'Mudbound,' 'Mountain Between Us' & more heading to 2017 Toronto International Film Fest
Photo Credit: S & A
Festivals , Film

'Mudbound,' 'Mountain Between Us' & more heading to 2017 Toronto International Film Fest

The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), one of the world's most significant and long-considered a launching pad for studios and production companies with awards season contenders, unveiled the first round of titles that will screen at the 42nd annual event (in the Gala and Special Presentations sections specifically), which runs from September 7 to 17, 2017.

Of the 14 Galas and 33 Special Presentations, today's announcement includes 25 World Premieres, 8 International Premieres, 6 North American Premieres and 8 Canadian Premieres.

Garrett Hedlund, Mary J. Blige and Rob Morgan appear in Mudbound by Dee Rees, an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. © 2016 Sundance Institute |photo by Steve Dietl.

Of note, given this blog's specific interests is Dee Rees' much-anticipated Mudbound which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January to critical acclaim, en route to a Netflix pickup for a whopping $12.5 million, which was a record for this year's event. Netflix has yet to set an official release date for the film, although a TIFF presentation suggests they likely are planning an Oscar push for the film later this year.

A big-screen adaptation of Hillary Jordan’s 2009 novel of the same name, which is set in 1946 in the wake of World War II, the story follows the fates of two very different families that collide while struggling to make their dreams come true in the Mississippi Delta. When two celebrated soldiers return home, their unlikely friendship complicates the already fraught relationship between the families.

The film stars Carey Mulligan, Jason Mitchell, Rob Morgan, Mary J. Blige, Jason Clarke, Garrett Hedlund, Jonathan Banks.

"Mudbound" is co-financed by Charles D. King's MACRO.

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Joining Mudbound in the Gala section is the Idris Elba romantic drama The Mountain Between Us for Twentieth Century Fox - a project long been in development that was original set to star Charlie Hunnam and Rosamund Pike. Both were eventually replaced by Elba and Kate Winslet.

An adaptation of the best-selling novel by Charles Martin, the story centers on a man (Elba) and woman (Winslet), survivors of a plane crash in the wilderness, who fall in love.

The film is directed by Dutch-Palestinian filmmaker Hany Abu-Assad from a script that was initially adapted by Mills Goodloe and Scott Frank. Chris Weitz was tapped for a rewrite.

It reads like it could be a 2-character acting clinic, certainly has an Oscar-friendly storyline, which would obviously put Elba in a potentially prime position, especially after what many saw as an Oscar snub for his performance in Beasts of No Nation a year ago. Fox has set an October 6th, 2017 release for the film, in the thick of awards season, which is a sign of their expectations for it. And certainly Winslet is no slouch, and no stranger to Oscar, with 7 Academy Award nominations and 1 win to her credit.

And while  Abu-Assad may not be a household name, especially on this side of the Atlantic, his work, which dates back to the 1990s, has won him numerous international awards, include festival honors at the premieres like Cannes and Berlin.

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Also part of the Gala program is The Weinstein Co.’s American remake of the international blockbuster that was the French dramedy The Intouchables which helped make French actor Omar Sy a star.  It's also a role for which he won the Cesar (the French equivalent of the Oscars) in 2012, for Best Actor.

The remake stars Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston in the roles originated by Sy and Francois Cluzet.

Neil Burger is directing.

Story and character specifics for the remake have been kept mostly underwraps; the remake doesn't even have a title yet. The TIFF announcement calls it Untitled Bryan Cranston/Kevin Hart Film.

A Bryan Cranston/Kevin Hart pairing doesn't immediately register. Although maybe the  Weinsteins might be going for something less comedic and actually more dramatic, giving Hart atypical material to work with here. But a March 2018 release suggests that there are no Oscar plans for the film, even though the original French film was a multiple award winner for Omar Sy, picking up France's highest acting honors for his performance.

Joining Hart and Cranston in the film are Julianna Margulies, Nicole Kidman, Aja Naomi King and Jahi Winston.

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Next still in the Gala section is Turkish-French writer/director Deniz Gamze Ergüven making her English-language feature film debut with Kings, which stars Halle Berry and Daniel Craig, in a story that centers on a foster family set during the 1992 Los Angeles uprising that followed the acquittal of the police officers charged with the excessive beating of Rodney King.

Berry plays a "strong, protective" single mother living in South Central, Los Angeles, where the riots began in April 1992; and Craig portrays a loner who lives in South Central and falls in love with Berry’s character. When the riots erupt, he helps Berry in protecting her children from the violence.

Lamar Johnson, Kaalan Walker and Rachel Hilson are round out the film's key cast.

The project was picked up for distribution by The Orchard earlier this year, after what was reported to have been some competitive bidding from other players who were very impressed with what they were shown of the film. No USA release date has been set yet. But given the filmmaker's resume, and reaction to the film at the Cannes Film Market, this could very well be an awards season contender, after a world premiere at an international film festival like TIFF.

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And finally, of note in the Special Presentation section is Chad's foremost filmmaker, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, who heads to TIFF to premiere his next film, a dramatic feature titled A Season in France (Une Saison en France).

The film, described as an "asylum seeker love story," stars Eriq Ebouaney and Sandrine Bonnaire.

Ebouaney (who most Americans will likely remember as the lead in I Am Not Your Negro director Raoul Peck's Lumumba) stars as an asylum seeker in France - a teacher from the Central African Republic who happens to be a widower with 2 young children. While awaiting a decision on his application, he works in a food market in Paris to support himself and his kids where he meets a white French woman (played by Bonnaire) who eventually falls in love with him and offers him and his family a home.

The film is produced by Florence Stern of Pili Films; French sales company MK2 Films are repping A Season in France globally.

You'll find most of the above Gala and Special Presentation titles on the S&A 2018 Oscar predictions list.

“Every year we set the stage for film lovers of all ages and cultural backgrounds to come together and embrace the universal power of cinema,” said TIFF director Bailey. “As the Festival enters its fifth decade, we’ve challenged ourselves to adapt and build on our strengths, and we look forward to championing a new selection of films that will captivate and inspire global film audiences.”

More to come...

The 42nd Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 7 to 17, 2017.

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