Books on Film at TIFF 2016

September 9, 2016 | Winona

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The annual Toronto International Film Festival (a.k.a. TIFF) is on from September 8-18, 2016, and the city is buzzing with excitement about all the films, directors, and star power in town.

Of course, like any self-respecting book lover, I'm excited about all the literary adaptations and other bookish films at #TIFF16 -- from award-winning novels to extraordinary memoirs, tales for children and plays for grownups, plus works by two CanLit greats.

Here is my list of 35 films inspired by books at this year's festival. I hope you will be inspired to see/read a few of them yourself.




Ewan McGregor makes his directing debut and stars alongside Oscar winner Jennifer Connelly and Dakota Fanning in this ambitious adaptation of Philip Roth’s Pulitzer Prize–winning novel about a "perfect" American family that is torn apart by the social and political upheavals of the 1960s. 

American Pastoral by Phillip Roth

Book | Audiobook CD | eAudiobook | in Romanian




Visionary Quebecois auteur Denis Villeneuve directs Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and Forest Whitaker in this sci-fi drama about the panic that follows a wave of mysterious spacecraft landings across the globe. Adapted from the title story in a collection by Ted Chiang.

Stories Of Your Life by Ted Chiang

Book | eBook | Book - reference


Black Code

Toronto-based documentary filmmaker and cinematographer Nicholas de Pencier examines the complex global impact that the internet has had on matters of free speech, privacy, and activism. Based on the book by Ron Deibert, a professor at the University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs.

Black Code by Ronald J. Deibert

Book | eBook



Brain on Fire

A New York Post journalist (Chloë Grace Moretz) suffering from a rare autoimmune disorder is repeatedly misdiagnosed following a series of violent outbursts and severe amnesia, in Gerard Barrett's adaptation of Susannah Cahalan's bestselling memoir.

Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan

Book | eBook | Audiobook CD | eAudiobook | Large Print



Carrie Pilby

Awkward, isolated and disapproving of most of the people around her, a precocious 19-year-old genius (Bev Powley) is challenged to put her convictions to the test by venturing out on to the NYC dating scene, in this adaptation of Caren Lissner’s best-selling novel. 

Carrie Pilby by Caren Lissner

Book | eBook




Kelly Reichardt directs Laura Dern, Michelle Williams, Kristen Stewart, and Lily Gladstone in this tripartite portrait of striving, independent women whose lives intersect in suggestive and powerful ways. Based on short stories from a collection by Maile Meloy.

Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It by Maile Meloy





Adapted from the children's novel by award-winning author Joke van Leeuwen, The Day My Father Became a Bush tells a story of war as seen through the eyes of a 10-year-old girl. 

The Day My Father Became a Bush by Joke van Leeuwen





Academy Award winner Rachel Weisz and Timothy Spall star in this riveting, true-life drama about the courtroom showdown between historian Deborah Lipstadt and notorious Holocaust denier David Irving. Based on Lipstadt's book, previously published as History on Trial.

Denial by Deborah Lipstadt movie tie-in edition

Book | eBook | eAudiobook



The Exception

Academy Award winner Christopher Plummer and Janet McTeer star in this adaptation of Alan Judd’s novel about German Kaiser Wilhelm II’s post-WWI exile in the Netherlands.

The Kaiser's Last Kiss by Alan Judd





A sweet little girl who may hold the key to a cure for the zombie virus that has decimated most of the world’s population escapes from a military compound and sets out to find her place in the world. Adapted from the bestselling novel by M. R. Carey.

The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey

Book | eBook | eAudiobook




A crook-turned-servant falls for the vulnerable heiress she had originally schemed to swindle, in this audacious, visually sumptuous, and highly erotic period piece from acclaimed writer-director Park Chan-wook. With The Handmaiden, Park transplants Sarah Waters' Victorian England-set bestseller to Japanese-occupied Korea in the 1930s.

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

Book | Audiobook CD | eAudiobook




Ivory Coast-born filmmaker Katell Quillévéré adapts Maylis de Kerangal’s Booker Prize–longlisted novel for this elegant and affecting film which draws three seemingly unrelated stories together into a tale about the moment when tragedy meets hope.

