35 must-see movies to add to your watchlist at TIFF 2021 in Toronto



TIFF returns in 2021 with a hybrid festival, mixing in-person and digital screenings to showcase some of the world’s best films. The process of getting tickets can be a bit trickier than it used to be, but however you manage to organize the festival this year, you’re likely to find some cinematic gems to adore.

To help you choose from the myriad of titles, here are the must-see movies on TIFF 2021 according to this year’s list of programmers.

Cameron Bailey (artistic director and co-director)
Mulungu Wam (Good Madam)

The remnants of apartheid-era domestic servitude confront a South African author’s legacy of colonial land theft Jenna Cato Bass‘s daring horror-satire.

Huda’s living room

Hany Abou-AssadThis political and emotional thriller explores a dangerous clash between two women struggling to cope with life under occupation.

Montana history

Two siblings who return to the family ranch to care for their ailing father face painful truths, in Scott McGehee and David Siegelis the last.

Joana Vicente (Executive Director and Co-Head)
The power of the dog

Legendary filmmaker Jeanne Campion returns with a film about two Montana ranching brothers whose relationship is torn apart by the arrival of two new family members.

Based on the cult book of the same name, it is a haunting, revisionist take on the American western featuring Benedict Cumberbatch.


canadian directors Tahir Rana and Eric Warren Use stunning animation to bring to life the incredible, true story of a German Jewish painter – voiced by Keira Knightly – who turned to art from the prospect of death.

Jason Anderson (Programmer, Shortcuts)

Albert Shin is one of Canada’s most gifted and exciting filmmakers, and his new shorts explain why. Two strangers arrive at a room in a seedy seaside motel in South Korea.

What they do while they’re there is always surprising, not only to viewers, but to the characters as well.

Egungun (Masquerade)

Director Olive Nwosu returned to her hometown of Lagos, Nigeria, to tell the story of an expat who meets an important person in her past while attending her mother’s funeral. The result is bold, beautiful and completely captivating.


I’m always happy when Nash Edgerton makes another of his outrageous shorts with his alter ego Jack. In Edgerton’s latest, Jack finds his perfect match in a new love played by the one and only Rose Byrne. What could possibly go wrong this time around? Answer: a lot.

Andréa Picard (Curator, Wavelengths)

Cleverly subverting both the tropes of horror and the narrative of social realism, Radu MuntéanThe s film offers an intoxicating mix of suspense, biting wit and existentialism.

A night without knowing anything

Payment KapadiaThis debut feature won the Best Documentary Award at Cannes for its powerful fusion of fiction and documentary, which elaborates a reflection on contemporary India from a vivid one-sided correspondence between two distant lovers.

Ste. Anne

Rhayne VermetteS film confronts the ideas of belonging, recuperation, motherhood and family both with intimacy and with an almost hallucinatory attraction to visual abstraction.

Steve Gravestock (senior programmer)
The worst person in the world

Renate reinsve stars as a young woman forging her own path, regardless of social, family and romantic pressures. It is a film that evokes the carefree, inventive and insightful spirit of the beginning of the French New Wave, but still remains very Joachim Trieris clean.

Compartment n ° 6

Juho KuosmanenThe story of two foreigners separated by class, education, nationality and language who struggle with their own prejudices to forge an unlikely bond during a multi-day train journey through Russia.

Learn to swim

Thyrone TommyThe feature debut is a complex and poignant tale of love and loss set on the Toronto jazz scene, with an incredible cast, excellent music, astute writing, and nuanced, daring staging.

Ravi Srinivasan (international programmer)

Shasha Nakhai and Rich williamson present a raw and authentic glimpse of a diverse community with a collective refusal to be fractured by individual challenges, and instead to be brought together by kindness and solidarity.

With incredible performances from three young actors in their first major roles, it’s the hometown outsider you need to support!


In her impressive debut feature, the writer-director Haya waseem explores family dynamics in a new light, remembering that immigrants and people of color adjusting to new lives, goals and expectations also have mental health issues.

Dorota Lech (Senior Programmer)
Silent earth

Agnieszka Woszczyńska chains Antonioni and Haneke in its first feature film follows the Italian vacations of a Polish bourgeois couple who are perfectly falling apart.

