The Hottest Films for Sale at the 2022 Toronto Film Festival

·8-min read

Don’t forget to pack your wallet.

Hollywood is hitting the Toronto International Film Festival this week hoping to land the next buzzy breakout. After two years of virtual or reduced capacity gatherings as a COVID-era concession, the film business is back in force, and that means deals, deals and more deals.

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Here’s a look at some of the hottest movies on offer — the kinds of splashy projects that could result in the next massive sale.

Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Director: Aitch Alberto

Cast: Max Pelayo, Reese Gonzales, Eugenio Derbez, Eva Longoria, Veronica Falcón, Kevin Alejandro

Sales agent: UTA

Buzz factor: This touching story of two teenage boys in 1987 El Paso whose friendship both deepens and is challenged in surprising ways will leave audiences reaching for the tissues. It also marks the feature debut of Alberto, an exciting new filmmaking talent, who deftly adapts Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s award-winning 2012 novel and gets two impressive performances out of up-and-comers Max Pelayo and Reese Gonzales in the title roles. Plus, no less a leading light than Lin-Manuel Miranda signed on as a producer, an important endorsement. If the reviews match the early buzz, Alberto should leave TIFF with plenty of compelling offers.

People’s Joker

Director: Vera Drew

Cast: Vera Drew, Lynn Downey, Kane Distler, Nathan Faustyn, David Liebe Hart

Sales agent: UTA

Buzz factor: Anyone with a vague awareness of Hollywood knows that superhero movies are all the rage. So it’s bold pitch to “People’s Joker” as “not the comic-book movie we deserve — it’s the one we desperately need.” Yet the queer coming-of-age movie about a transgender clown named Joker covers just about everything that’s often ignored in today’s comic book adventures. Always funny, often bizarre, the satirical “People’s Joker” looks to connect with audiences (even those who remain indifferent to Spandex-wearing vigilantes).

Sanctuary

Director: Zachary Wigon

Cast: Christopher Abbott, Margaret Qualley

Sales agent: UTA, Charades

Buzz factor: The pitch sells itself: An heir (Abbott) and the dominatrix who primed him for success (Qualley) come to a head in a hotel room as he tries to cut ties. But she knows she deserves more than the door for her efforts, and she isn’t willing to leave quietly. Cue the blackmail. Think “Succession,” but make it sexy.

Sir Ben Kingsley in “<a href="https://variety.com/t/daliland-2/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Daliland" class="link ">Daliland</a>”
Sir Ben Kingsley in “Daliland

Dalíland

Director: Mary Harron

Cast: Sir Ben Kingsley, Barbara Sukowa, Christopher Briney, Rupert Graves, Ezra Miller

Sales agent: CAA

Buzz factor: Kingsley brings the necessary panache to portray the late, great surrealist artist in “Daliland,” which centers on the mustachioed, mercurial painter and his curious relationship with his wife Gala. Told through the eyes of a young assistant trying to make a name for himself in the art world, “American Psycho” director Mary Harron paints a unique portrait of the glamour that surrounds Dali. Sometimes, looks can be deceiving.

Other People’s Children

Director: Rebecca Zlotowski

Cast: Virginie Efira, Roschdy Zem

Sales agent: Wild Bunch International

Buzz factor: The romantic drama, about a teacher whose new relationship with a single father becomes complicated when she begins to connect with his 4-year-old daughter, will have viewers grabbing for a hankie. As Rachel, a 40-year-old who newly wants to become a mother, Efira gives a compelling portrayal of the complex feelings that grow for her boyfriend’s child — and the boundaries that can never be crossed.

Baby Ruby
Kit Harington and Noemie Merlant in “Baby Ruby”

Baby Ruby

Director: Bess Wohl

Cast: Noémie Merlant, Kit Harington, Meredith Hagner, Jayne Atkinson

Sales agent: FilmNation Entertainment

Buzz factor: In a very different take on new motherhood, playwright Bess Wohl’s unsettling “Baby Ruby” gets to the uncomfortable truths about becoming a parent. The film, led by “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” actor Noémie Merlant and “Game of Thrones” star Kit Harington, begins as they bring their newborn home from the hospital. But the psychological thriller quickly turns into a fever dream, one that’ll feel all too familiar for anyone who’s ever had darkly disturbing thoughts about loved ones.

Prisoner’s Daughter

Director: Catherine Hardwicke

Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Brian Cox

Sales agent: UTA

Buzz factor: While TV viewers desperately love Logan Roy, Brian Cox takes a different turn in this emotional thriller about a reformed con trying to reconnect with the family he never knew. His history of violence, however, has lingering consequences. The combination of Kate Beckinsale and the beloved Cox should lure buyers, especially with veteran director Catherine Hardwicke at the wheel.

