20 Films we want to see at TIFF 2017

We’ve been pouring over this year’s list of films that will be screening at the 42nd annual Toronto International Film Festival (September 7 to 17, 2017). How do you decide what to see? So many great choices!  We particularly are drawn to films coming from the East as the Festival is often the only chance to catch them here in Canada.

Individual tickets go on sale to the public online, by phone and in-person at the TIFF box office starting September 4 and TIFF members get a head start on September 2nd !

Here is what’s on our radar at first glance …

A FISH OUT OF WATER: Directed by Lai Kuo-An | Taiwan | World Premiere

A young boy becomes obsessed with finding his “past parents” who fished in a small village by the sea. His obsession prevents him from having a normal life of a child at home and at school. This is a film that finds the meaning and value of memories.  This is the first feature film by Taiwanese music-video and commercial director Lai Kuo-An.

A GENTLE NIGHT: Directed by Qui Yang | China, France | Canadian Premiere – Short

A desert mother contents with officials’s indifference and her own mounting guilt as she searches through the night for her missing teenage daughter. This film was awarded as Palme d’Or winner for Best Short at Cannes.

ALL YOU CAN EAT BUDDHA: Directed by Ian Lagarde | Canada | World Premiere

A mysterious man at an all inclusive resorts beings performing miracles, leading curious onlookers to believe he is perhaps connected to a higher power. This is Montreal-based filmmaker, Ian Lagarde’s feature debut.

ANGELS WEAR WHITE: Directed by Vivian Qu | China, France | North American Premiere

Chinese writer-director Vivan Qu (Trap Street) creates a moody modern-day noir with this thriller set in a sleepy seaside village, where a teenage motel receptionist and the young victim of a brutal assault are caught in an ever-tightening net of danger and violence. This is the second feature film from Vivian Qu.

DARK IS THE NIGHT: Directed by Adolfo Alix Jr. | Philippines | World Premiere

Filipino director Adolfo Alix Jr., one of the Philippines’ most adventurous independent filmmakers, returns to the Festival with this timely story of a couple caught up in Rodrigo Détente’s violent war on drugs when their son goes missing.

DRAGON EYES: Directed by Xu Bing | China, USA | North American Premiere

The mind-blowing debut feature of renowned Chinese artist Xu Bing is a fictional feature created entirely from surveillance-camera recordings, about a young woman whose life takes a series of unexpected turns after she leaves the Buddhist temple where she has lived most of her adult life.

BIRDS WITHOUT NAMES: Directed by Kazuya Shiraishi | Japan |World Premiere

An unstable young woman pines for the old boyfriend who nearly beat her to death, in director Kazuya Shiraishi’s gripping tale of eros, deprivation, and desire.

MAN HUNT: Directed by John Woo | Hong Kong, China |North American Premiere

Action maestro John Woo returns to the mold of his classic The Killer with this remake of a classic 1970s Japanese thriller, about an innocent man who sets out to clear his name after his is framed for robbery and rape. John Woo has directed features including A Better Tomorrow, Hard Target, Face/Off, Windtalkers, The Killer, Hard Boiled and others.

THE CONFORMIST: Directed by Cai Shangjun | China | North American Premiere

A police informant in a town on the Sino-Russian border finds his double life catching up with him, in director Cai Shangjun’s combination of crime movie and character study.

MEDITATION PARK: Directed by Mina Shum | Canada | World Premiere

Hong Kong born and Vancouver raised filmmaker, Mina Shum directs an all-star cast — including Cheng Pei Pei, Sandra Oh, Tzi Ma, and Don McKellar — in her latest feature, about a devoted wife and mother (Pei Pei) who is forced to reassess her reverence for her husband after she finds another woman’s thong in his laundry.

MRS. FANG: Directed by Wang Bing | France, China, Germany | North American Premiere

Celebrated documentarian Wang Bing (West of the Tracks, Three Sisters) returns with this deeply affecting, and disturbing, visual document of a dying elderly woman in a little village in southern China.

PAHUNA: THE LITTLE VISITORS: Directed by Paakhi A. Tyrewala | India | World Premiere

Three Nepalese children get separated from their parents while entering the Indian state of Sikkim and must rely on each other to survive, in Bollywood actor Paakhi A. Tyrewala’s newest work.

OH LUCY!: Directed by Atsuko Hirayangi | USA, Japan | North American Premiere

An aging Japanese office worker embraces her American alter ego and embarks on a comedic odyssey of desire, passion, and betrayal through Southern California, in the feature debut from Atsuko Hirayanagi.

RADIANCE: Directed by Naomi Kawase | Japan, France | North American Premiere

An audio-description writer and a photographer losing his eyesight form a personal connection that will allow each to see the world in new ways, in acclaimed director Naomi Kawase’s stunning new film.

SIGNATURE: Directed by Kei Chikaura |Japan | North American Premiere – Short

Given the everyday chaos that surrounds him as he walks through Tokyo’s Shibuya district, it’s easy for viewers to assume they know why a young Chinese visitor is so anxious. Yet the truth behind his situation is as startling and powerful as everything else in this taut drama by Japan’s Kei Chikaura.

THE THIRD MURDER: Directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda | Japan |North American Premiere

Festival favourite Hirokazu Kore-eda (Still Walking, Nobody Knows) takes a fascinating left turn with this intricate murder mystery, about a defense attorney who believes that his client — the self-confessed killer of a wealthy industrialist — is the fall guy for a sinister conspiracy.

SHUTTLE LIFE: Directed by Tan Seng Kiat | Malaysia | North American Premiere

An impoverished family attempts to cope with tragedy and mental illness in a very divided society, in Malaysian director Tan Seng Kiat’s feature debut.

THE CHINA HUSTLE: Directed by Jed Rothstein | USA | World Premiere

An unsettling and eye-opening Wall Street horror story about Chinese companies, the American stock market, and the opportunistic greed behind the biggest heist you’ve never heard of.

THE GREAT BUDDHA+: Directed by Huang Sin-Yao | Taiwan | International Premiere

The latest by Huang Sin-Yao is the most anticipated Taiwanese film of the year and an extension of Yao’s 2014 award-winning short, The Great Buddha.  follows a security guard and his best friend who become entangled in a web of dark secrets after stumbling upon videos that document the promiscuous meetings of a wealthy factory owner. Peppered with dry humour, this darkly comic misadventure is told in a style all Huang’s own.

YOUTH: Directed by Feng Xiaogang | China | World Premiere

Set in a military art troupe in 1970s China, Feng Xiaogang’s latest is a coming-of-age story about young people making peace with the past and making the most of the present.

What are you hoping to catch? I’ll be out on the TIFF circuit beginning September 5th with some fun insider’s access. Be sure to follow me @theculturepearl on Twitter and Instagram to see what’s going on!


Sonya is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of AZNmodern.com. She is also a well-established contributing lifestyle writer to other sites and magazines sharing her passion for arts & culture, fashion, beauty, travel and food. Sonya is based in Toronto, Canada. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @theculturepearl

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