The hill where the lionesses roar

Luana BajramiThe film is set in a remote village in Kosovo where three spirited young women see their dreams stifled. In their quest for independence, nothing can stop them but their regained freedom is not without consequences and a manhunt for the savage trio is quickly underway.

Anatolian Leopard

Emre Kayis‘first film – a dark comedy about a melancholy zoo director who fights to prevent the privatization of his workplace in fast-moving Turkey – wraps a poignant Kafkaesque storyline in a Kaurismäkian package.

Peter Kuplowsky (International Programmer, Midnight Madness)

Three mercenaries succeed in a robbery during a coup and find themselves stranded in a mysterious region of Senegal in Jean-Luc Herbulotthe movie of. This is the first time that Midnight Madness has hosted a film from West Africa.

dug dug

A formidable and contagious first feature film about a moped accident which soon inspires a new religion. Writer / Director Ritwik Pareek shoots the film with such kinetic dynamism, you will believe it when the credits roll!


A military officer tries to denounce an exorcist as a fraud, but his actions soon ignite a superstitious village into a paranoid mob who suspect him and his lover of demonic possession. Arsalan Armiri creates an exceptional slow-burning horror thriller that turns into an absurd black dead end.

Thom Powers (Senior International Programmer, TIFF Docs)

A young Afro-Latina girl confronts family dysfunction, diasporic influences, campus code change and her own maturity in this magnificent first film, shot in 16mm, from Rebecca huntt.


Director Gian Cassini explores the legacy of his father who was a Tijauna hitman, while weeding out generational layers of men driven by violence and women navigating a culture of machismo.

The Devil’s Pilots

To the beat of a 1970s car chase thriller, the directors Mohammed abugeth and Daniel Carsenty document smugglers driving Palestinian workers into Israel as they attempt to outwit the military.

Giovanna Fulvi (senior programmer)

Two boys marginalized by 14th-century Japanese society find power through dance and song, in Masaaki Yuasaanimated tale of friendship and magic.

Drive my car

Adapted from Haruki Murakamithe little story of, Ryusuke HamaguchiThe film follows two lonely people who find the courage to face the past.

Nataleah Hunter-Young (Associate International Programmer)
Tug of war

A Swahili revolutionary and a fleeing Indo-Zanzibar bride find love in the historic alleys of Stone Town. This haunting adaptation of Adam Shafi’s award-winning novel comes from a York University alumnus Amil Shivji.


Set in 1940s Palestine, Farha, 14, watches from a locked cellar as the world around her crumbles under bombs from the invading Israeli military. A bold period piece featuring Karam Taher, based on a true story written and directed by a Jordanian filmmaker Darin J. Sallam in his first feature film production.

Frost of Neptune

Anisia uzeyman and Saul williams lead this musical set through the lush landscapes of Rwanda in the wake of an intersex hacker and coltan miner whose love spurs revolution, spotlighting an elaborate cast of talented artists from Kigali and Bujumbura.

Diana Cadavid (Associate International Programmer)
Men at odd jobs

Neus Ballus takes us through a week of work by two experienced locals and a brand newcomer who has to prove that he can also be a good man at odd job. The stakes are high and they must determine if they will continue to disagree with each other, or if they can even embrace change.

The other Tom

Mexican filmmakers Rodrigo Plá and Laura Santullo Tell the poignant story of a single mother and her nine-year-old son, whose close but strained bond is pushed to the limit when the child is hastily diagnosed with ADHD and prescribed psychiatric medication.

To kill the beast

Argentinian director Agustina San Martin makes her directorial debut in a feature film with a daring piece of tropical gothic that places the desire of young women at the center of her loose narrative.

Geoff MacNaughton (Senior Programmer)
The Panthers

An exciting new series of designers Halaifonua Finau and Tom hern on the formation of the lesser-known Black Panthers chapter in Aotearoa (New Zealand).

Kind of

A smart and refreshing comedy that follows Sabi Mehoob, beautifully performed by Bilal Baig, a 25-year-old Pakistani-Canadian nanny whose plans to leave Toronto are disrupted when tragedy strikes.


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