TIFF 2020: A Reading List

September 8, 2020 | Viveca

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The 2020 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) takes place from September 10 until September 19. The Festival will look different this year, and TIFF has provided a helpful "how to" guide. There will be socially-distanced in-person screenings, online viewing and drive-in outdoor events. Traditional star gazing may be replaced by actual star gazing as TIFF goers move to backyard screenings. Even so, this event is a testament to Toronto's legendary love for film despite the current challenges.  

Do you like to read the book before you watch the movie or show? Then get the TIFF 2020 reads now.

The list below has some much-anticipated entries. This includes books and films from Canada, such as Michelle Latimer's Inconvenient Indian and Trickster.

Son of a Trickster

Trickster / Canada / Directed by Michelle Latimer / Starring Joel Oulette, Crystle Lightning, Kalani Queypo

This television series is based on the 2017 coming-of-age novel Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson.

This novel focuses on Jared, an Indigenous teenager trying to cope with poverty within a dysfunctional family. Throughout, Jared crosses into the world of the trickster Wee'jit.  Son of a Trickster was shortlisted for the Giller Prize.  Robinson's followup novel is Trickster Drift, the second installment of a projected trilogy.


Inconvenient Indian
Inconvenient Indian / Canada / Directed by Michelle Latimer / Narrated by Thomas King 

Based on the 2012 book The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America  by Thomas King.

Latimer's powerful documentary focuses the past and present colonization of Indigenous peoples in North America. Latimer takes a critical look at the concepts of history, memory and truth. King's book won the 2014 RBC Taylor Prize for non-fiction.  His earlier novel Green Grass, Running Water was nominated for a Governor General's Award. 


A Suitable Boy
A Suitable Boy  / United Kingdom, India / Directed by Mira Nair / Starring Tabu, Ishaan Khatter, Tanya Maniktala, Mahira Kakkar

This BBC mini-series is based on the 1993 epic novel A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth.

Seth's novel is an exploration of arranged marriages, parental expectations, politics and autonomy in India during the 1950s.  Nair's much-acclaimed Monsoon Wedding is also available to borrow on DVD.


Ghetto Cowboy

Concrete Cowboy / USA / Directed by Ricky Staub / Starring Idris Elba, Caleb McLaughlin, Jharrel Jerome, Byron Bowers, Lorraine Toussaint, Clifford "Method Man" Smith

Based on the critically-acclaimed 2011 children's book  Ghetto Cowboy by Greg Neri.

Twelve-year-old Cole is acting out. Desperate, his mother brings him to live with his father. This is where Cole is introduced to a group of African-American cowboys whose work with horses is used to steer youth away from gangs. Cole is played by Caleb McLaughlin, best-known for his work in the television series Stranger Things.  



Nomadland / USA / Directed By Chloé Zhao / Starring Frances McDormand, David Strathairn, Linda May, Charlene Swankie

Based on the 2017 non-fiction work Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder.

Bruder is a journalist specializing in subcultures. In this book, she chronicles older Americans affected by the recession who now travel across the country in campers looking for work. Zhao's earlier film, The Rider is available on DVD.


American Utopia Broadway

David Byrne's American Utopia / USA / Directed by Spike Lee / Starring David Byrne, Jacquelene Acevedo, Gustavo Di Dalva, Daniel Freedman, Chris Giarmo, Tim Keiper, Tendayi Kuumba, Karl Mansfield, Mauro Refosco, Stéphane San Juan, Angie Swan, Bobby Wooten III

This documentary is based on the musical recording American Utopia.

Spike Lee chronicles the 2019 Broadway show American Utopia, headlined by the iconic David Byrne. It's a musical call out to engage and protest.


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Want more? Check out these books that inspired the films from the past few years of TIFF.