TIFF 2023 Preview: Films Directed By Women

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The 48th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival is once again ready to kick off in Toronto. While this year may not have the star power of previous years due to the ongoing SAG and WGA strikes, there are still plenty of films to see – especially ones with women filmmakers at the helm.

Of the 200-plus films playing at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2023, approximately 36% are directed or co-directed by women – a number down from the festival’s all-time high of 45% women-directed films in a pandemic-era 2020 online-only festival (it was 36% in 2019). When asked for this year’s stats, TIFF’s press office said official statistics and breakdown of women-directed films across all programmes would not be available until after the festival.

While not reaching gender parity in their programming this year, TIFF is still showcasing films by women from around the world. Both well-established directors and first-time directors helm everything from star-studded ensembles, documentaries, indie dramas, comedies, and more.

Hot tickets directed by women include feature film directorial debuts of Anna Kendrick, Patricia Arquette and Kristin Scott Thomas. Kendrick stars in and directs Woman of the Hour, a drama based on the life of serial killer Rodney Alcala who, in 1978, appeared on the TV show The Dating Game while in the middle of his killing spree. Arquette also turns her attention to a real-life figure, Hunter S. Thompson in Gonzo Girl, based on Cheryl Della Pietra’s semi-autobiographical novel, the film chronicles her time as Thompson’s personal assistant. Meanwhile, Thomas stars and directs in the family drama North Star opposite Scarlett Johansson and Sienna Miller. In it, a trio of sisters come together on the eve of their mother’s third wedding.

Established women directors with new offerings at the festival include Louise Archambault’s Irina’s Vow, Alice Rohrwacher’s La Chimera, Catherine Breillat’s Last Summer, Sally El Hosaini’s Unicorns which she co-directs, established Cameroonian director Rosine Mbakam’s Mambar Pierrette, and Agnieszka Holland’s Green Border. Best known for their documentary work, co-directors Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin bring NYAD to TIFF, a dramatic feature starring Annette Benning and Jodie Foster about Diana Nyad, the woman who, at the age of 64, became the first person to swim from Cuba to the US without a shark cage. Also screening as part of the fest is Canadian director Deepa Mehta’s look at trans life in India in I Am Sirat which she co-directs with the film’s subject, Sirat Taneja, and Lone Scherfig’s inspirational drama, The Movie Teller.

Another of TIFF’s must-sees is the Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or winner Anatomy of a Fall. Directed by Justine Triet, the film is about a woman suspected of murdering her husband – the only witness to her crime is the couple’s blind son. Already earning buzz ahead of its world premiere is Ellen Kuras’ Lee, a portrait of American photojournalist Lee Miller starring Kate Winslet in the titular role. Her second film as a director, Lee previously worked as a cinematographer on Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and A Little Chaos, both of which starred Winslet.

When it comes to fresh new voices and up-and-coming directors, there are plenty of women-directed options to fill your festival.

Films on our radar include Wendy Bednarz’s Yellow Bus about an woman seeking accountability after her daughter is left to die on a school bus in the sweltering desert heat, Meredith Hama-Brown’s look at a fractured biracial family retreat in Seagrass, Monica Sorelle’s slice-of-life portrait of an immigrant worker in Mountains, Clair Titley’s take on the true story of a Japanese reality star left naked in a room for more than a year in The Contestant, and Molly McGlynn’s Fitting In, a semi-autobiographical tale of a teenage girl grappling with a rare reproductive health diagnosis.

Also earning buzz are Kitty Green’s backpacking drama The Royal Hotel starring Julia Garner, Maggie Betts’ courtroom drama about a mon-and-pop funeral home in The Burial with Tommy Lee Jones and Jamie Foxx, and Mahalia Belo’s tense tale The End We Start From starring Jodie Comer. Plus, Thea Sharrock’s Wicked Little Letters with Olivia Colman and Jessie Buckley, Minhail Baig’s We Grown Now, Jessica Yu’s Quiz Lady starring Sandra Oh and Awkwafina, and Canadian multicultural coming-of-age tale The Queen of My Dreams by Fawzia Mirza.

With more than 70 films, series, and shorts directed by women, there are many opportunities to take in female-helmed films this festival, which runs September 7 through 17th.

See below for a list of feature-length films and series directed or co-directed by women.

