10 must-see films directed by women at TIFF 2017

We're looking forward to the latest films from Clio Barnard, Jenna Bass, Greta Gerwig, Lynn Shelton and Annemarie Jacir

As you may have heard, fully one-third of the features and documentaries screening at TIFF this year are directed or co-directed by women, with even larger representation in the shorts and proper gender parity in the juried Platform program.

It seems ludicrous to have to point it out, but this is an unambiguously good thing: representation leads to inspiration, and inspiration leads to more art.

Here are 10 female-forward features that I’m really looking forward to seeing at the festival. 

Dark River

Her artful documentary The Arbor and her brilliant first feature The Selfish Giant established Clio Barnard as one of the greatest filmmakers working in the United Kingdom now, she’s back at TIFF with a drama starring The Affair’s Ruth Wilson as a woman who returns to her family’s Yorkshire farm to find it seething with secrets. This one’s in Platform.

Sep 10, 9 pm Winter Garden Sep 12, 3:30 pm TIFF Bell Lightbox 2 Sep 17 TIFF Bell Lightbox 1.


Les Fort Des Fous

Le Fort Des Fous

Algerian filmmaker Narimane Mari follows her 2013 debut Bloody Beans with another politically charged work: this one’s nothing if not ambitious, being a study of imperialism and colonization in three discrete acts. Shot in Algeria, Kythira Island and Greece, it promises to be one of the most challenging films at the festival. Can’t wait to see it.

Sep 11, 6 pm, AGO Sep 14, 11:30 am, TIFF Bell Lightbox 4.


High Fantasy

High Fantasy

Emerging South African writer/director Jenna Bass (The One You Love) uses a body-swapping gimmick to explore issues of race, gender and sexuality among her country’s millennials. Shot in the middle of nowhere with an iPhone 7 for extra indie cred, but it looks like it works.

Sep 8, 10 pm Scotiabank 11 Sep 10, 5 pm TIFF Bell Lightbox 4 Sep 16, 9:30 pm Scotiabank 8.


Lady Bird

Lady Bird

Greta Gerwig has worked behind the camera before, co-writing Frances Ha and Mistress America with her partner Noah Baumbach and co-directing the mumblecore drama Nights And Weekends with co-star Joe Swanberg. She’s flying solo with this drama about a Catholic high school girl (Saoirse Ronan) trying to figure out her future, and I’m eager to see what she can do.

Sep 8, 9 pm, Ryerson Sep 9, 7 pm, Scotiabank 2 Sep 16, 8:45 pm, Elgin.


One Of Us

One Of Us

In 2006, Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady’s Jesus Camp showed us Christian fundamentalism from the inside out a decade later, the pair investigate the Jewish side of the coin, exploring New York’s Hasidic community through the eyes of three people who’ve left it. It’s sure to be divisive hopefully it’ll also be enlightening.

Sep 10, 9 pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox 2 Sep 12, 12:30 pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox 2 Sep 15, 12:15 pm, Scotiabank 14 Sep 17, 11:45 am, Scotiabank 4.


Outside In

Outside In

American indie director Lynn Shelton specializes in stories of lost souls, whether expressed comedically (Humpday, Laggies) or more thoughtfully (Your Sister’s Sister, Touchy Feely). Her latest casts Transparent’s Jay Duplass as an ex-con drawn into the lives of his high-school teacher (Edie Falco) and her teenage daughter (Detroit’s Kaitlyn Dever), so I’m thinking it’s one of the more thoughtful ones. But let’s see,

Sep 8, 6 pm, Ryerson Sep 9, 10 am, TIFF Bell Lightbox 2 Sep 16, 9 am, Scotiabank 1.


Luke Evans in Professor Marston & The Wonder Women

Professor Marston & The Wonder Women

Angela Robinson’s drama charts the unconventional relationship between married academics William and Elizabeth Marston (Luke Evans, Rebecca Hall) and student Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote) – and how it led to the creation of the comic-book Amazon who’d become a symbol of female empowerment. Arriving just months after Patty Jenkins’s triumphant Wonder Woman movie, the timing couldn’t be better.

Sep 12, 6 pm, Princess Of Wales Sep 13, 3 pm, Elgin Sep 15, 3 pm, Elgin Sep 16, 9:15 pm, Winter Garden.




French writer/director Coralie Fargeat’s first feature sounds like a 21st century update of I Spit On Your Grave, with a young woman (Matilda Lutz, seen earlier this year in Rings) exacting brutal vengeance upon the rich assholes who’ve assaulted her at an island getaway. Given the general tenor of this year’s Midnight Madness offerings – and the recent cultural surge in female action protagonists – I’m curious to see what perspective Fargeat can bring to this particular subgenre.

Sep 10, 11:59 pm, Ryerson Sep 11, 3:45 pm, Scotiabank 11 Sep. 16, 3:30 pm, Scotiabank 7.




Annemarie Jacir’s Salt Of This Sea and When I Saw You established the Palestinian director on the festival circuit as a humanistic rather than explicitly political storyteller her new film, about an estranged father and son forced back together to deliver wedding invitations in Nazareth, suggests she’s found her groove.

Sep 9, 7:15 pm, Scotiabank 4 Sep 11, 1:45 pm, Scotiabank 4 Sep 15, 9:15 pm, Scotiabank 14.


Woman Walks Ahead

Woman Walks Ahead

Susanna White follows last year’s John Le Carré thriller Our Kind Of Traitor with this historical drama about the friendship between New York artist Catherine Weldon (Jessica Chastain) and Chief Sitting Bull (Michael Greyeyes). I’ll be there for anything Chastain does, and White’s carved out an interesting career over the years, so I’m curious to see how they work together. (Also, Sam Rockwell is in it – and he’s having quite the year.)

Sep 10, 9:30 pm, Roy Thomson Hall Sep 11, 2:15 pm, Scotiabank 1 Sep 15, 1:30 pm, Winter Garden.

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