Preview of Science Films at TIFF

The 2023 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) returns to cinemas September 7, showcasing a myriad of films from around the world through September 17. From thirteen programming sections we have selected the festival’s 22 science or technology-themed projects, with descriptions quoted from the festival programmers.

Among the countless films making their premieres, the festival’s 48th edition will be the first in its new partnership with the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. On September 10, the inaugural Sloan Science and Technology Project Pitch will take place, offering writers the opportunity to pitch a science or technology-related film to a live audience of industry decision-makers.

The partnership also includes the Sloan Science on Film Showcase, which spotlights one science-forward title from the festival. Among the films listed below is the inaugural selection, Molly McGlynn’s FITTING IN. The coming-of-age film starring Maddie Ziegler made its world premiere at South by Southwest earlier this year under the title BLOODY HELL. McGlynn and an expert in reproductive health will participate in a Q&A following the September 12 screening of the film.

Sloan Science & Film will be covering TIFF, so stay tuned for features and interviews on many of the titles below.


CHUCK CHUCK BABY. Dir. Janis Pugh. International Premiere. “A film of love, loss, music, and female friendship, set in and around the falling feathers of a chicken processing plant in industrial north Wales.”


I DON'T KNOW WHO YOU ARE. Dir. M. H. Murray. World Premiere. “After a sexual assault, a Toronto musician spends a weekend trying to find the money for HIV-preventive treatment, in this ferocious debut from writer-director M. H. Murray and writer-star Mark Clennon.”

SNOW LEOPARD. Dir. Pema Tseden. North American Premiere. “The late Pema Tseden directed the beautiful tale of a majestic but deadly snow leopard and its complicated relationship with the communities of the Tibetan plateau.”

THE TUNDRA WITHIN ME. Dir. Sara Margrethe Oskal. World Premiere. “In Sara Margrethe Oskal’s debut feature, set amongst the reindeer herds of northern Scandinavia, a Sámi artist returns to her hometown where she confronts her past demons and finds an unexpected new love.”

WIDOW CLICQUOT. Dir. Thomas Napper. World Premiere. “Set in France during the Napoleonic Wars, the latest from director Thomas Napper (JAWBONE) tells the true story of Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin, the ‘Grande Dame of Champagne,’ otherwise known as Veuve Clicquot.”


CONCRETE UTOPIA. Dir. Um Tae-hwa. North American Premiere. “In the opening moments of Um Tae-hwa’s riveting new disaster epic, an earthquake renders much of Seoul a smouldering ruin. But as survivors begin efforts to restore order, it seems the real calamity has only just begun.”

DUMB MONEY. Dir. Craig Gillespie. World Premiere. “Paul Dano and Seth Rogen find themselves on opposite ends during a tug-of-war, in Craig Gillespie’s take on the outrageous battle of wits between amateur investors and hedge fund billionaires that became the infamous GameStop Wall Street scandal.”

Still from DUMB MONEY. Courtesy of TIFF.

FITTING IN. Dir. Molly McGlynn. Canadian Premiere. “FITTING IN mines a traumatic, rare reproductive abnormality diagnosis for laughs and tears in director Molly McGlynn’s second feature film, starring Maddie Ziegler as a teen who must confront her new health reality.”

ROBOT DREAMS. Dir. Pablo Berger. North American Premiere. “Spanish director Pablo Berger returns to the festival with this animated, dialogue-free story about the miracle of true friendship between a dog and a robot.”

SMUGGLERS. Dir. Ryoo Seung-wan. North American Premiere. “Ryoo Seung-wan, the mastermind behind box office hits THE UNJUST, THE BERLIN FILE, and VETERAN, returns with a star-studded cast for an aquatic crime-action epic.”

THE END WE START FROM. Dir. Mahalia Belo. World Premiere. “A new mother (Jodie Comer), her partner (Joel Fry), and their infant are driven out of London into the English countryside by cataclysmic flooding, in this adaptation of Megan Hunter’s prophetic bestseller.”


SLEEP. Dir. Jason Yu. North American Premiere. “Expectant parents navigate a nightmare scenario when a spouse develops a sleep disorder that may belie a disturbing split personality in writer-director Jason Yu’s intense horror feature debut.”


FINGERNAILS. Dir. Christos Nikou. International Premiere. “Starring Jessie Buckley, Riz Ahmed, and Jeremy Allen White, Greek director Christos Nikou’s English-language debut weaves an allegory about our desire for certainty, reliance on technology, and the price we pay for losing the connection to our most primal instincts.”

Still from FINGERNAILS. Courtesy of TIFF.

LA CHIMERA. Dir. Alice Rohrwacher. North American Premiere. “Led by a revelatory Josh O’Connor, and supported by Isabella Rossellini and Alba Rohrwacher, Alice Rohrwacher’s LA CHIMERA is a dream-like romp through Italy’s archaeological and cinematic past.”

PAIN HUSTLERS. Dir. David Yates. World Premiere. “Based on the book by Evan Hughes, Emily Blunt and Chris Evans star as pharmaceutical drug reps who unwittingly help kickstart the opioid epidemic in the pursuit of financial success.”

THE BEAST. Dir. Bertrand Bonello. North American Premiere. “This heady, sci-fi examination of yearning, obsession, and existential dread by visionary French auteur Bertrand Bonello stars Léa Seydoux and George MacKay as two lovers connecting and reconnecting across time and space, all while catastrophe looms.”

THE CONVERT. Dir. Lee Tamahori. World Premiere. “Lee Tamahori’s action-filled historical epic stars Guy Pearce as Thomas Munro, a newly arrived preacher in a colonial town in early 19th-century New Zealand who finds himself at the centre of a long-standing battle between two Māori tribes.”


BOIL ALERT. Dir. James Burns, Stevie Salas. World Premiere. “This urgent documentary by activist Layla Staats shows the faces and personal stories behind the struggle of First Nations reserves to receive a basic human right: drinkable water.”

DEFIANT. Dir. Karim Amer. World Premiere. “Oscar-nominated filmmaker Karim Amer (THE SQUARE) gains unique access to Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and other key figures in the administration who are fighting to save their country against Russia’s invasion by combatting disinformation.”

SONGS OF EARTH. Dir. Margreth Olin. North American Premiere. “In this unique cinematic experience, filmmaker Margreth Olin allows viewers to experience Norway’s landscapes of mountains, glaciers, and fjords, guided by her 84-year-old father, Jørgen, enabling us to escape the hyperactivity of modern times and absorb the profundity of nature.”

THE CONTESTANT. Dir. Clair Titley. World Premiere. “This true story of a Japanese reality TV star left naked in a room for more than a year, tasked with filling out magazine sweepstakes to earn food and clothing, prompts innumerable questions about our culture of oversharing.”


THE HUMAN SURGE 3. Dir. Eduardo Williams. North American Premiere. “Eduardo Williams picks up where 2016’s THE HUMAN SURGE left off, this time following three groups of friends from Sri Lanka, Taiwan, and Peru as they traverse a shapeshifting landscape rooted in our present reality but alert to alternative possibilities.”

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