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Jane Campion returns to the big screen with “The Power of the Dog” at TIFF 2021

Benedict Cumberbatch stars in western drama “The Power of the Dog,” Jane Campion’s TIFF-bound awards prospect.

Peter Howell

Movie Critic

Jane Campion’s star-laden western drama “The Power of the Dog,” her first feature film in 12 years, expected to be a major awards contender, is among 46 new movies announced Wednesday for the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival, Sept. 9 to18.

TIFF is planning to show all of its films in theatres, supplemented by digital screenings, as COVID-19 restrictions permit.

“The Power of the Dog,” set in 1920s Montana and based on an acclaimed 1967 novel by Thomas Savage, stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Jesse Plemons as brothers on a remote ranch who turn against each other when one of them marries a young widow, played by Kirsten Dunst. Co-stars include Thomasin McKenzie, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Frances Conroy, Keith Carradine and Adam Beach.

It’s the first feature since “Bright Star” in 2009 for esteemed New Zealand writer/director Campion, who until this year was the only woman to direct a feature that won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Her achievement, for “The Piano” in 1993, was shattered this month by France’s Julia Ducournau, whose sexual thriller “Titane” — which is not among films selected for TIFF to date — took the Palme.

“The Power of the Dog” will have its Canadian premiere in the Special Presentations program at TIFF via the Venice International Film Festival, where it will have its world premiere a few days earlier. The film is scheduled for a release via Netflix later this year, following a brief theatrical stint and other stops on the fall festival circuit, including a centrepiece screening at the New York Film Festival in October and a possible pre-TIFF berth at the Telluride Film Festival.

TIFF also announced three additional selections for its Galas program, two of them world premieres and all of them with comic elements: “The Good House” by Maya Forbes and Wallace Wolodarsky, a dramedy about a hard-drinking small-town realtor starring Sigourney Weaver, Kevin Kline and Beverly D’Angelo; and “Silent Night” by Camille Griffin, a comedy about a dysfunctional family Christmas starring Keira Knightley, Roman Griffin Davis and Annabelle Wallis.

(The third Gala announcement, the relationship dramedy “The Worst Person in the World” by Joachim Trier, which earned Norway’s Renate Reinsve the Best Actress prize at its recent Cannes debut, was previously announced by TIFF for its Special Presentations program.)

TIFF bolstered its Special Presentations section with seven more titles, including “The Power of the Dog.” The other six are: “The Falls” (Chung Mong-Hong), “The Humans” (Stephen Karam), “Inu-Oh” (Masaaki Yuasa), “Lingui, The Sacred Bonds” (Mahamat-Saleh Haroun), “Mothering Sunday” (Eva Husson), “Sundown” (Michel Franco) and “Wolf” (Nathalie Biancheri).

The remaining new films announced Wednesday by TIFF’s globe-trotting programmers are selections for the Contemporary World Cinema and Discovery programs. Among them are six Canadian films, all of them world premieres.

Contemporary World Cinema will screen “Kicking Blood” (Blaine Thurier) and “Maria Chapdelaine” (Sébastien Pilote).

Discovery will screen “Learn to Swim” (Thyrone Tommy), “Quickening” (Haya Waseem), “Scarborough” (Shasha Nakhai, Rich Williamson) and “Wildhood” (Bretten Hannam).

The festival also announced TIFF Rewind, a free series of digital talks with directors and actors from past festival premieres. The conversations will run on TIFF’s social media channels during the fest, while the films can be viewed on Bell’s Crave streaming service.

Announced guests and films for TIFF Rewind are Antoine Fuqua on “Training Day,” Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara on “Best in Show,” Viggo Mortensen on “Eastern Promises,” and Patricia Cardoso and America Ferrera on “Real Women Have Curves.”

Missing in action from TIFF’s announcement, and from its previous announcements, are such anticipated awards season contenders as Andrew Dominik’s Marilyn Monroe biopic “Blonde,” starring Ana de Armas, and Pablo Larraín’s Princess Diana biopic “Spencer,” starring Kristen Stewart.

Also MIA are new works by such TIFF veterans as Pedro Almodóvar (“Parallel Mothers”), Ridley Scott (“The Last Duel”), Paolo Sorrentino (“The Hand of God”) and Paul Schrader (“The Card Counter”), which have been announced for the Venice fest, Sept. 1 to 11.

But TIFF is expecting to screen more than 100 features at its September cinephile gathering. Announced films to date total 79, so more attractions are to come. 🌗

(More details are available at



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