A Match (Sthal), dir. Jayant Digambar Somalkar

A Ravaging Wind, dir. Paula Hernández

Anatomy of a Fall, dir. Justine Triet

Arthur & Diana, dir. Sara Summa

Artie Shaw: Time Is All You’ve Got, dir. Brigitte Berman

Bad Boy, dir. Hagar Ben-Asher & others

Banel & Adama, dir. Ramata-Toulaye Sy

Bria Mack Gets a Life, dir. Sasha Leigh Henry & Kelly Fyffe-Marshall

Bye Bye Tiberias, dir. Lina Soualem

Chuck Chuck Baby, dir. Janis Pugh

City of Wind, dir. Lkhagvadulam Purev-Ochir

Copa 71, dir. Rachel Ramsay, James Erskine

Daddio, dir. Christy Hall

Days of Happiness, dir. Chloé Robichaud

El Rapto, dir. Daniela Goggi

Expats, dir. Lulu Wang

Fair Play, dir. Chloe Domont

Fitting In, dir. Molly McGlynn

Four Daughters, dir. Kaouther Ben Hania

Gonzo Girl, dir. Patricia Arquette

Green Border, dir. Agnieszka Holland

Homecoming, dir. Suvi West & Anssi Kömi

How To Have Sex, dir. Molly Manning Walker

Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person, dir. Ariane Louis-Seize

I Am Sirat, dr. Deepa Mehta & Sirat Taneja

I Told You So (Te l’avevo detto), dir. Ginevra Elkann

Irena’s Vow, dir. Louise Archambault

Je’vida, dir. Katja Gauriloff

La Chimera, dir. Alice Rohrwacher

Last Summer, dir. Catherine Breillat

Lee, dir. Ellen Kuras

Lost Ladies, dir. Kiran Rao

Mambar Pierrette, dir. Rosine Mbakam

Mountain Queen: The Summits of Lhakpa Sherpa, dir. Lucy Walker

Mountains, dir. Monica Sorelle

Music, dir. Angela Schanelec

North Star, dir. Kristin Scott Thomas

Not A Word (Kein Wort), dir. Hanna Slak

NYAD, dir. Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi & Jimmy Chin

Quiz Lady, dir. Jessica Yu

Seagrass, dir. Meredith Hama-Brown

Shayda, dir. Noora Niasari

Sira, dir. Apolline Traoré

Sisterhood (HLM Pussy), dir. Nora El Hourch

Solitude, dir. Ninna Pálmadóttir

Solo, dir. Sophie Dupuis

Songs of Earth, dir. Margreth Olin

Sorry/Not Sorry, dir. Caroline Suh & Cara Mones

Spirit of Ecstasy (La Vénus d’argent), dir. Héléna Klotz

Summer Qamp, dir. Jen Markowitz

Swan Song, dir. Chelsea McMullan

Sweet Dreams, dir. Ena Sendijarević

Tautuktavuk (What We See) , dir. Carol Kunnuk, Lucy Tulugarjuk

The Burial, dir. Maggie Betts

The Contestant , dir. Clair Titley

The End We Start From, dir. Mahalia Belo

The Feeling that the Time for Something Has Passed, dir. Joanna Arnow

The Mother of All Lies, dir. Asmae El Moudir

The Movie Teller, dir. Lone Scherfig

The Nature of Love, dir. Monia Chokri

The Peasants, dir. DK Welchman & Hugh Welchman

The Queen of My Dreams, dir. Fawzia Mirza

The Royal Hotel, dir. Kitty Green

The Rye Horn (O Corno) , dir. Jaione Camborda

The Teacher, dir. Farah Nabulsi

The Tundra Within Me (Eallugierdi), dir. Sara Margrethe Oskal

Toll, dir. Carolina Markowicz

Unicorns, dir. Sally El Hosaini & James Krishna Floyd

Upon Open Sky, dir. Mariana Arriaga & Santiago Arriaga

Walls, dir. Kasia Smutniak

We Grown Now, dir. Minhal Baig

Wicked Little Letters, dir. Thea Sharrock

Without Air, dir. Katalin Moldovai

Woman of the Hour, dir. Anna Kendrick

Woodland, dir. Elisabeth Scharang

Yellow Bus, dir. Wendy Bednarz

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Rachel West

Based in Toronto, Rachel is a Senior Film Critic at ThatShelf.com. She has interviewed everyone from Michael Fassbender to Miss Piggy and has reported live from TIFF, the SAG Awards, Comic-Con, and the Golden Globes, among other events, and has contributed film writing and content to outlets including ET Canada, Telefilm, Global News, The National Post, Cineplex Magazine, and Letterboxd, among others. She is a member of the Toronto Film Critics Association. Find her on Twitter: @rachel_is_here