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Lady Gaga making her feature film debut in Bradley Cooper’s A Star Is Born

Seven must-see films from the Toronto International Film Festival

Including Lady Gaga’s feature film debut and Barry Jenkins’ first film after Moonlight

The Toronto International Film Festival has unveiled its first slate of films, which includes many of the year's most hotly anticipated titles from the likes of Claire Denis, Barry Jenkins, and Steve McQueen. A landmark stop on the prestige festival circuit following Telluride and Venice, TIFF has become a bellwether for the Oscar season, generating buzz for its premieres that lasts through the end of the year as well as shoring up those which have premiered elsewhere. Recent movies that rode acclaim out of Toronto all the way to the Dolby Theater include Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri; The Shape Of Water; I, Tonya; Moonlight; and La La Land. Below, find out which titles we're most looking forward to seeing at the festival this year, with more announcements to come.


Denis’s first English-language film stars Robert Pattinson, Mia Goth, and Juliette Binoche as a group of criminals tricked into a spaceship mission toward a Black Hole, during which they find themselves the subjects of sexual experimentation by onboard scientists. With a stellar cast and an out-of-this-world plot that promises both adventure and melodrama, Denis’s follow-up to Let The Sunshine In cannot come soon enough.


It’s hard to believe it’s been five years since Steve McQueen’s Best Picture-winning 12 Years a Slave hit theatres, and his follow-up could not be a greater departure. An action thriller starring Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki, Michelle Rodriguez, and Cynthia Erivo as four women united by grief over the deaths of their crime boss husbands, the film depicts what happens when the widows take on their husbands’ debts to forge a future on their own terms.


Bradley Cooper’s A Star Is Born is the third remake of the 1937 classic starring Janet Gaynor (Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand have each taken a turn in the lead role). Our generation’s version stars none other than Lady Gaga in her feature film debut, already generating buzz both for her acting and the film’s original songs by Lukas Nelson (son of Willie). Originally, Clint Eastwood was meant to direct Beyoncé in this film, but based on the trailer alone, Cooper is poised to break out as the next actor/director worth banking on.


Closing the Special Presentations Programme is Shoplifters, the Palme d’Or-winning film from Japanese master filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda, which is already enjoying a successful run in Japan. The film, about a family of misfits who are struggling to make ends meet in a cruel urban world, is equal parts social critique and family drama. Currently sitting at 100 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s the kind of heartbreaking fare that will do will in the Foreign Language race come 2019.


Denis isn’t the only French master making their English-language debut. The inimitable Jacques Audiard (A Prophet, Rust and Bone, and the Palme d’Or-winning Dheepan) will premiere his western dark comedy starring Joaquin Phoenix and John C. Reilly as notorious assassins Eli and Charlie Sisters who are tracking a prospector who stole from their father. Also starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Riz Ahmed, and Carole Kane, the movie is stacked below the line talent like composer Alexandre Desplat and cinematographer Benoît Debie (Spring Breakers), making this standout as a movie that could sneak into the conversation come September.


How do you follow up Moonlight? For Barry Jenkins, who became a directorial sensation with his breakthrough Best Picture-winning film, the answer to that question seems to be to turn to the classics that formed you. Based on the novel by James Baldwin, the film is a 1970s-set love story and drama set in Harlem, where a soon-to-be-father is falsely accused of and imprisoned for rape. Never one to shy away from big themes, Jenkins will have an opportunity to show the way he handles socially relevant subject matter in a period setting, and it could prove a breakout film for virtually unknown leads Kiki Layne and Stephan James.


Not much is known about Cuarón’s Roma, the Oscar-winning director’s follow up to 2013’s Gravity, but what we do know is that it’s shot in black and white, and is a ’70s-set autobiographical family drama that takes place in Mexico. If it sounds much smaller in scope than the technologically groundbreaking world of the Sandra Bullock space/disaster epic, the film is also said to majestically build worlds that transcend emotion, time, and space, while boasting a state-of-the-art score unlike anything ever heard in film. If Cuarón has taught us anything, it’s to expect greatness.