Forty haiku for the fortieth edition of the Toronto International Film Festival

Video still from Under the Influence
Video still from Under the Influence
Land of Mine
Video still from Land of Mine
In this based-on-fact war drama, a group of German POWs are put to work by the Allies defusing their own landmines on the west coast of Denmark in the immediate aftermath of World War II . . .

True horror story:
one false poke in sand means death
cleaning bombs of war

Northern Soul
Video still from Northern Soul
World-renowned photographer Elaine Constantine makes her feature directorial debut with this invigorating coming-of-age film about a working-class teen in 1974 Lancashire who finds liberation in the area’s burgeoning soul-music scene . . .

Undiscovered gems
mined from US discount bins
find fame in Blighty

Video still from Disorder
A young ex-soldier suffering from PTSD (Matthias Schoenaerts) protects a beautiful woman (Diane Kruger) and her child from a brutal home invasion, in this masterfully engineered thriller from director Alice Winocour (Augustine) . . .

This could be trouble:
PTSD-riddled vet
protects arms dealer

The Man Who Knew Infinity
Video still from The Man Who Knew Infinity
Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) and Academy Award winner Jeremy Irons star in this inspirational biopic about Srinivasa Ramanujan, the early twentieth-century Indian mathematician whose groundbreaking theories revolutionized the field . . .

He explained black holes
but was unable to solve
matters of the heart

Guantanamo’s Child: Omar Khadr
Video still from Guantanamo’s Child
Omar Khadr, the Canadian citizen who was captured by American forces in Afghanistan in 2002 and spent a decade imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, tells his own story in his own words, in this documentary portrait from directors Patrick Reed and Michelle Shephard . . .

Abandoned in hell
the cold, fragile, broken boy
cries “Help me, kill me”

Louder Than Bombs
Video still from Louder Than Bombs
An aging schoolteacher (Gabriel Byrne) grappling with the recent death of his photojournalist wife (Isabelle Huppert) attempts to reconcile with his two very different sons (Jesse Eisenberg and Devin Druid), in the first English-language feature by acclaimed Norwegian director Joachim Trier (Reprise) . . .

Listen to The Smiths
A better use of your time
than this sluggish film

Black Mass
Video still from Black Mass
Johnny Depp stars as notorious Irish-American gangster Whitey Bulger, who spent thirty years as an FBI informant while rising to the top of the Boston underworld, in this adaptation of the book by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill. . . .

Alcatraz alum
comes home for Sunday dinner
after killing spree

James White
Video still from James White
An excess-prone twentysomething deadbeat must get his act together for his ailing mother—so he does that to excess too—in this funny, angry and tender directorial debut from producer Josh Mond (Martha Marcy May Marlene) . . .

Libidinous son
pulls himself together for
cancer-riddled mom

This Changes Everything
Video still from This Changes Everything
Directed by journalist and filmmaker Avi Lewis (The Take) and produced in conjunction with Naomi Klein’s bestselling book of the same name, this urgent dispatch on climate change contends that the greatest crisis we have ever faced also offers us the opportunity to address and correct the inhumane systems that have created it . . .

Guests of Mother Earth:
let us not be evicted
for bad behaviour

My Big Night
Video still from My Big Night
The backstage preparations for a New Year’s Eve TV spectacular become a flashpoint for comic mayhem, in the audaciously inventive ensemble comedy from Spain’s madcap maestro Álex de la Iglesia (Witching & Bitching) . . .

Stolen semen vials
torment TV production
Mania ensues

Keith Richards: Under the Influence
Video still from Under the Influence
Academy Award–winning director Morgan Neville (Twenty Feet from Stardom) follows Keith Richards on the road as the legendary Rolling Stones guitarist records his first solo record in over two decades . . 

Pop star no longer
Rocking, rolling grandfather
pursuing the blues

Video still from Spotlight
Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, and Michael Keaton star in this true story about a team of Boston Globe reporters who uncovered a massive scandal of child abuse and cover-ups within the local Catholic Church . . .

A tray of cookies
offered to church officials
accused of abuse

The Danish Girl
Video still from The Danish Girl
Academy Award winner Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) stars as Lili Elbe, the 1920s Danish artist who was one of the first recipients of sexual reassignment surgery, in this biopic directed by Oscar winner Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) . . .

