The Fall Festivals: Unveiling The Lineups For Venice And Toronto

This week, we begin one of the most important periods of the awards race: the Fall Festivals. Over the course of about three weeks, critics and Hollywood bigwigs will descend upon Venice, Toronto, and Telluride in order to get their first looks at some of the best films of the year. And while Telluride never announces their lineup until the last minute (they usually overlap a good deal with the others anyway), we do know the lineups for Venice and Toronto, two festivals that seem ready to turn this dreary year around with flashy, exciting new films by exciting artists.


Venice is always looking to rise in status, especially after giving its top prizes the last two years to Nomadland and, controversially, Joker. While normally I consider this festival to be “interesting,” not groundbreaking, it’s hard to turn my head away, considering this year’s awards jury consists of Chloé Zhao, Cynthia Erivo, Sarah Gadon, Alexander Nanau, and President Bong Joon Ho.

Venice has pulled out all the stops for this year’s festival, from lineups to awards, and beyond. The biggest story from the lineup has to be the power of Netflix: after Cannes controversially gave the streamer the shaft, Netflix and Venice formed an unlikely alliance. That means Venice will have the debut of Jane Campion’s big Oscar contender The Power of the Dog, Paolo Sorrentino’s intimate The Hand of God, and Maggie Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut The Lost Daughter.

Other big names playing in competition include the Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana biopic Spencer, Paul Schrader’s crime thriller The Card Counter, Ana Lily Amirpour’s new genre flick Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon, the satirical Spanish comedy Official Competition, and the legendary Pedro Almodóvar’s newest film Parallel Mothers – I hear that one’s pretty special. And that’s not to mention the Out of Competition players. Not only will Dune finally make its big debut, but so will Edgar Wright’s horror film Last Night In Soho, Ridley Scott’s epic The Last Duel (strangely enough, though, not House of Gucci), the first five episodes of HBO’s remake of Scenes From A Marriage, and perhaps strangest of all, Halloween Kills. This is the first international festival love for the Halloween series, most likely to tie in with actress Jamie Lee Curtis earning a special award for lifetime achievement alongside Italian actor/director Roberto Benigni.

The 78th Venice International Film Festival will run from September 1st through September 11th. You can see the full lineup below.

In Competition

  • America Latina – Damiano and Fabio D’Innocenzo
  • Another World – Stéphane Brizé
  • The Box – Lorenzo Vigas
  • Captain Volkonogov Escaped – Aleksey Chupov and Natalya Merkulova
  • The Card Counter – Paul Schrader
  • Freaks Out – Gabriele Mainetti
  • The Hand of God – Paolo Sorrentino
  • Happening – Audrey Diwan
  • The Hole – Michaelangelo Frammartino
  • Leave No Traces – Jan P. Matuszyński
  • The Lost Daughter – Maggie Gyllenhaal
  • Lost Illusions – Xavier Giannoli
  • Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon – Ana Lily Amirpour
  • Official Competition – Gastón Duprat & Mariano Cohn
  • On The Job 2: The Missing 8 – Erik Matti
  • Parallel Mothers – Pedro Almodóvar
  • The Power of the Dog – Jane Campion
  • Sundown – Michel Franco
  • Qui rido io – Mario Martone
  • Reflection – Valentyn Vasyanovych
  • Spencer – Pablo Larraín

Out of Competition

  • Dune – Denis Villeneuve
  • Halloween Kills – David Gordon Green
  • The Last Duel – Ridley Scott
  • Last Night In Soho – Edgar Wright
  • Scenes From A Marriage (Episodes 1-5) – Hagai Levi

Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement: Roberto Benigni and Jamie Lee Curtis


The Toronto International Film Festival (known as TIFF) also has its own legacy to live up to. With one exception, they have chosen a Best Picture nominee for their top prize every year for the last fifteen years, and have premiered the Best Picture winner a majority of the time. This year, TIFF is pulling out all the stops. Not only have they gotten the biggest Cannes names on the market, including Petite Maman, Drive My Car, Bergman Island, The Worst Person In The World, Ahed’s Knee, and the Palme d’Or winner Titane, but they’ve got an incredible lineup of big names to make this a TIFF to remember.