The Blackening

Director: Tim Story

Cast: Grace Byers, Jermaine Fowler, Melvin Gregg, X Mayo, Yvonne Orji, Dewayne Perkins, Jay Pharoah, Antoinette Robertson, Sinqua Walls

Sales agent: MRC Film

Buzz factor: “Ride Along” franchise helmer Tim Story offers an elevated take on the horror-comedy from writer and producer Tracy Oliver (“Girls Trip”). While unafraid to discus Black and intersectional identities in the context of a cabin-in-the-woods slasher, the biggest incentive for buyers is how deeply the film refuses to take itself seriously. The strong ensemble and laugh-a-minute script doesn’t hurt either.

Sick

Director: John Hyams

Cast: Gideon Adlon, Dylan Sprayberry, Beth Million, Jane Adams

Sales agent: Miramax

Buzz factor: Horror films are typically easy sells, particularly at prestige festivals over the past decade. This particular film, a claustrophobic slasher with a pandemic twist, should be particularly hot thanks to its writer Kevin Williamson (father of the evergreen cash cow “Scream” franchise).

Saint Omer
Director Alice Diop’s “Saint Omer”

Saint Omer

Director: Alice Diop

Cast: Kayije Kagame, Guslagie Malanda, Valérie Dréville, Aurélia Petit

Sales agent: Wild Bunch International

Buzz factor: As one of the best-reviewed movies at this year’s Venice Film Festival, Diop’s project continues to devastate audiences with its poignancy. A courtroom drama about infanticide and the unease of a new mother observing the proceedings, the documentarian’s narrative debut is sure to make a splash in Toronto.

The Grab

Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite

Sales Agent: WME

Buzz factor: Cowperthwaite is no stranger to headline-grabbing films, having a pulled back the curtain on animal cruelty at SeaWorld with “Blackfish.” Now, she delves back into the world of whistleblowers and truth-seekers with “The Grab,” which follows journalist Nathan Halverson and his team at the Center for Investigative Reporting as they they look at the way that governments are looking to control food and water outside their borders to prepare for shortages. The search was sparked after a Chinese company purchased Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork producer, giving China control of one out of four American pigs. At a time of worsening geopolitical tensions, “The Grab” seems tailor-made to make sense of the escalating battle for scarce resources.

Wildflower

Director: Matt Smukler

Cast: Kiernan Shipka, Dash Mihok, Charlie Plummer, Alexandra Daddario, Jean Smart

Sales Agent: CAA, Sierra/Infinity (eOne) and WME

Buzz factor: The coming-of-age film seems guaranteed to tug at the strings of even the hardest of hearts. It feature Shipka, a standout from her role on “Mad Men,” as a young woman who must balance her responsibility to care for her intellectually disabled parents with her desire to lead an independent life and go to college. The movie, which is said to be funny and compassionate, sounds a little like “CODA,” which sparked a bidding war at Sundance, one that ultimately led to a best picture win at the Academy Awards.

Joyland

Director: Saim Sadiq

Cast: Ali Junejo, Rasti Farooq, Alina Khan, Sarwat Gilani, Salmaan Peerzada, Sohail Sameer, Sania Saeed

Sales Agent: WME

Buzz factor: Pakistani writer-director Sadiq’s debut feature, a look at transgender desire, was a sensation at Cannes, where it won the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize and Queer Palm. The film’s timely story of love and identity should resonate with indie studios looking for an arthouse hit.

Maya and the Wave

Director: Stephanie Johnes

Sales Agent: 30 West

Buzz factor: This documentary about Brazilian surfer Maya Gabeira has it all. An inspirational story about a world-champion athlete with a dream to compete at the highest levels, as well as a look at the sexism and chauvinism she was forced to overcome in a male-dominated sport. The film, which is said to be visually stunning, follows Gabeira on a quest to break a world record in the Portuguese town of Nazaré. Her perseverance in the face of death-defying odds sounds like it could be another non-fiction smash in the “Free Solo” vein.

Sympathy for the Devil

Director: Yuval Adler

Cast: Nicolas Cage, Joel Kinnaman

Sales agent: Capstone Global

Buzz factor: Cage is having a career resurgence thanks to his critically acclaimed roles in “Pig” and “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent.” And “Sympathy for the Devil,” which finds Cage as a mysterious passenger to Kinnaman’s driver sounds like a big old slice of pulp. It’s the kind of banquet that Cage has served up with scenery-chewing relish over the years.

Sleeping Dogs

Director: Adam Cooper

Cast: Russell Crowe

Sales agent: Highland Film Group

Buzz factor: Talk about a twisty premise. Crowe stars as a detective with Alzheimer’s who has to figure out if he put the wrong man away when a death row inmate that he arrested 10 years prior starts to proclaim his innocence. It sounds like a meaty role for the Oscar-winner and the kind of crackling mystery that should have buyers looking for a piece of the action.

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