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Movies that reflect the world: Piers Handling and Cameron Bailey's TIFF picks

World tensions are being tackled at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, which kicks off Thursday.

Titles including Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9” and “American Dharma” by Errol Morris look at politics, while the opioid crisis is explored in dramas including Peter Hedges’ “Ben is Back” and Felix van Groeningen’s “Beautiful Boy.”

Meanwhile, unconventional heroines are on offer in titles including Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut “A Star is Born,” Karyn Kusama’s “Destroyer,” and “Out of the Blue” by Carol Morley.

“There are some comedies as well, but on the whole it’s a pretty disruptive moment, a pretty uncertain moment,” says Piers Handling, director and CEO of TIFF.

“It’s a festival that reflects the world that’s going on right now.”

Here are some top TIFF 2018 picks from Handling and Cameron Bailey, the festival’s artistic director and soon-to-be co-head.


— The Korean mystery “Burning” by Lee Chang-dong, about a young man, his love interest and an interloper: “I felt it was maybe the best film that he has done as an artist. Love that film.”

— Oscar-winning director Pawel Pawlikowski’s Polish romantic drama “Cold War,” featuring two musical performers in post-war Eastern Europe: “I thought that was him at the height of his powers as a filmmaker.”

— Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Japanese social critique/family portrait “Shoplifters,” which won the Palme d’Or in Cannes: “A superb piece of work.”

— Damien Chazelle’s moon-landing drama “First Man,” starring Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong: “A very achieved, accomplished film.”

— Cooper’s “A Star is Born,” starring himself and Lady Gaga as touring musicians: “Achieves a very, very high level as an actor stepping behind the camera. He’s really pulled that off in his wonderful way.”

— “Good Girls” by Alejandra Marquez Abella, about the impact of Mexico’s 1982 economic crisis on a wealthy couple: “I thought it was wonderfully achieved.”

— Benjamin Naishtat’s “Rojo,” about the victims of the Argentina’s “dirty war” in the 1970s: “A film full of surprises narratively, it just kept me on the edge of my seat.”

Some of Handling’s other recommendations include “Boy Erased,” “Beautiful Boy,” “Destroyer,” and “Out of Blue.”


— Alfonso Cuaron’s semi-autobiographical “Roma,” about a middle-class family in 1970s Mexico City: “I was surprised that the man who made ‘Gravity,’ this big-budget fantasy spectacle set in outer space, would turn and go back to Mexico and made a very personal, intimate film.”

— Steve McQueen’s star-packed heist thriller “Widows”: “I was equally surprised that Steve McQueen, who won the Academy Award for ’12 Years a Slave,’ this really wrenching drama about one of the founding wounds in Western history, would turn around and make a heist movie for Fox called ‘Widows.'”

— Bailey said he was also surprised that master French filmmaker Claire Denis would helm a sci-fi movie called “High Life” with Robert Pattinson and Juliette Binoche: “These filmmakers who we think we know and we know them for doing one thing, they’re pivoting and doing something new, testing their skills in another area, and that’s been a real pleasure to watch.”