While there is some overlap with Venice, including Last Night In Soho, a big Dune premiere, Spencer, and The Power of the Dog (Jane Campion’s Netflix film will premiere at all the major festivals), there’s a healthy amount of new projects too. The biggest names are, most likely, Kenneth Branagh’s personal Belfast and Stephen Karam’s adaptation of his own play The Humans, both of which are looking to become major Oscar players. Also premiering are John Michael McDonagh’s The Forgiven, Will Sharp’s star-studded The Electric Life of Louis Wain, Barry Levinson’s Holocaust drama The Survivor, Antoine Fuqua’s call-center thriller The Guilty, Theodore Melfi’s weepy The Starling, and Zhang Yimou’s One Second.

TIFF will also hold the premieres of two documentaries about some of the biggest names in the music industry: the Alanis Morrisette documentary Jagged and the Dionne Warwick documentary Dionne Warwick: Don’t Make Me Over. But I’m more interested in the big question marks: films that have polarizing trailers that could make or break their Oscar chances right here, right now. The first is The Eyes of Tammy Faye, the Jessica Chastain-led biopic/satire that could either become a big Oscar player or a massive failure (the trailer implies it could go either way). And the second is the premiere film, Dear Evan Hansen, based on the popular play that was savagely mocked after the first trailer. Oh, and it’s worth noting that before Paramount delayed it because of the Delta variant, Clifford The Big Red Dog – yes, that one – was supposed to premiere at the festival. You don’t know how angry I am that we’re missing out on that chaos.

The 2021 Toronto International Film Festival will be held from September 9th to September 18th. You can see the full lineup below. I will be back during both of these festivals to provide updates from the film critics abroad.

Gala Presentations

  • Belfast – Kenneth Branagh
  • Bergman Island – Mia Hansen-Løve
  • Dear Evan Hansen – Stephen Chbosky
  • The Electrical Life of Louis Wain – Will Sharpe
  • The Forgiven – John Michael McDonagh
  • The Good House – Maya Forbes and Wally Wolodarsky
  • Jagged – Alison Klayman
  • Lakewood – Philip Noyce
  • Last Night In Soho – Edgar Wright
  • The Mad Woman’s Ball – Mélanie Laurent
  • Night Raiders – Danis Goulet
  • One Second – Zhang Yimou
  • Silent Night – Camille Griffin
  • The Survivor – Barry Levinson
  • The Worst Person In The World – Joachim Trier

Special Presentations

  • Ahed’s Knee – Nadev Lapid
  • Ali & Ava – Clio Barnard
  • All My Puny Sorrows – Michael McGowan
  • The Box – Lorenzo Vigas
  • Benediction – Terence Davies
  • Charlotte – Eric Warin & Tahir Rana
  • Dionne Warwick: Don’t Make Me Over – Dave Wooley & David Heilbroner
  • Drive My Car – Ryusuke Hamaguchi
  • Encounter – Michael Pearce
  • The Eyes of Tammy Faye – Michael Showalter
  • The Falls – Chung Mong-hong
  • France – Bruno Dumont
  • The Guilty – Antoine Fuqua
  • The Humans – Stephen Karam
  • I’m Your Man – Maria Schrader
  • Inexorable – Fabrice Du Welz
  • InuOh – Masaaki Yuasa
  • Lingui, The Sacred Bonds – Mahamat-Saleh Haroun
  • The Middle Man – Bent Hamer
  • Mothering Sunday – Eva Husson
  • Official Competition – Gastón Duprat & Mariano Cohn
  • Paris, 13th District – Jacques Audiard
  • Petite Maman – Céline Sciamma
  • The Power of the Dog – Jane Campion
  • The Starling – Theodore Melfi
  • The Story of My Wife – Ildikó Enyedi
  • Sundown – Michel Franco
  • Three Floors – Nanni Moretti
  • Violet – Justine Bateman
  • Where Is Anne Frank – Ari Folman
  • Wolf – Nathalie Biancheri

Special Event

  • Dune – Denis Villeneuve
  • A Hero – Asghar Farhadi
  • Memoria – Apichatpong Weerasethakul
  • Memory Box: Echoes of 9/11 – Bjørn Johnson and David Belton
  • Spencer – Pablo Larrain
  • Triumph: Rock & Roll Machine – Sam Dunn and Marc Ricciardelli
  • NBA Films For Fans

Midnight Madness

  • After Blue (Dirty Paradise) – Bertrand Mandico
  • DASHCAM – Rob Savage
  • Saloum – Jean Luc Herboulet
  • Titane – Julia Ducournau
  • You Are Not My Mother – Kate Dolan
  • Zalava – Arsalan Amiri

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