TIFF line up features a few select gems from the MENA

Among the films premiering in Toronto are 'A Gaza Weekend', the much anticipated feature debut by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Basil Khalil and the real-life tale of Syrian sisters Olympians 'The Swimmers' which kicks off the festival on September 8th.
TIFF line up features a few select gems from the MENA

The Toronto International Film Festival has finally unveiled its entire selection for this year's edition, which will run from September 8th to the 18th. Films will be screened around the Canadian city in venues that include the TIFF Bell Lightbox, the festival's main hub, as well as Roy Thomson Hall, the Visa Screening Room at the Princess of Wales Theatre and, for the first time this year, the Royal Alexandra Theatre -- a beaux-arts style venue built in 1907, which offers a capacity of over 1,000 seats and a historic past, complete with movie stars.

TIFF’s Industry Conference, offering diverse and innovative perspectives on the art and business of film, will take place in person September 9–13 at the Glenn Gould Studio, with business activity taking place at our Industry Centre located at the Hyatt Regency Toronto on King Street. And there is a TIFF Tribute Awards gala fundraiser which will take place on Sunday, September 11 at the Fairmont Royal York.

After two years of virtual and semi-online editions, TIFF also marks the return of its beloved TIFF Festival Street, where part of King Street — from Peter Street to University Avenue — will be celebrating all things film. The free family-friendly street festival will feature live performances, partner activations, and outdoor screenings September 8–11, 2022.

The festival will kick off with a Gala Premiere of The Swimmers by Sally El Hosaini, the Netflix adaptation of real-life sisters Yusra and Sarah Mardini's path from Syrian refugees to the 2016 Olympics. In the film, the sisters are played by Manal Issa and Nathalie Issa.

There are also a few titles moving over from Venice and Cannes, a typical thing for Toronto which aims to present the films to North American audiences and distributors. Among these, Jafar Panahi's No Bears, the Iranian horror film Holy Spider by Ali Abbasi, the Pakistani trans story Joyland by Saim Sadiq and Maryam Touzani's unconventional love story The Blue Kaftan -- all screening as Special Presentations.

Discovery is where much-anticipated titles world premiere and this year is no exception. In the past, the section has included debuts and second features from such currently world-renowned, and multi-awarded filmmakers as Chantal Akerman, Jafar Panahi, Yorgos Lanthimos, Christopher Nolan, Pablo Larraín, Steve McQueen and Barry Jenkins. Featured in Discovery, this year comes the Israeli/German title The Taste of Apples is Red, a Golan Heights-set drama on the Druze community by Syrian filmmaker Ehab Tarabieh and starring Makram Koury.

And of course, one of our most-anticipated titles, Basil Khalil's A Gaza Weekend, (pictured above) a UK/Palestine co-production featuring the story of a "bumbling Englishman and an uptight Israeli" who become desperate to get into the Gaza strip after a virus breaks out, closing the borders between Israel and its neighbors. The film stars Stephen Mangan, Mouna Hawa, Loai Noufi and Maria Zreik and Protagonist Pictures is handling international sales. Written before the start of the pandemic, it sure sounds like a title up to date and with Khalil's known humor it becomes a certain must-watch.

Also notable in the TIFF Discovery section, is the Turkish title Snow and the Bear by Selcen Ergun, and it must be noted that all the films are eligible for the coveted TIFF Audience Choice Award.

Subtraction by the Iranian Mani Haghighi plays in Platform where previous titles have included Hany Abu-Assad’s Huda’s Salon, as well as Jackie by Pablo Larraín. But also Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight in 2016, which then famously went on to win Best Picture at the Oscars in 2017.

There is also a short film by Toronto-based Iranian filmmaker and artist Parastoo Anoushahpour titled The Time That Separates Us, a Canada/Jordan/ Palestine co-production, as well as an exhibition featuring Moroccan artist Meriem Bennani: Life on the CAPS (2022) and 2 Lizards (2020) at the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, from September 9–18.

For the full program, check out the website.

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