Documentaries, biopics and cameos part of music star power at film fest
By: Karen Bliss
The 47th Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), which runs from Sept. 8 through 18, features about 200 films — and a small portion of them are music-related: documentaries, biopics, previews of TV series, or perhaps with a musician-actor or actor-musician in the cast.
There are docs on David Bowie, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Tupac, Louis Armstrong, Tanya Tagag and Tanya Tucker, while Weird Al is the subject of a biopic. Harry Styles has a major part in My Policeman; Tegan and Sara see their coming-of-age memoir adapted into a series; and Lido Pimienta previews her new variety show.
We’ve combed through the schedule and put together a list of the music or music-related offerings. Tickets are on sale now on TIFF.net or, if sold out, try the same-day box office or rush lines.
Ever Deadly (Canada)
Screening: Fri., Sept. 9, Scotiabank Theatre, 9:30pm; Wed., Sept. 14, TIFF Bell Lightbox, 5 pm; Sun., Sept. 18, TIFF Bell Lightbox, 1 pm
Also online: Tue., Sept. 13, digital TIFF Bell Lightbox
Availability: Canada, 10 am
Juno Award- and Polaris Music Prize-winning experimental throat singer Tanya Tagaq co-wrote and co-directed the film with award-winning director Chelsea McMullan, bringing the crew to Nunavut to mix performance with historical perspective.
Moonage Daydream (USA)
NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE
Screening: Mon., Sept. 12, Cinesphere IMAX Theatre, 9:30 pm; Wed., Sept 14, Scotiabank Theatre, 4 pm
Director Brett Morgen (Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck) has created this impressive, genre-busting documentary on the late David Bowie, told in his own words from decades of interviews. Includes performance clips of Moonage Daydream, Space Oddity, Sound and Vision and Heroes.
Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On (Canada)
Screening: Thurs., Sept. 8, TIFF Bell Lightbox, 8:30 pm; Fri., Sept. 9, Scotiabank Theatre, 5:30 pm; Sat., Sept. 17 Scotiabank Theatre, 12 pm
Directed by Madison Thomas, the documentary explores the trailblazing life of the legendary Indigenous singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie. Appearances include Joni Mitchell, Robbie Robertson, John Kay, Jackson Browne, Taj Mahal and Jeremy Dutcher.
Dear Mama (USA)
Screening: Thurs., Sept. 15, TIFF Bell Lightbox, 7 pm
In a deal with Tupac Shakur’s estate, Allen Hughes (The Defiant Ones) of The Hughes Brothers was tapped to direct a five-part TV docu-series, Outlaw: The Saga of Afeni and Tupac Shakur. The title of this episode is taken from a song on the late rapper’s 1995 album, Me Against the World.
Louis Armstrong’s Black & Blue (USA)
Screening: Thurs., Sept. 8, TIFF Bell Lightbox, 6 pm; Sat., Sept. 10, Scotiabank Theatre, 2:45 pm; Sun., Sept. 18, Scotiabank Theatre, 11:45 am
Late jazz trumpeter and singer Louis Armstrong made audio diaries, which director Sacha Jenkins (Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men) uses — along with archival footage of his peers Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie and Artie Shaw — to help reveal a different side of the legend. The correspondence is read by rapper Nas.
A Jazzman’s Blues (USA)
Screening: Sun., Sept. 11, Roy Thomson Hall, 6 pm; Mon., Sept. 12, TIFF Bell Lightbox, 12:30 pm; Sun., Sept. 18, TIFF Bell Lightbox, 9 am
A Jazzman’s Blues is the first screenplay Tyler Perry ever wrote, and he directs the movie, which stars Joshua Boone, Amirah Vann, Solea Pfieffer, Austin Scott, Milauna Jackson, Lana Young and Ryan Eggold. It’s a murder mystery injected with musical numbers with songs by Terence Blanchard, choreography by Debbie Allen and music by composer Aaron Zigman.
