The Toronto International Film Festival is all about rubbing elbows with the movie stars—that is, if you can get past that 350-pound bouncer with no neck. It’s no easier getting access to the other celebrity royalty in attendance, either, but NBA players, musicians and more have made their mark on this year’s iteration of North America’s largest film festival, which kicked off Sept. 6 and continues until Sept. 16. Whether you want to see your favourite ballers hit the red carpet or simply to check out an anticipated film, here are only a few of the reasons why you should be keeping tabs on what’s going on this year.
12 Years a Slave
New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony and his beautiful wife, La La, made one hell of an entrance at the TIFF premiere of 12 Years A Slave, a historical drama directed by Steve McQueen, the legend behind the Michael Fassbender sexual mind-bender, Shame. Set before the American Civil War, 12 Years follows the life of a free black man who is abducted from the free north and sold into slavery. However, if you missed the TIFF showing, the film’s slated for limited screenings in the U.S., starting Oct. 18. In the meantime, feel free to grab a camo shirt like the one Carmelo has on—it’s by 3.1 Philip Lim, and goes for $250 at SSense.
Mandela: The Long Walk to Freedom
The Anthonys were also last-minute additions to the guestlist for for the TIFF screening of Mandela: The Long Walk To Freedom, a biographical film based on the anti-apartheid activist directed by Justin Chadwick. As for why to be excited about this film, the power couple couldn’t have said it better: “Two words: Idris. Elba.” Elba, who plays the lead role of former South African president Nelson Mandela and stars alongside Naomie Harris, has become a huge name both on and off the silver screen. The actor/rapper killed it in recent films including Pacific Rim and Prometheus. And, although Mandela received lukewarm praise from critics at the screening, make no mistake that Elba did it again in this film, which you can see for yourself after its theatrical release Nov. 29, 2013.
All is By My Side
You may know André Benjamin as the crackerjack rapper André 3000 of musical outfit Outkast, but the musician is no stranger to the silver screen. In All is By My Side at this year’s TIFF, Benjamin plays none other than legend Jimi Hendrix as the film follows one of the most enigmatic figures in music during the years before the “Purple Haze” artist became famous, when he was just a blues man trying to find his way in the world. John Wridley wrote and directed this biopic that exposes some of the inner conflict the unpredictable—and sometimes violent—Hendrix had going on. While we’re aching to find out when the film releases in theatres (if at all), Hendrix’s ex-girlfriend, Kathy Etchingham, played by Hayley Atwell in the film, had a few words of criticism to share.
Made in America
The American dream is about living large, and director Ron Howard shows exactly how large the dream can get in this documentary about Jay-Z’s Made in America music festival that premiered in Toronto. Howard immerses himself in the tour’s culture as a hip-hop outsider, and ends up talking to some of the biggest acts of the festival, examining the ties between Jay-Z’s pop culture phenomenon and American life as a whole. If the social commentary isn’t enough, the film’s performances by hip-hop collective Odd Future, Santigold and Run-DMC should tide you over. There’s no word on when you might be able to get a copy of the doc.
We had our fingers crossed that TIFF would get a taste of Linsanity after the Jeremy Lin doc premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. No such luck, but we’re not a long way off from the Oct. 4 release of this Evan Leong-directed film. It promises to be one of the most compelling rags-to-riches stories to hit the court since Hoop Dreams as it follows the young buck from his youth to rising to prominence playing for the Knicks.
We were also hoping to see director and TIFF alumnus Lee Daniels on the red carpet following the recent release of his newest film, Lee Daniels’ The Butler. While Daniels premiered his 2006 film, Shadowboxer, at that year’s festival, this time he didn’t have an entry of his own. However, his recent box office release caught our attention nonetheless. In this film, Forest Whitaker plays Cecil Gaignes, a butler who served eight presidents in the White House through some of the most turbulent periods of American history, including the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War. The film also boasts an impressive array of executive producers, which runs a whopping 41-strong. Among those invited to be part of the film’s production include Sheila Johnson, the majority stake owner of the NBA’s Washington Wizards and the WNBA’s Washington Mystics, as well as former NBA player Michael Finley.