Angelic painter
Uncomfortable body
Paved way for Caitlyn

Septembers of Shiraz
Video still from Septembers of Shiraz
Adrien Brody and Salma Hayek star in this adaptation of the critically acclaimed debut novel by Iranian American author Dalia Sofer, about a secular Jewish family caught up in the maelstrom of the 1979 Iranian Revolution . . .

Pillaged family
Ousted by revolution
saved by diamonds

The Witch
Video still from The Witch
The astonishing feature debut by director Robert Eggers evokes Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining in its tale of a family of settlers in seventeenth-century New England who encounter mysterious, possibly supernatural forces when they are exiled from their village and forced to live on the outskirts of an ominous forest . . .

Secluded pilgrims
Forest of demon spirits
and savage goat kicks

London Road
Video still from London Road
Tom Hardy and Olivia Colman headline this big-screen adaptation of the stage musical by Alecky Blythe and Adam Cork, about the “Suffolk Strangler” murders in Ipswich in 2006 . . .

Auto-tune the news
Neighbourhood hit with murder;
and atonal songs

Video still from Anomalisa
Charlie Kaufman, the celebrated screenwriter of Being John Malkovich and Adaptation and director of Synecdoche, New York, and Duke Johnson venture into the world of stop-motion animation with this fable about a motivational speaker seeking to transcend his monotonous existence . . .

Stop-motion puppets
surmount Team America
with explicit sex

Video still from Colonia
Two young lovers (Emma Watson and Daniel Brühl) find themselves trapped in the murderous crackdown following the 1973 coup against Chilean president Salvador Allende . . .

Claustrophobic cult
engulfs activist lovers
how can they escape?

Video still from Love
French provocateur Gaspar Noé (Enter the Void) continues to push the envelope with this 3D melodrama featuring explicit, unsimulated sex . . .

Indulgent yet artful
(note the 3-D money shot)
sentimental lust

He Named Me Malala
Video still from He Named Me Malala
Academy Award-winning filmmaker Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth) profiles Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager who survived a Taliban assassination attempt to become an outspoken, globally recognized advocate for girl’s rights . . .

Global policy
changed by Federer-obsessed
Minions-loving teen

Video still from Hurt
Acclaimed documentary filmmaker Alan Zweig (When Jews Were Funny) profiles one-time Canadian national hero Steve Fonyo, who raised millions of dollars for cancer research with his 1984-85 coast-to-coast run and was subsequently disgraced by numerous troubles with the law . . .

cancer-marathon hero
living in squalor

Video still from Victoria
A beautiful young Spanish nightclubber in Berlin becomes wheelwoman for a quartet of bank robbers, in this stunning heist thriller shot in a single extended take . . .

Critics loved one-take
two-and-half hour movie
But I fell asleep

I Smile Back
Video still from I Smile Back
Sarah Silverman gives an astonishing performance as a drug-addicted, self-destructive New Jersey housewife whose life begins to come apart at the seams, in this blistering adaptation of the acclaimed novel by Amy Koppelman . . .

Crumbling housewife
draws crayon flowers for kids
after cocaine binge

Men & Chicken
Video still from Men & Chicken
Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal) stars in this delirious comedy from Denmark’s Anders Thomas Jensen (The Green Butchers), about two sadsack brothers who head to a dilapidated mansion on a remote island to meet their biological father—and their three seriously eccentric siblings . . .

Boundary pushing
hilarity ensues with
sad masturbator

The Reflektor Tapes
Video still from The Reflektor Tapes
Award-winning filmmaker and music-video director Kahlil Joseph follows iconic Canadian band Arcade Fire as they complete their chart-topping 2013 album Reflektor and embark on the North American leg of their new world tour . . .

Preeminent band
shows harmonic bones and guts
amongst Haitian palms

The Martian
Video still from The Martian
Stranded on Mars, a NASA astronaut (Matt Damon) struggles to survive on the arid planet while his ground crew races to mount a rescue mission, in this interplanetary epic from director Ridley Scott . . .

Abandoned on Mars
A diet of potatoes
and disco music

Video still from Dheepan
Winner of the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes, this powerful drama from director Jacques Audiard (A Prophet, Rust & Bone) follows a former Tamil Tiger soldier as he flees from the aftermath of the Sri Lankan civil war to begin a new life in a Parisian suburb . . .

