British films at Toronto 2015

The full rundown of every UK film screening at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.

High-Rise (2015)

From the gala screenings through to a ‘City to City’ focus on London, there are UK films and talent to be found throughout the programme at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). Running 10-20 September, TIFF packs in more than 40 British films or co-productions – not far off doubling last year’s tally.


There’s a biographical tilt to the British films screening as galas this time, from The Program, a new thriller from veteran Brit director Stephen Frears dramatising the rise and fall of disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong, to The Man Who Knew Infinity, starring Dev Patel, Jeremy Irons, Toby Jones, Stephen Fry and Jeremy Northam in the story of trail-blazing Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan.

The infamous Kray brothers also get another big-screen treatment in Legend, directed by Brian Helgeland and featuring Tom Hardy in a dual role as the London underworld’s most notorious twins. Tsotsi director Gavin Hood returns with the Helen Mirren military thriller Eye in the Sky, and Drew Barrymore and Toni Collette co-star in Catherine Hardwicke’s comic drama Miss You Already.

Special presentations

TIFF’s special presentations are reserved for big directors and high-profile premieres, and UK film scores highly here too. The section includes four films backed by the BFI Film Fund: along with Andrew Haigh’s 45 Years (currently on release in the UK), there’s Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Lobster; John Crowley’s adaptation of Colm Tóibín’s novel Brooklyn; and Sunset Song (a world premiere), the eagerly awaited new work from Terence Davies.

Sunset Song (2015)

The Oscar-winning director of The King’s Speech and Les Miserables, Tom Hooper, is back with historical drama The Danish Girl, starring Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander; and Nicholas Hytner with his first film since The History Boys, the Maggie Smith-starring The Lady in the Van, which is also an Alan Bennett adaptation. Another hot literary adaptation, from Martin Amis’s novel, London Fields stars Billy Bob Thornton and Johnny Depp.

Co-productions in this section with British backing include Paolo Sorrentino’s Youth, which takes another bow after its premiere at Cannes in May; Robert Budreau’s Born to Be Blue, starring Ethan Hawke as Chet Baker; Hany Abu-Assad’s The Idol, about the Gazan wedding singer who won Arab Idol in 2013; and Leena Yadav’s Parched, set in rural India.

Platform – best film competition

Among the most excitedly awaited world premieres at the festival is the lone UK film in the running for TIFF’s best film award: the first film adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s cult novel High-Rise, directed by Ben Wheatley (Kill List, A Field in England), backed by the BFI, and featuring Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons and Sienna Miller. Wheatley’s film is also competing at this year’s San Sebastian festival before screening to British audiences at the BFI London Film Festival.


Sporting achievement is celebrated in a number of British docs at TIFF: Anthony Wonke’s Being AP profiles racing jockey A.P. McCoy; Louise Osmond’s Dark Horse (released in the UK earlier this year) remembers a very special Welsh racehorse; and the Australian-British feature Sherpa documents a record-breaking 22nd ascent on Everest.

Arcade Fire get their own concert documentary with The Reflektor Tapes, while Nick Read’s Bolshoi Babylon recalls a troubled time inside the Bolshoi ballet company in 2013 when its director was attacked with acid at his home. There’s British backing too in the Ukrainian doc Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom.

City to City: London

Every year a different international city gets its turn in the TIFF spotlight, and in 2015 eight films have been chosen to take some London flavours across the Atlantic. It’s not just films set in the capital but works from filmmakers who call the city home, which explains the presence of Rufus Norris’s acclaimed musical-with-a-difference London Road (actually set in Ipswich) and debut director Paul Katis’s Afghan war drama Kilo Two Bravo. Northern Soul, from photographer-turned-filmmaker Elaine Constantine, is set against the backdrop of the 70s soul revival in northern England, while Tom Geens’ Couple in a Hole is set far away from civilisation altogether: in the cave where a middle-aged couple decide to escape normal life.

The Ones Below (2015)

There’s plenty of more urban fare though. Kill Your Friends, from director Owen Harris, is a comedy set in the Britpop era; The Ones Below is a capital-set psychological drama from theatre director David Farr. Two films look at the events leading to the London riots of 2012: Michael Caton-Jones’s Urban Hymn is a fictionalised drama, while George Amponsah’s The Hard Stop is a documentary account of the police shooting of Mark Duggan that first sparked the unrest.


Experimental filmmaker Ben Rivers is celebrated in the avant-garde Wavelengths strand with the North American premiere of The Sky Trembles and the Earth Is Afraid and the Two Eyes Are Not Brothers, as well as with a screening for his shorter form A Distant Episode. Both inspired by the writings of Paul Bowles, the latter film joins Beatrice Gibon’s Solo for Rich Man in one of TIFF’s curated programmes of short experimental works. Further Wavelengths features from the UK are Mark Lewis’s Invention and Tony Romano and Corin Sworn’s La Giubba, each co-productions with Canada and each getting their world premieres at the festival.


Away from Wavelengths, other British or partly British shorts screening in Toronto are Fyzal Boulifa’s Rate Me, Hiwot Admasu Getaneh’s New Eyes and Wiktoria Szymanska’s 7 Sheep.

Things are thinner on the ground for British cinema in Toronto’s retrospective Cinematheque section, though TIFF does offer an opportunity to see Marcel Ophüls’s sprawling war-crime documentary The Memory of Justice (1976), an international co-production with UK involvement which screens ahead of the new restoration’s outing at the LFF in October.

Cemetery of Splendour (2015)

Finally, two more worth looking out for: Cemetery of Splendour, made by Thai auteur Apichatpong Weerasethakul in collaboration once again with British producers Keith Griffiths and Simon Field, features in the festival’s Masters showcase of new arthouse cinema, while in Discovery – a forum for films by new faces – A Patch of Fog is the feature debut by Michael Lennox, whose 2014 short Boogaloo and Graham was Oscar-nominated and BAFTA-winning. Game of Thrones’ Conleth Hill and Boardwalk Empire’s Stephen Graham star.

Films backed by the BFI Film Fund

  • Brooklyn
  • Couple in a Hole
  • 45 Years
  • The Lobster
  • London Road
  • The Ones Below
  • A Patch of Fog
  • The Sky Trembles and the Earth Is Afraid and the Two Eyes Are Not Brothers 
  • Sunset Song

Films also screening at the 59th BFI London Film Festival

  • Brooklyn
  • Cemetery of Splendour
  • Couple in a Hole
  • The Hard Stop
  • High-Rise
  • The Idol
  • Invention
  • The Lady in the Van
  • The Lobster
  • The Memory of Justice
  • The Ones Below
  • The Program
  • Rate Me
  • The Sky Trembles and the Earth Is Afraid and the Two Eyes Are Not Brothers
  • Sunset Song
  • Youth
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