TIFF 2018: Midnight Madness, doc slates include Halloween and Herzog

The Predator and Michael Myers are back to haunt the late-night crowd, while Michael Moore, Errol Morris, Werner Herzog and Frederick Wiseman bring new docs to the fest


Midnight Madness audiences will be the first to welcome back two classic genre icons, as the Toronto International Film Festival launches the world premieres of The Predator and Halloween.

The Predator – written and directed by Shane Black, who played the skinniest member of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s doomed strike team in the original 1987 Predator – stars Boyd Holbrook, Keegan-Michael Key, Sterling K. Brown, Olivia Munn and Room’s Jacob Tremblay as the latest meatbags to go up against the race of extraterrestrial sport-hunters. It’s set to open this year’s program on September 6.

Halloween, in which director David Gordon Green (who co-wrote the film with actor Danny McBride) brings back Jamie Lee Curtis for a direct sequel to John Carpenter’s 1978 horror classic, will screen later in the festival. If it’s not immediately the hottest ticket of the festival, Midnight Madness programmer Peter Kuplowsky has gravely misjudged his audience… and so have I.

Also making their world premieres in the program are Peter Strickland’s In Fabric, a tale of an accursed dress from UK stylist Peter Strickland (Berberian Sound Studio, The Duke Of Burgundy) that stars Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Gwendoline Christie and Julian Barrett, and The Wind, a supernatural Western starring Caitlin Gerard and Succession’s Ashley Zukerman that marks the feature debut of documentary filmmaker Emma Tammi.

But wait, there are more: The Man Who Feels No Pain, an action-comedy from India’s Vasan Bala Nekrotronic, an Australian horror comedy about an internet demon hunter (I think) from Wyrmwood: Road Of The Dead writer/director Kiah Roache-Turner, and The Standoff At Sparrow Creek, a militia-themed thriller starring James Badge Dale – who’s also at the festival with Donnybrook – from first-time feature director Henry Dunham. Judging from its placement here, I can only assume the eponymous situation ends in a spectacular bloodbath.

Sam Levinson’s much-buzzed Sundance hit Assassination Nation will make its Canadian premiere in the program, while Gaspar Noé’s latest provocation, Climax, makes its North American bow. And the series wraps up on September 15 with the North American premiere of Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt’s Diamantino, starring Carloto Cotta as a celebrity soccer player who embarks on a surrealistic odyssey in search of his lost mojo.

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Nafis Azad

Documentarian Errol Morris turns a lens on former Trump strategist Steve Bannon (pictured) in American Dharma.

TIFF DOCS TAKE ON TRUMP, BANNON AND AILES

The festival also added two dozen titles to the TIFF Docs slate, which sees the return of a number of old friends.

Michael Moore takes on the presidency of Donald Trump in Fahrenheit 11/9, which opens this year’s program as a world premiere. Further along the political spectrum, Errol Morris’s American Dharma zooms in on Steve Bannon, the man who steered Trump to the White House. (Does this constitute a Zealot Trilogy for Morris, after his films on Robert McNamara and Donald Rumsfeld? I will ask.)

Werner Herzog returns with his latest project, Meeting Gorbachev, co-directed by André Singer, and Frederick Wiseman – at 88, almost certainly the oldest filmmaker at TIFF this year – is here with his latest social study, Monrovia, Indiana.

Mark Cousins, director of the 15-hour miniseries The Story Of Cinema will screen at least some portion of his newest project, the 16-hour Women Make Film: A New Road Movie Through Cinema, narrated by Tilda Swinton, and Margarethe Von Trotta, here at the festival as one of this year’s Platform jurors, will close TIFF Docs with Searching For Ingmar Bergman.

Armadillo director Janus Metz, whose dramatic feature Borg/McEnroe opened last year’s festival, comes back to reality for Heartbound: A Different Kind Of Love Story, which looks at the growing trend of Danish men marrying Thai women in the Jutland region of Denmark. Alexis Bloom’s Divide And Conquer: The Story Of Roger Ailes unpacks the life of the founder of Fox News. And Tom Donahue’s This Changes Everything explores gender imbalance in Hollywood with a roster that includes everyone from Amber Tamblyn to Zoe Saldana.

As usual, there are few documentaries about artists. Netflix’s Quincy – in which Rashida Jones and co-director Alan Hicks examine the life and legacy of her father, the legendary music producer – is likely to be the most star-studded event. Tom Volf’s Maria By Callas tackles the life of the soprano who defined opera in the 20th century and Andrey Paounov’s Walking On Water follows the design and execution of Christo’s Floating Piers project and Jawad Rhalib’s When Arabs Danced looks at Muslim performers who push societal boundaries.

Maxim Pozdorovkin, whose collage documentary Our New President was a highlight of this year’s Hot Docs festival, comes to TIFF with his new project The Truth About Killer Robots – described as a film about “the lethal consequences of automation” – and Cocaine Cowboys director Billy Corben is here with Screwball, a “true-crime comedy” about doping in baseball.

Vitaly Mansky, who exposed the inner workings of North Korea in Under The Sun, tackles another authoritarian regime in Putin’s Witnesses Rithy Panh, director of the haunting The Missing Picture, returns to the subject of the Cambodian genocide with Graves Without A Name Alex Holmes celebrates the first all-women sailing crew to race around the world in Maiden Shannon Service and Jeff Waldron’s Ghost Fleet documents a rescue at sea and E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin’s Free Solo follows Alex Honnold’s free climb up El Capitan.

The Elephant Queen, narrated by Chiwetel Ejiofor, is the latest from wildlife documentarians Victoria Stone and Mark Deeble James Longley’s Angels Are Made Of Light looks at the relationship between Afghani teachers and their students John Chester’s The Biggest Little Farm documents life on a family farm over eight years and Naziha Arebi’s Freedom Fields follows a Libyan women’s soccer team trying to stay focused as their nation slides into civil war.

The Toronto International Film Festival runs September 6-16. More information on this year’s programming is available on the festival’s website.

normanw@nowtoronto.com | @normwilner

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