Here's a list of the animated films (including films that have animation sequences) playing at Toronto International Film Festival, Sept 10-20, 2015. Click on the film title for more info.
Joris Oprins, Marieke Blaauw, Job Roggeveen; Netherlands
Short Cuts Programme 7
A little girl accidentally leaves her imaginary baby brother behind at a restaurant — and suddenly, for a nearby childless couple, the definition of "baby" takes on a new and completely unexpected dimension.
BACON & GOD'S WRATH
Sol Friedman; Canada
Short Cuts Programme 3
In this endearing and playful mixed-media docu-collage, ninety-year-old Razie's discovery of "the Google" leads her to a reckoning with her lifelong Jewish faith.
Howie Shia; Canada
Short Cuts Programme 11
A young boxer struggles to contain the rage roiling inside him. Rendered in a spare but powerful style, this animated study in anger shifts from outbursts of brutal force to moments of quieter poignancy.
THE MAGNIFICENT LIFE UNDERWATER
Joël Vaudreuil; CanadaS
Short Cuts Programme 5
In this absurd animated parody of a classic undersea adventure show, an authoritative narrator reveals the wonders and mysteries of the sea — although the banal habits of these homely aquatic creatures are oddly familiar.
Amanda Strong, Bracken Hanuse Corlett; Canada
Short Cuts Programme 7
Transformed into a salmon, an isolated Indigenous street artist travels through decayed cityscapes to ancient forests. This sublime mixed animation asserts the power of cultural memory and Indigenous presence in urban lands.
Theodore Ushev; Canada
Short Cuts Programme 6
A Federico García Lorca poem provides the inspiration — and Balkan beat wave artist Kottarashky provides the infectious soundtrack — for animator Theodore Ushev's surrealist romantic fantasia.
Cécile Paysant; France
Short Cuts Programme 2
A tentative young hunter sets out into the wilderness under the tutelage of his seasoned father. But the rite of passage leads to increasingly surreal and grisly developments in this stop-motion animated marvel by France's Cécile Paysant.
Leanne Pooley; New Zealand
On the 25th of April, 1915, thousands of young men from New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, and Newfoundland (thirty-four years before it joined Canada) stormed the beaches on the Gallipoli peninsula in what is now Turkey. By the time the campaign ended, over eight months later, tens of thousands had died. Although the Gallipoli battles had no impact on the outcome of the First World War, the campaign was a turning point for New Zealand and other Commonwealth nations in the forging of their own identities.
Known to Festival audiences for her documentaries The Topp Twins (winner of the Festival's People's Choice Award for Documentary) and Beyond the Edge, Leanne Pooley has chosen to merge her non-fiction filmmaking skills with the narrative form. Utilizing state-of-the-art animation to dramatize actual letters written by soldiers and medical personnel while they were at Gallipoli, Pooley sketches a gripping and profoundly moving picture of a battlefront whose name has become synonymous with failure and needless carnage.
Renowned comic-book artist Colin Wilson (Judge Dredd) was a design consultant, and his influence is evident in the graphic-novel-style visuals. The film is a technical marvel. With over 115,000 frames of artwork, it combines digital 2D with 3D modelling, CGI, motion capture, and hand-drawn backgrounds — all of which is in support of the eyewitness accounts, whose authors describe the brutal circumstances and challenges they faced.
Charlie Kaufman, Duke Johnson; USA
Charlie Kaufman, the celebrated screenwriter of Being John Malkovich and Adaptation and director of Synecdoche, New York, and Duke Johnson venture into the world of stop-motion animation with this fable about a motivational speaker seeking to transcend his monotonous existence.
"I have this very adverse reaction to Hollywood romances," Charlie Kaufman once told American broadcaster Charlie Rose. "They've been very damaging to me growing up." In Anomalisa, he and Duke Johnson adapt Kaufman's play of the same name into a mesmerizing work of stop-motion animation. This story of two unlikely lovers is very much a romance — but one that's been forged in one of cinema's most distinctive minds.
Michael Stone (David Thewlis) is a successful motivational speaker with fans across the country, but inside him sits a knot of anxiety that renders much of his daily life meaningless. Everything and everyone just seems the same to him. But then Michael meets Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh) on a speaking-tour stop in Cincinnati. Lisa is an anomaly.
Michael and Lisa begin with prickly, cautious conversations and then move towards love. But, unlike in a conventional Hollywood romance, that romantic arc is neither simple nor obvious. The love scene at the heart of Anomalisa should instantly rocket up the list of cinema's greatest. It's intimate, awkward, heartbreaking, and deeply erotic despite the fact that the lovers are made of felt.
THE BOY AND THE BEAST
Mamoru Hosoda; Japan
A young boy in modern-day Tokyo stumbles into an alternate dimension and becomes the apprentice to a bearlike warrior, in this stunning animated fantasy from writer-director Mamoru Hosoda.
On the run and hiding from his extended family and the police after the death of his mother, lonely nine-year-old Kyuta heads down a corridor between two buildings in Tokyo's Shibuya district. There he stumbles upon the alternate dimension of Jutenkai, a world inhabited by beasts, and where humans are not welcome.