Mend the Living by Maylis de Kerangal
Book | eBook | in French | in French - Audiobook CD | in French - Large Print |



Hermia & Helena

The prolific, cinephilic, and endlessly imaginative Matías Piñeiro (Viola) continues his multi-film meditation on Shakespeare’s comedies with this marvellous riff on A Midsummer Night’s Dream centred on an Argentine theatre director's sojourn in New York City.

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare

Book | eBook | eAudiobook | Audiobook CD | Large Print | Talking Book (restricted to print disabled patrons) | in Amharic | in Chinese | in Czech | in Esperanto | in Japanese | in Korean | in Tagalog




A café proprietor spends a decade petitioning the Chinese legal system after being swindled by her ex-husband, in this caustically comic contemporary fable from superstar director Feng Xiaogang, adapted from the novel by Liu Zhenyun.

  I Did Not Kill My Husband by Liu Zhenyun

Book | eBook



I Am Not Your Negro

Working from the text of James Baldwin’s unfinished final novel, director Raoul Peck creates a stunning meditation on what it means to be Black in America. In 1979, James Baldwin wrote a letter to his literary agent describing his new endeavour: the writing of his final book, Remember This House, recounting the lives and successive assassinations of his friends Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Baldwin was not able to complete the book before his death, and the unfinished manuscript was entrusted to Peck by the writer's estate.

James Baldwin The Last Interview and Other Conversations

Book | eBook




James Franco directs and stars alongside a fine cast — including Vincent D’Onofrio, Robert Duvall, Selena Gomez, and Nat Wolff — in this adaptation of John Steinbeck’s Depression-era novel about two labour organizers trying to unionize exploited California fruit pickers.

In Dubious Battle by John Steinbeck

Book | eBook | Large Print




Winner of the Grand Prix at Cannes, the new film from Quebecois wunderkind Xavier Dolan ropes in an all-star French cast (including Marion Cotillard, Vincent Cassel, Léa Seydoux, and Nathalie Baye) for its tempestuous tale about the fraught reunion of a fractured family. Based on the play by Jean-Luc Lagarce, who was recognized as one of France's foremost modern playwrights only after his untimely death due to AIDS-related illness. 

  Theatre Complet III by Jean-Luc Lagarce

Book - reference




Spanish maestro Pedro Almodóvar adapts three stories from Canadian Nobel Prize winner Alice Munro's exquisite collection Runaway, relocating them to Spain, for this time-tripping tale about the relationship and eventual rupture between a Madrid teacher and her beloved daughter.

Runaway by Alice Munro

Book | eBook | Audiobook CD | eAudiobook | Talking Book (restricted to print disabled patrons) | in French | in Greek | in Persian | in Serbian




The beguiling third feature from Argentine writer-director Gastón Solnicki takes inspiration from Béla Bartók’s opera Bluebeard’s Castle (itself based on the French folktale "La Barbe bleue" by Charles Perrault) for this charming tale about several young women attempting to make their way into adulthood.

The Complete Fairy Tales by Charles Perrault transl. Betts Bluebeard - illu Walter Crane 1898

Book | Walter Crane picture book 1898 - Osborne collection and PDF



Lady Macbeth

Acclaimed theatre director William Oldroyd relocates Nikolai Leskov’s short story to 19th-century England, in this Gothic tale about a young woman trapped in a marriage of convenience whose passionate affair unleashes a maelstrom of murder and mayhem on a country estate.

Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk by Leskov_Hesperus

Book | Book | eBook | Book - reference




Dev Patel, Rooney Mara, and Nicole Kidman star in the true story of Saroo Brierley, who was adopted by an Australian couple after being separated from his family in India at the age of five, and then located his original home using Google Earth 25 years later.

