is not quite trustful of reality and is always performing. He walks and dances as though a camera were recording his every move. In fact, he calls himself a spy for god. It’s as though life were a game and danger merely a way of feeling everything more intensely.

Splendidly paced and gorgeously photographed, El Ángel is a departure from the sparser nature of Ortega’s previous films, yet his attraction to outlaws remains. As we follow Carlitos (Lorenzo Ferro) on his stealing and killing sprees, we see there’s something almost innocent in his approach, as though he believes his actions don’t carry real, permanent consequences. Through this turbulent and confusing character, Ortega offers a meaningful reflection on how violence is glamourized on the screen.

Sunday Sept 16th, 930pm, Scotiabank Theatre


Franky Winter (Josh Wiggins) and Ballas Kohl (Darren Mann) have been best friends since childhood. They are high school royalty: handsome, stars of the swim team and popular withgirls. They live a perfect teenage life – until the night of Franky’s epic 17th birthday party, when Franky and Ballas are involved in an unexpected incident that changes their lives forever. Giant Little Ones is a heartfelt and intimate coming-of-age story about friendship, self-discovery and the power of love without labels. 

Writer/Director: Keith Behrman 
Cast: Josh Wiggins, Darren Mann, Taylor Hickson, Kyle MacLachlan, Maria Bello

TIFF Screenings
September 10, 2018 at 6:45PM (Scotiabank 4)



A woman prepares to record a video message but is interrupted by a service repairman.  When an everyday interaction turns dangerous, two strangers must reckon with the consequences of their desire to survive. What are the limits of human decency? A dystopian  thriller about a quiet afternoon in apartment 7A. A captivating thriller,  7A  plays like a mini Black Mirror episode and will have audiences pondering the film’s themes long after they leave the theatre.

Crafted masterfully by Toronto-based film and stage director Zachary Russell, 7A is a genre-bending film that leaves you gasping for air.  7A. Russell won the Canadian Screen Award for Best Live Action Short Drama in 2015 for his film, She Stoops to Conquer .   

Screening as part of Short Cuts, Sunday Sept 15, Scotiabank Theatre

A Star Is Born

Finally, the talk of the fest is most definitely Lady Gaga’s major acting debut in the classic, A Star is Born, also starring four-time Oscar nominee Bradley Cooper (American Sniper, American Hustle, Silver Linings Playbook). Cooper helms the film, marking his directorial debut. In this new take on the tragic love story, he plays seasoned musician Jackson Maine, who discovers and falls in love with struggling artist Ally (Gaga). She has just about given up on her dream to make it big as a singer, until Jack coaxes her into the spotlight. But even as Ally’s career takes off, the personal side of their relationship is breaking down, as Jack fights an ongoing battle with his own internal demons.

Hollywood’s most enduring story of love and ambition gets a glorious reinvention in Bradley Cooper’s A Star Is Born. Drawing deep on the pleasures audiences previously discovered in the 1937, 1954, and 1976 versions, Cooper brings the narrative right up to the present. He takes on the role of the fame-weary star himself and, for the ingénue with megawatt potential, he crafts a perfect big-screen role for Lady Gaga.

Jackson Maine lives half his life on tour and the other half at the bottom of a bottle. He won rock stardom years ago, and the pressures of fame have isolated him. His much-older brother (Sam Elliott) manages his career, but no one can control his life offstage. One night Jackson wanders into a bar looking for another drink and finds an amateur performer with a shockingly beautiful voice. Ally (Lady Gaga) and Jackson connect instantly. He sees her promise, she sees his experience, and they catch in each other a glimpse of the pain that drives them both. As Jackson nudges Ally onto the stage with her own songs, she’s inevitably drawn into the world that comes with it – after-parties, private jets, and the debilitating glare of the spotlight.

As an actor, Cooper has worked with Clint Eastwood and David O. Russell; here he shows both Eastwood’s unfussy economy and Russell’s emotional intensity. But the style is entirely his, finding its biggest moments in scenes between just two people, and stripping away any excess to showcase Gaga’s confident, honest performance. Both intimate and epic, this is a love story that hovers between the shadow of tragedy and the bright light of artists at their peak.

Friday Sept 14th, 6:45PM at Bell TIFF Lightbox


About the Author

Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.