Tamil guerrilla
survives the streets of Paris
selling neon toys

The Program
Video still from The Program
Stephen Frears (The Queen, Philomena) directs Ben Foster in this thriller about disgraced cycling champion Lance Armstrong’s doping scandal and downfall . . .

His “chemo diet”
improved mass-to-muscle rates
Oh, the irony

Video still from Room
Escaping from the captivity in which they have been held for half a decade, a young woman and her five-year-old son struggle to adjust to the strange, terrifying, and wondrous world outside their one-room prison . . .

Garden-shed prison
mom lovingly raises son
spawned by vile captor

Video still from High-Rise
Tom Hiddleston and Jeremy Irons star in the new film by cult British director Ben Wheatley (Kill List, A Field in England), an ambitious adaptation of the J. G. Ballard novel about a London apartment tower that becomes a battlefield in a literal class war . . .

Pool party gone wrong
Socially upward-climbing
neighbours, wet with blood

Video still from Brooklyn
In the early 1950s, a young Irish woman (Saoirse Ronan) crosses the Atlantic to begin a new life in America, in this exquisitely crafted adaptation of the acclaimed novel by Colm Tóibín . . .

Nervous Irish girl
learns spaghetti etiquette
for Italian date

Video still from Legend
Tom Hardy gives a bravura double performance as Reggie and Ronnie Kray, the identical twin brothers who became the rulers of the London underworld at the height of the swinging ’60s . . .

Nightclubs, pinstripe suits
Mumbling Cockney playboys
in need of captions

Video still from Remember
A nursing-home resident (Academy Award winner Christopher Plummer) sets out to exact vengeance on the man who murdered his family seven decades earlier, in this compelling thriller from master director Atom Egoyan . . .

The tattooed wolf hunts,
demented. His war stories:

Al Purdy Was Here
Video still from Al Purdy Was Here
By turns elegiac and celebratory, this documentary tribute to the late, great Canadian poet Al Purdy features readings, reminiscences, and performances from some of the greatest names in Canadian letters and music . . .

Unexplored by most
A boozy punch-drunk in plaid
Canada’s Whitman

Video still from Sicario
An idealistic FBI agent (Emily Blunt) joins two shadowy government operatives (Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro) in a high-risk, cross-border sting against a Mexican cartel boss, in this gritty drug-war thriller from Quebec’s Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners) . . .

A sheep among wolves
her blunt force startles the pack
No sleep for Juarez

Where to Invade Next
Video still from Where to Invade Next
Academy Award–winning director Michael Moore returns with what may be his most provocative and hilarious film yet: Moore tells the Pentagon to “stand down”—he will do the invading for America from now on . . .

Revolution now!
Uncle Sam’s makeover tips
from global neighbours

Video still from Demolition
Grief-stricken after a family tragedy, a New York investment banker (Jake Gyllenhaal) engages in random acts of destruction, in the highly anticipated new film by Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club, Wild) . . .

Rudderless husband
Gypsy moth ate at his heart
Start the bulldozer

The Lobster
Video still from The Lobster
Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, and John C. Reilly star in the deliciously bizarre new film from Greek auteur Yorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth, ALPS), about a curious hotel where the residents are charged with finding a new mate within forty-five days—under penalty of being transformed into animals should they fail . . .

infused with Animal Farm
So Orwellian

Video still from Truth
Cate Blanchett and Robert Redford star as 60 Minutes producer Mary Mapes and anchor Dan Rather, in this gripping docudrama about the newsmagazine’s investigation into George W. Bush’s alleged draft-dodging during Vietnam . . .

Combat-dodging Bush
tarnishes reporters’ cred
Rather have courage

Our Brand Is Crisis
Video still from Our Brand Is Crisis
Academy Award winners Sandra Bullock and Billy Bob Thornton star in this story inspired by true events, in which rival American political strategists [work] to fix a Bolivian presidential election . . .

Buttocks brandished in
Bolivian ballot brawl:
big bollocks, Bullock

TIFF is over, but this series continues. Please return for updates: we will keep adding haiku until we reach the magic number.

Jeff Harris
Jeff Harris is a Toronto-based photographer whose work has been featured internationally.