At the Sun., Sept. 11 world premiere screening at Roy Thomson Hall, singer-songwriter Ruth B. will perform Paper Airplanes, the live debut of the song which multi-platinum artist Ruth B. wrote and recorded with two-time Academy Award nominee and five-time Grammy winner Terence Blanchard specifically for the film. The track was produced by Oscar and Grammy winning producer, D’Mile and Ruth B.
Weird: The Al Yancovic Story (USA)
Screening: Thurs., Sept. 8, Royal Alexandra Theatre, 11:59 pm; Fri., Sept. 9, TIFF Bell Lightbox, 12:15 pm; Sun., Sept. 18, TIFF Bell Lightbox, 9 am
Daniel Radcliffe stars as “Weird Al” Yankovic in this biopic about the king of parody songs. Director Eric Appel co-wrote the screenplay with Yancovic and the cast includes Evan Rachel Wood, Rainn Wilson, Toby Huss, Arturo Castro and Julianne Nicholson.
High School (USA,Canada)
Screening: Sat., Sept. 10, TIFF Bell Lightbox, 2 pm
Based on Tegan and Sara’s best-selling memoir about their high school years, this is a first glimpse at the TV series from Clea DuVall and Laura Kittrell, and starring fellow twins Railey and Seazynn Gilliland as Tegan and Sara respectively. The show features a soundtrack by the likes of The Smashing Pumpkins, Violent Femmes and Green Day.
My Policeman (UK, USA)
Screening: Sun., Sept. 11, Princess of Wales Theatre, 6:30 pm; Mon., Sept. 12, Scotiabank Theatre, 12 pm; Fri., Sept. 16, Princess of Wales Theatre, 2 pm; Sat., Sept. 17, Royal Alexandra Theatre, 1:30 pm
Harry Styles co-stars in this adaptation of Bethan Roberts’s novel, written by Ron Nyswaner and directed by Michael Grandage. The story follows the lives of three people: policeman Tom (Harry Styles/Linus Roache), teacher Marion (Emma Corrin/Gina McKee) and museum curator Patrick (David Dawson/Rupert Everett).
The Return of Tanya Tucker: Featuring Brandi Carlile (USA)
Screening: Sun., Sept. 11, Scotiabank Theatre, 6 pm; Mon., Sept. 12, Scotiabank Theatre, 11:45 am; Sat., Sept. 17, Scotiabank Theatre, 9:30 am
Director Kathlyn Horan captures country legend Tanya Tucker in the studio creating her first album of original music in 17 years, with singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile at the production helm with Shooter Jennings. The resulting While I’m Livin’ won a Grammy for best country album and Bring My Flowers Now for best country song.
Lido TV (Canada, Colombia)
Screening: Sun., Sept. 11, Scotiabank Theatre, 5:15 pm
Created and hosted by Polaris Music Prize-winning artist Lido Pimienta, LIDO TV is a variety show like no other: part Pee Wee’s Playhouse, part left-wing 60 Minutes and exploring themes of colonialism, beauty and feminism while still being funny. Guests on this CBC GEM series include Nelly Furtado, Bear Witness and Kittie.
Miúcha, The Voice of Bossa Nova (Brazil, France)
Portuguese, English, French
Screening: Tues., Sept. 13, Scotiabank Theatre, 5:45 pm; Wed., Sept. 14, Scotiabank Theatre, 5:40 pm
Brazilian bossa nova singer Miúcha, who died in December 2018 at age 81, was under-appreciated and under-recognized. Director Daniel Zarvos, her cousin, and co-director Liliane Mutti tell her story by using personal letters, journals, audio diaries, home movies and the singer’s watercolour drawings (animated for the film).
