TIFF 2023: A Reading List

September 11, 2023 | Viveca

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The 2023 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) takes place from September 7-17. While the ongoing SAG-ACTRA strike will certainly impact celebrity promotional appearances, the festival is proceeding with a full lineup of feature films, shorts and documentaries from around the world.

Browse the TIFF film program with its many offerings. Looking for the legendary Contemporary World Cinema series? It's been rebranded (somewhat mystifyingly) as "Centrepiece." Among this year's many notable Canadian highlights:

This year, there is a remarkably long list of films based on or inspired by books.

Here are 21 titles for the annual TIFF reading list available from the Toronto Public Library. Place your holds and let us know about your favourites in the comments below. 



Ru. Canada. Directed by Charles-Olivier Michaud. Starring Chloé Djandji, Chantal Thuy, Jean Bui, Olivier Dinh, Xavier Nguyen, Patrice Robitaille, Karine Vanasse, Mali Corbeil-Gauvreau, Marie-Thérèse Fortin, Ralph Prosper, Richard Fréchette, Jean-Marc Dalphond, Emma Bao Linh Tourné, Eugénie Beaudry, Sean Lu, Long Pham. 

This film is based on the Governor General's Award-winning novel Ru by Kim Thúy about the  memories of An Tinh Nguyen, a Vietnamese child who immigrates to Canada as a refugee in the late 1970s. 


All The Light We Cannot See

All The Light We Cannot See. USA. Directed by Shawn Levy and Steven Knight. Starring Aria Mia Loberti, Mark Ruffalo, Hugh Laurie, Louis Hofmann, Lars Eidinger, Marion Bailey, Nell Sutton.

This film is based on the 2015 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr about the intersection of two young lives — a blind French girl and a German boy recently inducted into the military — during World War II.


The Dinner

A Normal Family. South Korea. Directed by Hur Jin-ho. Starring Sul Kyung-gu, Jang Dong-gun, Kim Hee-ae, Claudia Kim.  Based on Herman Koch's novel The Dinner. Originally published in Dutch in 2009 and in English in 2012, the story is about two couples and their tense encounter when they realize that their sons are involved in a terrible crime.   

This is the fourth film version. There is the 2015 Italian version directed by Ivano De Matteo and the 2017 US version starring Richard Gere and Laura Linney. Unfortunately, the 2013 Dutch version directed by Menno Mevjes is no longer available on DVD. 


The Expatriates

Expats. USA. Directed by Lulu Wang. Starring Nicole Kidman, Sarayu Blue, Brian Tee, Jack Huston,  Ji-young Yoo, Ruby Ruiz, Amelyn Pardenilla, Bonde Sham, Flora Chan, Maggie Lee, Blessing Mokgohloa, Will Orr, Bodhi Del Rosario, Tiana Gowan. 

This film is based on the 2016 novel The Expatriates by Janice Y.K. Lee about three different American women living in Hong Kong and their complicated relationships to both trauma and motherhood. This film is the final feature-length installment to the six-part television mini-series. 


The Zone of Interest

The Zone of Interest. United Kingdom, Poland, USA. Directed by Jonathan Glazer. Starring Sandra Hüller, Christian Friedel.

This film is based on the 2014 novel The Zone of Interest by British author Martin Amis. A Nazi officer falls in love with the wife of an Auschwitz camp commandant in this chilling exploration of evil and genocide. Glazer's film was awarded the Grand Prix at Cannes. 

The End We Start From

The End We Start From. United Kingdom. Directed by Mahalia Belo. Starring Jodie Comer, Joel Fry, Katherine Waterston, Gina McKee, Nina Sosanya, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch. 

This film is based on the dystopian novel The End We Start From by British author Megan Hunter about a new mother coping during a devastating flood.  


How Do You Live

The Boy and the Heron. Japan. Directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Starring Soma Santoke, Masaki Suda, Aimyon, Yoshino Kimura, Shōhei Hino, Ko Shibasaki, Takuya Kimura, Takuya Kimura, Jun Kunimura, Kaoru Kobayashi, Keiko Takeshita, Jun Fubuki, Sawako Agawa, Karen Takizawa, Shinobu Otake. 

This film was inspired by the 1937 Japanese novel How Do You Live? by Genzaburō Yoshino (a favourite book of director Miyazaki) about a teenage boy working to find his place in life. This film is this year's festival opener — and it may be the final work from this legendary director.   



American Fiction. USA. Directed by Cord Jefferson. Starring Jeffrey Wright, Tracee Ellis Ross, John Ortiz, Erika Alexander, Leslie Uggams, Adam Brody, Keith David, Issa Rae, Sterling K. Brown. 

This film is based on the 2001 darkly satiric novel Erasure by Percival Everett about a writer in a rut who is enraged by the cynical market forces placed upon Black authors after he is told that his latest submission "isn't Black enough."


The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara

Kidnapped. Italy, France, Germany. Directed by Marco Bellocchio. Starring Paolo Pierobon, Fausto Russo Alesi, Barbara Ronchi, Enea Sala, Leonardo Maltese, Filippo Timi, Fabrizio Gifuni. 

