The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) kicks off Sept. 5, and among its lengthy list of must-sees are films showcasing issues around global health, gender equality, citizenship, water, and the environment.
While TIFF doesn’t choose films based on a theme, one tends to work its way into the festival. In 2017, it was the notion of survival; in 2018, the festival seemed to highlight powerful women and gender equity.
"Once we had put the lineup together, we began to see films that weren't so much reflecting [today's] fractious political landscape, but were actually reflecting the desire for something maybe warmer and fuzzier," Cameron Bailey, TIFF artistic director, said in July when the first round of films was announced. "It was really about empathy. It was about trying to find ways to connect beyond the divide we're seeing play out in the news headlines."
These films include a number of Global Citizen-approved titles that not only highlight important global issues, but also speak to the idea of standing up and taking action. There are many to choose from, but here are the top 10 that you definitely won’t want to miss.
1. The Cave
One of TIFF’s opening night documentaries, The Cave follows a team of female doctors who treat patients in an underground hospital in war-torn Syria, below the city of Ghouta, near Damascus. The women running the hospital are not only confronted with difficult hospital conditions, tending to patients of war casualties, including small children, but they are also forced to justify their work as they navigate a sexist environment.
2. There's Something in the Water
Actress and activist Ellen Page dives into the injustices caused by environmental racism in Nova Scotia in a documentary that looks at the effects of toxic fallout due to industrial development. The filmmakers look at how all of the disasters have taken place in remote, low income and often Indigenous or black communities.
3. One Day in the Life of Noah Piugattuk
Set in 1961, this film takes place in Canada as an Inuit hunter and his band are pushed by the government to move into new housing, relinquish their culture, and assimilate their children into a new way of life.
4. Black Bitch
After a video of an Indigenous politician's response during a violent attack goes viral, the female politician is recruited to the senate by Australia’s prime minister, where she must weave her way through systemic injustices and political games.
5. The Perfect Candidate
Another film with a badass political frontwoman, The Perfect Candidate is about a doctor from a small town in Saudi Arabia who refuses to let gender inequality bring her down, going on to run for local council and challenge gender norms.
6. Paris Stalingrad
This documentary highlights refugees living in Paris’ Stalingrad district, many of whom are young men from Afghanistan and impoverished countries across Africa. The film showcases the hardships of refugee life, but also its stories of hope.
7. Love Child
This documentary follows a couple fleeing Tehran, Iran, where infidelity is illegal and can lead to the death penalty. They flee with their four-year-old "love child" and head into exile in Turkey, falling into a limbo-like waiting period as their case is pushed down the list of priorities for refugees.
8. And We Go Green
Global Citizen Advocate Leonardo DiCaprio produced this documentary that follows professional drivers who race across 10 cities — with eco-friendly electric cars.
Actors and environmental activists Javier and Carlos Bardem are at the forefront of this documentary about Greenpeace’s campaign to preserve the Antarctic Ocean.
This inspiring biopic follows the story of Harriet Tubman, a renowned abolitionist who escaped slavery and brought others to freedom via the Underground Railroad. An inspiring heroic tale, this film also features Global Citizen Advocate Janelle Monáe.