On the Come Up (USA)
Screening: Thurs., Sept. 8, Princess of Wales Theatre, 9:30 pm; Fri., Sept. 9, TIFF Bell Lightbox 2 pm; Thurs., Sept. 15, TIFF Bell Lightbox, 2:45 pm; Sun., Sept. 18, TIFF Bell Lightbox, 12:30 pm
Sanaa Lathan’s debut feature is based on the New York Times best-selling novel by Angie Thomas about a teen rapper who wants to follow in her father’s footsteps and become an underground hip hop star. Method Man, Lil Yachty and GaTa are in the cast.
Screening: Sun., Sept. 11, Princess of Wales Theatre, 3:30 pm; Mon., Sept. 12, Scotiabank Theatre, 9:35 pm; Fri., Sept. 16, Scotiabank Theatre, 9 pm
Described as an “opulent” historical drama, the film is based on the true story of Black composer and violin virtuoso Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745–1799) played by Kelvin Harrison Jr. The cast includes Samara Weaving, Lucy Boynton, Ronke Adekolujoe, Marton Csokas, Alex Fitzalan and Minnie Driver.
Screening: Mon., Sept. 12, Cinesphere IMAX Theatre, 6 pm; Wed., Sept. 14, Cinesphere IMAX Theatre, 9 pm; Thurs., Sept. 15, Cinesphere IMAX Theatre, 5:30 pm
Joe Jonas has a role in this JD Dillard-directed film set during the Korean War and focused on the U.S. Navy’s first Black aviator and his wingman. Adapted from Adam Makos’s bestseller, it’s screening only in IMAX at TIFF because of the aerial sequences. The cast includes Jonathan Majors, Glen Powell, Christina Jackson and Thomas Sadoski.
Screening: Sun., Sept. 11, TIFF Bell Lightbox, 11:30 am; Tue., Sept. 13, Scotiabank Theatre, 2:50 pm
Digital: Thurs., Sept. 15, digital TIFF Bell Lightbox, availability: Canada, 10 am
Eva Avila — whom you might remember from Canadian Idol, the 2017 TV series The Bold Type or the 2018 movie Swap — appears in this film, directed by Katherine Jerkovic. The story follows a widower’s estranged daughter who shows up with a grandson he didn’t know about. The cast also includes Jorge Martinez Colorado and Enzo Desmeules Saint-Hilaire.
The Young Arsonists (Canada)
Screening: Sun., Sept. 11, Scotiabank Theatre, 2:15 pm; Wed., Sept. 14, Scotiabank Theatre, 6:15 pm
Canadian opera star Measha Brueggergosman is part of the cast for this film by director
Sheila Pye. Taking place in the summertime in rural Canada in the ’80s, the film follows four teenage girls running from family trauma. The cast includes Maddy Martin, Jenna Warren, Sadie Rose, Madison Baines, Aaron Poole, Miranda Calderon, Kyle Meagher, Joe Bostick and Lorcan DaSilva-Déiseach.
In Conversation With ... Taylor Swift and All Too Well: The Short Film (USA)
Screening: Fri., Sept. 9, TIFF Bell Lightbox, 7 pm
Taylor Swift is a late addition to the TIFF lineup. TIFF will premiere her 2021 creation, All Too Well: The Short Film — which she directed, wrote, produced and appeared in — on 35 mm. She then joins TIFF CEO Cameron Bailey to discuss filmmaking and the visual aspects of her music.
There’s a few other music connections to some other films. Drake and Future are among the executive producers of Black Ice, a documentary by Hubert Davis about the role of Black players in Canadian hockey. Greatest Beer Run Ever, directed by Peter Farrelly includes Zac Efron (High School Musical, Hairspray, The Greatest Showman) and Russell Crowe (also a musician), based on the true story of a wartime quest to bring back a cold one to the troops in Vietnam. Ciné-Guerrillas: Scenes from the Labudovic Reels from director Mila Turajlic, about the Algerian War for independence, includes a first-hand account of Miriam Makeba’s Ifrikya, written for the Algerian revolt. Also, in the gigantic list of expected guests attending TIFF 2022 are Mustafa and Naughty Boy, but the TIFF press office hasn’t revealed to which film they are connected.
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