Five Australian projects have been selected for the 48th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), which will be held from 7-17 September. Feature film The Convert, an Australian/New Zealand Co-production will have its world premiere at the festival, while The New Boy and Limbo will have their North American premiere, Shayda and The Royal Hotel will have their Canadian Premiere.
Screen Australia’s CEO Graeme Mason said, “I’m thrilled that these five extraordinary Australian projects have been selected for TIFF. This is a testament to the amazing talent and skill of our local screen industry. To have such unique and diverse films screening at the festival — exemplifies the depth and breadth of our filmmaking excellence on a global stage. This is a real win not only for the creative teams, but also the Australian industry, congratulations to everyone involved.”
After making its world premiere at this year’s Cannes Film Festival in May and opening the Sydney Film Festival, Warwick Thornton’s The New Boy will have its North American premiere at TIFF. Starring Oscar winner Cate Blanchett, this spiritual drama film evokes Australia’s colonial legacy through the story of one very special child, played by rising star Aswan Reid.
The New Boy writer/director Warwick Thornton said, “This is awesome news. It’s such an honour to have our North American premiere at TIFF — we’ve always been looked after by them and can’t wait to attend the festival.”
Shayda, the highly anticipated debut feature from writer/director Noora Niasari, stars Iranian actress Zar Amir-Ebrahimi and follows a young Iranian mother who finds refuge in a women’s shelter where her search for freedom brings her face-to-face with the violence that she has fled.
Shayda producer Vincent Sheehan said, “I have always loved the TIFF audience having screened Little Fish and The Hunter previously at the festival. So, I’m thrilled that Noora Niasari’s Shayda, fresh from its closing night screening at Locarno, will play at Toronto as we prepare for our North American release with Sony Pictures Classics.”
Making its world premiere in the Special Presentations section is The Convert, an Official Co-production between Australia and New Zealand. Lee Tamahori’s action-filled historical drama stars Guy Pearce as a newly arrived preacher in a colonial town in early 19th-century New Zealand, who finds himself at the centre of a long-standing battle between two Māori tribes.
The Convert producers Andrew Mason and Troy Lum said, “We have been long-time admirers of Lee Tamahori’s work and to be involved in The Convert — a film of such power and insight — is a great honour. Robin and Te Kohe, our New Zealand co-producers were generous and collaborative, and opened a window to a culture that we feel privileged to have experienced.”
Director Kitty Green and actor Julia Garner (The Assistant) reunite in The Royal Hotel, which tells the story of two friends who run out of cash while backpacking in Australia, and are forced to take jobs in an exploitative pub to fund their trip home.
The Royal Hotel producer Liz Watts said, “We are thrilled that The Royal Hotel will take its place amongst the world’s best cinema at TIFF this year. We can’t wait to see the audience response to Kitty Green’s finely crafted, edge of the seat thriller as well as the wonderful performances by the Australian and international cast, headed by the amazing Julia Garner.”
Limbo is a searing commentary on justice and law enforcement, which investigates the cold case of a murdered Indigenous girl in an outback mining town.
Limbo producers David Jowsey and Greer Simpkin said “Ivan Sen wrote, directed, shot, edited, composed and was a producer of the film. Simon Baker delivered a sublime performance in Limbo. He and Ivan formed a deeply creative partnership that generated this mesmerising work. We are thrilled Limbo will have its North American premiere at TIFF.”
Jump Film and Television Ltd / Brouhaha Entertainment Australia P/L
Director: Lee Tamahori
Writers: Shane Danielsen, Lee Tamahori
Producers: Robin Scholes, Te Kohe Tuhaka, Andrew Mason, Troy Lum
Executive Producers: Maria Logan, Anne Sheehan, David Garrett, David Mepham
Cast: Guy Pearce, Tioreore Ngatai-Melbourne, Antonio Te Maioha, Jacqueline McKenzie, Lawrence Makoare
International Sales: Mister Smith Entertainment
Australian Distributor: Kismet
Synopsis: When a lay preacher arrives at a British settlement in 1830s New Zealand, his violent past is drawn into question and his faith put to the test as he finds himself caught in the middle of a bloody war between Māori tribes.
North American Premiere
Bunya Productions Pty Ltd
Writer/Director: Ivan Sen
Producers: David Jowsey, Rachel Higgins, Greer Simpkin, Ivan Sen
Executive Producers: Simon Baker, Cecilia Ritchie, David Chiem
Cast: Simon Baker, Rob Collins, Natasha Wanganeen, Nicholas Hope, Mark Coe, Joshua Warrior
International Sales: Dark Matter Media Pty Ltd
Australian Distributor: Dark Matter Media Pty Ltd
Synopsis: Travis, a jaded detective, arrives in the remote outback town of Limbo to investigate the cold case murder of local Indigenous girl Charlotte Hayes 20 years ago. As truths about the murder begin to unfold, the detective gains a new insight into the unsolved case from the victim’s fractured family, the surviving witnesses and the reclusive brother of the chief suspect.
The New Boy
North American Premiere
Dirty Films & Scarlett Pictures
Writer/Director: Warwick Thornton
Producers: Cate Blanchett, Deborah Mailman, Wayne Blair, Aswan Reid
Executive Producers: Gretel Packer, Coco Francini
Cast: Aswan Reid, Deborah Mailman, Wayne Blair, Cate Blanchett
International Sales: The Veterans
Australian Distributor: Roadshow Films
Synopsis: When an Aboriginal child arrives in the dead of night at a remote monastery run by a renegade nun, the new boy’s presence disturbs a delicately balanced world in this story of spiritual struggle and the cost of survival.
The Royal Hotel
See-Saw Films Pty Ltd
Director: Kitty Green
Writers: Kitty Green, Oscar Redding
Producers: Liz Watts, Emile Sherman, Iain Canning, Kath Shelper
Cast: Julia Garner, Jessica Henwick, Toby Wallace and Hugo Weaving
International Sales: HanWay Films
Australian Distributor: Transmission Films
Synopsis: US backpackers Hanna and Liv take a job in a remote Australian pub for some extra cash and are confronted with a bunch of unruly locals and a situation that grows rapidly out of their control.
Origma 45 Pty Ltd
Writer/Director: Noora Niasari
Producers: Vincent Sheenhan, Noora Niasari
Executive Producers: Cate Blanchett, Andrew Upton, Coco Francini
Cast: Zar Amir Ebrahimi, Osamah Sami, Mojean Aria, Jillian Nguyen, Rina Mousavi, Selina Zahednia, Leah Purcell
International Sales: HanWay Films
Australian Distributor: Madman Entertainment
North American Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Synopsis: Shayda, a brave Iranian mother, finds refuge in an Australian women’s shelter with her six-year-old daughter. Over Persian New Year, they take solace in Nowruz rituals and new beginnings, but when her estranged husband re-enters their lives, Shayda’s path to freedom is jeopardised.