The lord of the beasts in Jutenkai is set to choose his successor, but the candidates couldn't be more different: Iozen, brave and honourable, is seen as the likely choice, while Kumatetsu, a bearlike warrior, is perceived as an abrasive loner. When Kumatetsu is instructed to take on an apprentice, his advisors suggest Kyuta, new to Jutenkai, as an ideal candidate. Seeing Kumatetsu beaten in battle makes Kyuta sympathetic and he agrees to stay. Their relationship, though complicated, grows stronger every day as they train, with each alternating between the role of teacher and student.
Years pass. At age seventeen, Kyuta returns to the human dimension and meets Kaede, a smart young girl who offers to teach him to read. But being back among humans prompts Kyuta to seek out his father, which leaves him questioning which world he truly belongs in. Torn by his commitment to Kumatetsu, and with a battle approaching, he returns to Jutenkai unprepared for what will happen next. As the worlds of humans and beasts collide, it is clear that life for both will never be the same.
HEART OF A DOG
Laurie Anderson, USA
Renowned multidisciplinary artist Laurie Anderson returns with this lyrical and powerfully personal essay film that reflects on the deaths of her husband Lou Reed, her mother, her beloved dog, and such diverse subjects as family memories, surveillance, and Buddhist teachings.
The dog of the title is her beloved rat terrier Lolabelle, who passed away in 2011 during a succession of family deaths that also included Anderson's mother, Mary Louise, and husband, Lou Reed. Anderson's close bond with Lolabelle underlies the film's stream of consciousness, which flows through subjects as diverse as family memories, surveillance, and Buddhist teachings. She lingers particularly over the concept of the bardo, described in the Tibetan Book of the Dead as the forty-nine-day period between death and rebirth. Overlaying the film's tapestry of images — which include Anderson's animation, 8mm home-movie footage, and lots of lovingly photographed dogs — is her melodic narration, full of warmth, humour, and insight.
THE IRON GIANT: THE SIGNATURE EDITION
Brad Bird; USA
Adapted from British poet laureate Ted Hughes' 1968 children's book The Iron Man, Brad Bird's 1999 directorial debut, The Iron Giant, is considered a modern animated classic. Recently remastered and enhanced with two new scenes, The Iron Giant: Signature Edition packs an emotional punch for a new generation of audiences.
At the outset of the US-Soviet Space Race in 1957, in a small Maine town called Rockwell, nine-year-old Hogarth Hughes is an adventurous and imaginative young boy who lives at home with his single mother and dreams of having a pet of his own. One night, while his mother is working at the diner, he hears a noise and realizes his TV antenna is missing. When he goes looking for it in the woods, he comes across a fifty-foot-tall, metal-eating iron robot that has seemingly fallen from outer space. When young Hogarth helps the robot, the two form an unlikely and touching friendship. Unbeknownst to Hogarth, he isn't the only one interested in some of the strange goings-on in Rockwell. When a nosy government agent comes looking, Hogarth does everything he can to save his friend.
THE PHANTOM BOY
Alain Gagnol, Jean-Loup Felicioli; France/Belgium
Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli, the writing-directing team behind the Academy Award-nominated A Cat in Paris, are back with their highly anticipated follow-up. Phantom Boy is a stylish animated film about a young boy who — with the help of some new friends and a mysterious new ability — has to rescue New York City from a sinister crime boss.
Hospitalized with a serious illness, eleven-year-old Leo discovers that he is able to leave his body and fly around the city, passing through walls just like a phantom. One day, Leo has a chance meeting with police officer Alex, confined to a wheelchair after his injury at the hands of an evil mob kingpin — a villain who has just taken control of New York City's power supply and given the Mayor a twenty-four-hour ultimatum. When Alex learns of Leo's abilities, they partner to become the swiftest duo in the business. Along with Alex's love interest, fearless reporter Mary, they will race against time to thwart the criminal's plan and save the city.
He Named Me Malala
Davis Guggenheim, USA
In October 2012, at the age of fifteen, Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head in while riding home on a bus in Pakistan's Swat Valley. She had been targeted by Taliban militants for her outspokenness in support of girls' education. She survived the attack and relocated with her family to England, where she is continuing her studies. In the meantime, she has authored the bestselling memoir I Am Malala and campaigned for girls' rights around the world.
Academy Award-winning filmmaker Davis Guggenheim gives us a close-up portrait of this extraordinary teenager and her family. "He" in the title refers to Malala's father, Ziauddin, who ran a school in the Swat Valley and set an example for his daughter by standing up to the Taliban. He named her after the nineteenth century Pashtun folk hero Malalai of Maiwand, known for her bravery in battle.
Guggenheim follows Malala and Ziauddin on their travels to countries such as Kenya and Nigeria in support of projects empowering young women. Malala has a boldness and eloquence that would be notable in a person of any age. When she met with President Obama, she didn't hesitate to raise concerns about drone strikes fuelling terrorism.
The film blends a recounting of the events that led up to Malala's shooting with archival footage and Jason Carpenter's lovely animation. Even when Malala was eleven, she was already attracting the attention of international reporters. Yet despite growing up under scrutiny and death threats, she retains an easy laughter and playfulness. One imagines we'll be hearing her name for a long time to come.