Eight Platform Contenders in Toronto

Rabah Nait Oufella in Laurent Cantet’s Arthur Rambo (2021)

In 2015, Jia Zhangke, Claire Denis, and Agnieszka Holland served on the jury of the inaugural edition of Toronto’s Platform, a competitive program named after Jia’s 2000 film. This year, Riz Ahmed, who starred in a Platform contender in 2019, Darius Marder’s Sound of Metal, will preside over the jury. Eight films, all of them world premieres, will compete for the $25,000 prize.

Rabah Nait Oufella, who has appeared in Céline Sciamma’s Girlhood (2014), Julia Ducournau’s Raw (2016), and Bertrand Bonello’s Nocturama (2016), made his onscreen debut in Laurent Cantet’s The Class, the final film to screen in competition in Cannes in 2008. To the pleasant surprise of many, Cantet became the first French director to win the Palme d’Or since Maurice Pialat, who won in 1987 for Under the Sun of Satan. Nait Oufella will now star in Cantet’s newest film, Arthur Rambo, as a writer whose career is threatened when hateful comments he made years ago reappear on social media.

Lucile Hadžihalilović first collaborated with screenwriter Geoff Cox on Évolution (2015), and now they have adapted Brian Catling’s 2019 novel, Earwig. Catling is a sculptor, a performance artist, and “a genuine surrealist novelist,” according to Stuart Kelly, who reviewed Earwig for the Spectator. It’s a “slender book, but it is slender like a stiletto,” wrote Kelly. “If there is one defining feature of truly surreal literature, it is that it defies the imposition of meanings while retaining an affective hold on the reader. Oh, and horrifying them.” Albert, a fifty-year-old veteran of the First World War, is hired to look after ten-year-old Mia and regularly replace her ice dentures. She’s agoraphobic, so when Albert’s mysterious employer calls to tell him that she is to be taken to Paris, he is, as Kelly puts it, “in a quandary.”

Hany Abu-Assad, whose Paradise Now (2005) was the first Palestinian production to be nominated for an Oscar for best foreign-language film, is back with Huda’s Salon, which is being described as a “feminist thriller.” Two women—Huda (Manal Awad), who runs a hair salon in Bethlehem, and Reem (Maisa Abd Elhadi), a customer and young mother—become tight friends. That is, until Huda blackmails Reem into working for the Israeli secret service.

Interviewing Scott McGehee and David Siegel for Filmmaker in 2009, Brandon Harris noted that their debut feature, Suture (1993), was “an austere, black-and-white thriller starring Dennis Haysbert that took Toronto and Sundance by storm.” They have since directed Tilda Swinton in The Deep End (2001), “a startlingly effective update of Max Ophuls’ The Reckless Moment (1949),” and Julianne Moore in What Maisie Knew (2012). Their new film, Montana Story, centers on two estranged siblings (Haley Lu Richardson and Owen Teague) who return to their sprawling ranch to confront their bitter family legacy.

The Platform lineup also includes Ivan Grbovic’s Drunken Birds, a story of lovers fleeing a drug cartel to Canada; Indonesian director Kamila Andini’s Yuni, in which a young woman worries that rejecting a third proposal may mean she will never marry; Jenna Cato Bass’s Good Madam, a satirical horror movie about domestic labor in Cape Town; and Aga Woszczyńska’s Silent Land, in which a Polish couple’s relationship begins to unravel while they are vacationing in Italy.

Toronto artistic director Cameron Bailey calls Celebrating Alanis, a program dedicated to the work of Alanis Obomsawin, the centerpiece of this year’s festival. “Her voice as a filmmaker, musician, visual artist, and activist has been consistent,” he writes. “She tells the stories of how Indigenous people in Canada have resisted injustice and abuse inflicted by the most powerful authorities a country can have, and how those people have fought back in the streets and in the courts.” Toronto has also unveiled its short film lineup and added three films to its program—Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Memoria, Asghar Farhadi’s A Hero, and Pablo Larraín’s Spencer—that will be presented as special events. Details are forthcoming.

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