TIFF 2015: Wrestling, Horse-Racing, Cycling and Boxing

The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) begins tomorrow and excitement is abuzz about the inevitable rush of stars, screenings and parties. While celebrity featured films are what draw crowds, film buffs will always have vast options at TIFF as it consistently puts together a comprehensive program. Below are a few standout films featuring sport that may very well be in contention for awards here and elsewhere (all film summaries are courtesy of TIFF.net):

Gala Presentation: THE PROGRAM – Stephen Frears (The Queen, Philomena) directs Ben Foster in this thriller about disgraced cycling champion Lance Armstrong’s doping scandal and downfall.

Masters Presentation: BLEAK STREET LA CALLE DE LA AMARGURA – Mexican maestro Arturo Ripstein (Deep Crimson) directs this true-crime story about the bizarre 2009 murders of dwarf wrestling brothers Alberto and Alejandro Jiménez.

TIFF Docs Presentation: DARK HORSE – Filmmaker Louise Osmond follows the story of a group of friends and neighbours in a small Welsh town who pool their modest resources to invest in a racehorse they dub Dream Alliance, and soon find themselves breaking social barriers by competing against some of the wealthiest horse owners in the UK.

Contemporary World Cinema Presentation: KOZA – This subtle fusion of documentary and fiction follows a young Roma boxer as he embarks on a tragicomic return to the ring in order to pay for his girlfriend’s abortion.

Trailers for the above can be viewed on their respective TIFF.net pages, which I have linked to their titles. While tickets to TIFF tend to be pricey, the more “unusual” or “foreign” the film, the more worthwhile in seeing it as films like that tend to disappear post-festival. Happy watching!

Also At TIFF: Red Army

“During the Cold War, battles between East and West played out in sports as much as international politics. Stalin and his successors saw their athletes as ambassadors of ideology. Red Army reveals one of the most colourful chapters of this history, focusing on the Soviet hockey team and its rivalries with Canada and the USA.

At the centre of the story is Slava Fetisov, one of the greatest players to experience the highs and lows of Soviet hockey prior to the USSR’s collapse. He stood up to a powerful system and paved the way for Russian players to change their circumstances. As Soviet communism gave way to global capitalism, the lure of NHL money unravelled the legendary team known as the Red Army”.

Taken from Red Army’s page at the TIFF website. Ticket purchases can be made here.

Mary Kom Biopic Premieres at TIFF

The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) turns 38 this year with the 2014 10-day festival opening on Thursday, September 4th. TIFF has become one of the hottest film festivals around the globe, and each year high-profile films and celebrities descend on Toronto for the fest.

This year, TIFF is doing a special presentation of the biopic Mary Kom, trailer here, “inspired by the travails and triumphs of India’s first female Olympic boxing medallist, this portrait of a fighter sees Chopra join a celebrated cinematic lineage: underdog pugilists who beat the odds. Born to a tribal family in the northeastern state of Manipur, the diminutive village girl was initially forced to conceal her burgeoning passion from her disapproving parents, and would later clash with Indian boxing officials over the facilities available to female contenders. Yet Kom would also go on to become a five-time world champion, often punching literally above her weight” (excerpt taken from the film’s festival page).

Mary Kom is an incredible woman, boxer, and advocate for sport and gender equity. Her life story is full of adversity and triumphs, and her success has opened doors for women in South Asia who are interested in being a competitive boxer. Kom runs a female-only fight club that teaches girls and women to defend themselves against sexual violence in India. To learn more about her, read this great 2012 profile in The Economist’s Intelligent Life Magazine, and also visit her website mcmarykom.com.

Tickets for TIFF go on sale Sunday, August 31. For more info, go to tiff.net/festivals/thefestival.