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Ten films to watch at the Toronto Film Festival

  • The Fifth Estate

    The festival kicks off in spectacular, headline-grabbing style with Bill Condon’s eagerly anticipated Wikileaks thriller. The film charts the whistleblower organisation’s rise to notoriety, culminating in the publication of the famous cache of US state department cables in November 2010. But it is also a portrait of a friendship turned sour, as differences mount between Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his most trusted lieutenant, Daniel Domscheit- Berg (Daniel Brühl). Expect a tense re-telling of events from recent memory. (Photo: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

  • 12 Years a Slave

    British director and video artist Steve McQueen already had a Turner Prize to his name when he released his acclaimed first feature film, Hunger, in 2008. His next picture Shame (2011) was another critical success and 12 Years a Slave is hotly anticipated at Toronto. It is based on the autobiography of Solomon Northup, a free black man kidnapped and sold into slavery in the 19th Century, and stars British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor. Benedict Cumberbatch, Brad Pitt and regular McQueen collaborator Michael Fassbender give supporting performances. Expect a challenging historical epic. (Photo: Photo: Fox Searchlight Pictures)

  • A Touch of Sin

    Chinese director Jia Zhangke’s tough drama is a scathing assessment of the emerging superpower’s economic boom. It tells four disparate stories, each set in a different province of the country, from a young miner who revolts against the corruption of his village leaders to a receptionist pushed over the edge by a rich customer’s advances. Each of the storylines is based on true events and the themes that connect them are violence and rage. Expect a harsh picture of changing China. (Photo: Koch Lorber Films)

  • August: Osage County

    One of Toronto’s Gala presentations, this film is certain to be one of this year’s most attention-grabbing – not least for the calibre of its ensemble cast: Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, Sam Shepard and Juliette Lewis star. The film is based on the Pulitzer and Tony Award-winning play written by Tracy Letts, who also wrote Bug and Killer Joe. The story centres on an alcoholic southern patriarch (Shepard) and the troubled relationships between his wife (Streep) and daughters in the wake of his death. Expect melodrama and Oscar-baiting performances. (Photo: Weinstein Company)

  • Blue is the Warmest Colour

    Tunisian-born director, Abdellatif Kechiche’s film won the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. It explores an encounter between a sensitive teenager and an older, confident blue-haired stranger – and the relationship that ensues. The picture has garnered attention for its graphic sex scenes, its sensitive portrayal of a young relationship and for the outstanding performances from its co-stars, Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux. Expect lingering, intimate shots. (Photo: Sundance Selects)

  • Burning Bush

    Projects originally conceived for TV are becoming a fixture on the festival circuit: Stephen Soderbergh’s Behind the Candelabra played in competition at Cannes this year and Jane Campion’s creepy six-parter, Top of the Lake, premiered at Sundance. Now comes Burning Bush, commissioned as a three-part miniseries for HBO Europe, and directed by Polish filmmaker and The Wire screenwriter, Agnieszka Holland (Europa Europa; Olivier, Olivier). Based on real events, it tells the story of Prague history student Jan Palach, who set himself on fire in protest against the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1969. Expect a moving drama of personal sacrifice. (Photo: HBO)

  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

    Another gala presentation, this time with British director Justin Chadwick at the helm, whose previous feature films include The Other Boleyn Girl and The First Grader. Idris Elba (The Wire) takes the title role, playing Mandela all the way from his early days as anamateur boxer through to his later years incarcerated on Robben Island. The film is based on Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom. Naomie Harris co-stars as Winnie Mandela. Expect sweeping cameras and an epic score. (Photo: Weinstein Company)

  • Filthy Gorgeous: The Bob Guccione Story

    Among several homegrown movies at Toronto this year is this offbeat biopic from Canadian director Barry Avrich. It focuses on the career of Bob Guccione, publisher of Penthouse magazine and producer of the porn epic, Caligula. A portrait of spiralling excess, the film uses archive and home-movie footage to document the gambling-addicted Guiccone, as he invests in everything from nuclear reactors to casinos. Expect seedy glamour, glitz and tragedy. (Photo: Epix)

  • The Wind Rises

    Hayao Miyazaki has just announced his retirement, and The Wind Rises is the swan song for the legendary animator, responsible for My Neighbour Totoro and Spirited Away. The film is inspired by the stories of Jiro Horikoshi, designer of the Zero fighter plane, and the writer Tatsuo Hori. Expect thrilling animated set pieces. (Photo: Touchstone Pictures)

  • When Evening Falls on Bucharest or Metabolism

    Films of the Romanian ‘new wave’ have been doing well at recent film festivals: Calin Peter Netzer’s Child’s Pose won the Golden Bear in Berlin this year, and Christian Mungiu’s 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days carried off the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2007. At Toronto, Corneliu Poromboiu (12:08 East of Bucharest; Police, Adjective) presents an uncompromisingly highbrow picture about a brief, loveless affair between a film director and a young actress. Expect stripped back, bone-dry drama. (Photo: 42 Km Film)