A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley

Book | eBook | Audiobook CD | eAudiobook | Talking Book (restricted to print disabled patrons)




Liam Neeson, Sigourney Weaver, and Felicity Jones star in this adaptation of the award-winning children’s book by Patrick Ness, about a lonely young boy struggling with the imminent death of his terminally ill mother who is befriended by a friendly, shambling monster that arrives in his room nightly to tell him stories.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

BookBook - reference | eBook | eBook | Audiobook CD



My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea

The title tells the tale in this inventive, beautiful, and bizarre animated feature from acclaimed graphic novelist Dash Shaw, featuring the voices of Jason Schwartzman, Lena Dunham, Maya Rudolph, Susan Sarandon, and Reggie Watts.

Bodyworld by Dash Shaw

Book | Book - reference




Award-winning filmmaker Anne Émond returns to the festival with this creatively imagined biopic of controversial Quebec writer Nelly Arcan, who scandalized the French literary world with her semi-autobiographical novel based on her experiences as a sex worker.

Whore by Nelly Arcan

Book | in French




Benoit Jacquot adapts a novella by Don DeLillo for this tale of amour fou between a self-centred filmmaker and a beautiful body artist.

The Body Artist by Don Delillo

Book | eBook | Audiobook CD | Large Print




Pablo Larraín weaves an engrossing metafictional fable around the 1948 manhunt for celebrated poet and politician Pablo Neruda, who goes underground when Chile outlaws communism and is pursued by an ambitious police inspector (Gael García Bernal) hoping to make a name for himself by capturing the famous fugitive.

Then Come Back The Lost Neruda Poems




Nocturnal Animals

Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Armie Hammer headline the second feature from director Tom Ford (A Single Man), about a woman who is forced to confront the demons of her past as she is drawn into the world of a thriller novel written by her ex-husband. Based on a novel by Austin Wright.

Tony and Susan by Austin Wright

Book | eBook



David Oyelowo (Selma) and Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave) star in the true story of a young girl from rural Uganda (played by newcomer Madina Nalwanga) who discovers a passion for chess, and sets out to pursue her dream of becoming an international champion. 

The Queen of Katwe

Book | eBook




Cynthia Nixon stars as the legendary poet Emily Dickinson in this luminous biopic from director Terence Davies (The Deep Blue Sea).

My Letter to the World and Other Poems





A young student at a drama school faces a moral conundrum when his budding romance becomes fodder for a final-year performance, in director Alison Maclean’s adaptation of the novel by Booker Prize–winning author Eleanor Catton.

The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton

Book | eBook | eAudiobook



Salt and Fire

Michael Shannon and Gael García Bernal star in this ecological thriller from the great Werner Herzog, about a scientist and a corporate CEO who must overcome their ideological differences in order to avert potential disaster from a volcano on the verge of eruption. Inspired by the short story "Aral" by Tom Bissell.

God Lives in St Petersburg by Tom Bissell




The Secret Scripture

The hidden memoir of an elderly woman confined to a mental hospital reveals the history of her passionate yet tortured life, and of the religious and political upheavals in Ireland during the 1920s and ’30s. Rooney Mara, Jack Reynor, Eric Bana, and Vanessa Redgrave star in this adaptation of Sebastian Barry’s award-winning 2008 novel from Oscar-nominated director Jim Sheridan.

The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry

Book | eBook | eAudiobook | Large Print




Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in this real-life political thriller from Oscar winner Oliver Stone, based in part on the book by Luke Harding.

The Snowden Files by Luke Harding

Book | eBook




Academy Award nominee Catherine Keener and Hannah Gross star in this adaptation of the final novel by the late, great Canadian novelist Carol Shields, about a writer who discovers her runaway daughter panhandling on the street and seemingly deprived of speech.

Unless by Carol Shields

Book | eBook | Audiobook CD | eAudiobook | Talking Book (restricted to print disabled patrons)




Bryan Cranston stars as a successful lawyer and family man who disappears from his own life and observes his baffled loved ones from a hiding place in the attic, in writer-director Robin Swicord's adaptation of the short story by E.L. Doctorow.

All the Time in the World by E. L. Doctorow

Book | eBook


Note: All film synopses and stills are from TIFF.


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