A Second Round for the Toronto 2021 Lineup

Leon Lučev and Gracija Filipović in Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović’s Murina (2021)

As noted on Monday, Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog will see its world premiere in Venice in early September. Benedict Cumberbatch and Jesse Plemons play brothers, ranchers in 1920s Montana, who fall out when one marries a widow (Kirsten Dunst) with a young son (Kodi Smit-McPhee). The adaptation of Thomas Savage’s 1967 novel features a score by Jonny Greenwood, and yesterday, Film at Lincoln Center announced that it has selected The Power of the Dog to be the centerpiece presentation of this year’s New York Film Festival.

Today has seen another flurry of festival news, with Edinburgh (August 18 through 25) announcing its full lineup and San Sebastián (September 17 through 25) selecting thirteen filmmakers for its New Directors program. But the big story is the second round of titles slated to screen in Toronto (September 9 through 18).

A handful of the twenty films selected for the Contemporary World Cinema program premiered a few weeks ago in Cannes, including two major award winners. Both films center on young women struggling to free themselves from overbearing fathers. In Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović’s Murina, which won the Caméra d’Or (Cannes’s award for the best first feature), teenaged Julija (Gracija Filipović) and her mother both begin to dream of independence when an old family friend visits their isolated home in Croatia.

Interviewing Kusijanović for Filmmaker, Nicolas Rapold notes that the director “brilliantly orchestrates the build-up of tensions and the hide-and-seek of intentions and regrets among the four, blocking out subtly charged encounters, gazes, smiles, strides on and around the island the family calls home. DP Hélène Louvart, a frequent lyricist of youthful innocence for Eliza Hittman and Alice Rohrwacher, lets us feel the sunlight with an edge, and there’s an interplay of resilience and fragility in the film’s images.”

Russian director Kira Kovalenko’s Unclenching the Fists, in which young Ada (Milana Aguzarova) is practically being held prisoner in her home in a remote mining town, topped the Un Certain Regard awards. Writing for the Notebook, Leonardo Goi notes that the title, “by Kovalenko’s own admission, is a reference to Marco Bellocchio’s 1965 Fists in the Pocket—another portrait of a family living in close quarters, told entirely from the point of view of one of its younger members. But her film works opposite to Bellocchio’s. While Fists in the Pocket brimmed with an omnipresent, simmering tension, a tightening of body and spirit, Unclenching stays true to its name, and the script—penned by Kovalenko, Anton Yarush, and Lyubov Mulmenko—gestures toward a peculiar liberation.”

One of the sixteen films lined up for Toronto’s Discovery program, Aloners, the first feature from Korean director Hong Sung-eun, is also headed to San Sebastián. The story centers on a solitary woman who begins to question the direction her life is taking when her neighbor dies alone in his apartment. In its TIFF Rewind series of live conversations, the festival will host America Ferrera and Patricia Cardoso (Real Women Have Curves), Antoine Fuqua (Training Day), Viggo Mortensen (Eastern Promises), and Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy, and Catherine O’Hara (Best in Show).

Toronto has also added three gala presentations to the first round it announced last week, including Joachim Trier’s The Worst Person in the World. Renate Reinsve won the best actress award in Cannes for her performance as a woman unsure of what to do with her life. Today’s TIFF announcement wraps with eight additions to the lineup of special presentations—including Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog.

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