This film is based on the true story of The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara by David I. Kertzer published in 1996. This critically-acclaimed historical thriller is about a six-year-old Jewish boy who was kidnapped by the Vatican in 1858 after a family servant secretly baptized the child. 


Curtain Call

The Critic. United Kingdom. Directed by Anand Tucker. Starring Ian McKellen, Gemma Arterton, Mark Strong, Ben Barnes, Alfred Enoch, Romola Garai, Lesley Manville. 

This film is based on the mystery Curtain Call by Liverpool author Anthony Quinn about murder in the theatre world of 1936 London. 


I Do Not Come To You By Chance

I Do Not Come To You By Chance. Nigeria. Directed by Ishaya Bako. Starring Paul Nnadiekwe,  Blossom Chukwujekwu, Jennifer Eliogu, Sambasa Nzeribe, Beverly Osu, Emeka Nwagbaraocha.

This film is based on the 2009 award-winning novel I Do Not Come To You By Chance by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani about a young Nigerian university graduate who ends up mired in the business of email scams. 


The Lives of Lee Miller

Lee. United Kingdom. Directed by Ellen Kuras. Starring Kate Winslet, Alexander Skarsgård, Andrea Riseborough, Marion Cotillard, Josh O'Connor, Andy Samberg. 

This film was inspired by the 1985 book The Lives of Lee Miller by Antony Penrose (Lee Miller's son). Miller was a photographer, photojournalist and model who became a war correspondent for Vogue during WWII. 


Robot Dreams

Robot Dreams. Spain, France. Directed by Pablo Berger. Animated by José Luis Ágreda, Benoît Feroumont, Daniel Fernándes Casas, Patricia Andrades.

This animated film is based on the 2007 graphic novel Robot Dreams by Sara Varon, a wordless story about a robot and his dog. 


Find a Way

Nyad. USA. Directed by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin. Starring Annette Bening, Jodie Foster, Rhys Ifans, Ethan Jones Romero, Luke Cosgrove, Jeena Yi, Eric T. Miller.

This film is based on the 2015 memoir Find a Way by Diane Nyad, an America long distance swimmer who at the age of 64 swam from Cuba to Florida. 


Caste The Origins of Our Discontent

Origin. USA. Directed by Ava DuVernay. Starring Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor, Victoria Pedretti, Nick Offerman, Jon Bernthal. 

This film is inspired by the life of American journalist Isabel Wilkerson on writing her 2020 bestselling non-fiction book Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent about the structures of racism in the United States. 


The Antisocial Network

Dumb Money. USA. Directed by Craig Gillespie. Starring Paul Dano, Pete Davidson, Vincent D’Onofrio, America Ferrera, Nick Offerman, Anthony Ramos, Sebastian Stan, Shailene Woodley, Seth Rogen.

This film is based on the 2021 non-fiction book The Antisocial Network by Ben Mezrich about the group of amateurs who started the bizarre GameStop "short squeeze," causing havoc on Wall Street.  


The Widow Clicquot

Widow Clicquot. France, United Kingdom. Directed by Thomas Napper. Starring Haley Bennett, Tom Sturridge, Sam Riley, Anson Boon, Leo Suter, Ben Miles, Natasha O’Keeffe, Cecily Cleeve, Paul Rhys, Ian Conningham, Christopher Villiers, Cara Seymour, Phoebe Nicholls, Nick Farrell, Chris Larkin, Mark Tandy. 

This film is based on the 2008 biography The Widow Clicquot by Tilar J. Mazzeo about Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin, the 18th-century French woman who is credited with creating champagne at the age of 27. 


The Hard Sell

Pain Hustlers. USA. Directed by David Yates. Starring Emily Blunt, Chris Evans, Catherine O'Hara, Chloe Coleman, Jay Duplass, Brian d’Arcy James, Amit Shah, Aubrey Dollar, Willie Raysor, Andy Garcia. 

This book is based on the 2022 non-fiction book The Hard Sell: Crime and Punishment at an Opioid Startup by Evan Hughes about the Insys Therapeutics scandal and those who worked to make millions from the opioid crisis.  


The Pigeon Tunnel

The Pigeon Tunnel. United Kingdom. Directed by Errol Morris. Starring David Cornwell (a.k.a. John le Carré). 

This documentary is based on the 2016 John le Carré memoir The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories From My Life in which the author recalls his years in British intelligence. This is the last interview with the master of the espionage novel. 



Orlando, My Political Biography. France. Directed by Paul B. Preciado. Starring Arthur, Emma Avena, Amir Baylly, Jenny Bel'Air, La Bourette, Nathan Callot.

This film is based on Virginia Woolf's 1928 feminist novel Orlando about a poet who changes from man to woman and lives through centuries. A previous film adaptation of Orlando was made in 1999, starring Tilda Swinton.


Gonzo Girl

Gonzo Girl. USA. Directed by Patricia Arquette. Starring Willem Dafoe, Camila Morrone, Patricia Arquette, Elizabeth Lail, Ray Nicholson, Leila George, James Urbaniak. 

This film is based on the novel Gonzo Girl by Cheryl Della Pietra about a young woman in publishing who becomes the assistant of a notoriously difficult author. This novel was likely inspired by the author's time working as the assistant to Hunter S. Thompson. 

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