Can do in Canada: The Irish films competing in Toronto

The rude health of the film industry in this country is underlined by the presence of 10 Irish offerings at the prestigious festival, writes Esther McCarthy

Colin Farrell in The Killing of the Sacred Deer

TORONTO International Film Festival (September 7-17) has firmly established itself as one of the world’s most prestigious, with some of the world’s top filmmakers using the festival as a high-profile launchpad for awards season. The Oscar race begins here.

And the Irish are coming. No fewer than 10 Irish productions have been selected to feature in the TIFF programme, which is an achievement in itself.

For Irish films that get screened at Toronto, the move is a commercial as well as critical boost, with the eyes of film distributors and studios worldwide observing how a film is received.

Leading the charge is Co. Cork filmmaker Nora Twomey’s The Breadwinner. The animated feature from the Midleton woman, who works with the award-winning Cartoon Saloon, is based on the best-selling novel by Deborah Ellis.

It centres on a young Afghan girl who cuts her hair and disguises herself as a boy, in a bid to support her family after the Taliban imprisons her father.

The Breadwinner is already drawing strong buzz in advance of its world premiere at Toronto, and drew the attention and involvement of Angelina Jolie, who is on board as one of the film’s producers.

Kissing Candace is another film building momentum in advance of its world premiere. Developed under the Irish Film Board’s Catalyst programme for low-budget films, it is directed by Aoife McArdle, an accomplished music video director who filmed U2’s Every Breaking Wave.

It tells the story of a teenager who seeks to escape the boredom of her seaside town, and becomes entangled with a dangerous gang.

I Kill Giants, which was filmed in Dublin last year, stars Zoe Saldana as a psychologist who is tasked with helping a young girl battle monsters as she tries to come to terms with the fact that her mother is terminally ill. It’s based on an award-winning graphic novel.

Rebecca Daly follows her well-received Mammal with Good Favour, which world premieres at Toronto. Its story centres on a teenage stranger who wanders into a devoutly religious Catholic community, and appears to have magical powers.

Starring Ellen Page and Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, The Cured is the debut feature from director David Freyne. The film is set in the aftermath of a zombie-like virus which has devastated Europe. A cure which has a 75 per cent success rate has been found, but the cured face the challenge of being accepted back into society.

Director Brian O’Malley’s ghost story, The Lodgers, tells the story of twins Rachel and Edward, who share their crumbling estate with a sinister presence which imposes a strict set of rules upon them. If one disobeys, the other twin pays.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Yorgos Lantimos’ follow-up to The Lobster, sees him re-team with Colin Farrell and cast Barry Keoghan in this dark tale of a surgeon (Farrell) and his wife (Nicole Kidman) who befriend a troubled young man (Keoghan).

The film, produced by Element Pictures, heads to Toronto following a well-received world premiere at Cannes.

Elle Fanning and Douglas Booth head the cast of period drama Mary Shelley, which was filmed on location in Ireland last year. The film focuses on writer Mary Shelley’s relationship with poet Percy, the birth of Frankenstein’s monster, and her battle against the convention at the time that women couldn’t write books.

Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams star in Disobedience, an Irish co-production that tells the story of a woman who returns to her Orthodox Jewish home following the death of her rabbi father, leading to emerging secrets and controversies.

One of the most anticipated documentaries at Toronto is Irish co-produced music doc Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami, which focuses on the larger-than-life Jones but also examines her heritage as she returns to her home place of Jamaica, where her family roots and childhood are uncovered. The film features live concert footage that Jones performed during sold-out gigs in Dublin last year.


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