HIFF 2016: Spotlight

Spotlight Films

The buzz starts here: our Spotlight screenings feature a diverse range of star-studded films that will no doubt count among the year’s best.

Presented by

bleed-for-this-650BLEED FOR THIS

East Coast Premiere | USA
Director: Ben Younger
BLEED FOR THIS is the incredible true story of one of the most inspiring and unlikely comebacks in sports history. Miles Teller (WHIPLASH) stars as Vinny “The Pazmanian Devil” Pazienza, a local Providence boxer who shot to stardom after winning two world title fights. After a near-fatal car accident leaves Vinny with devastating injuries, he is told he may never walk again. Against all odds and doctor’s orders, renowned trainer Kevin Rooney (Aaron Eckhart) agrees to help Vinny return to the ring just a year after the accident, for what could be the last fight of his life.

burn-your-maps-650BURN YOUR MAPS

US Premiere | USA
Director: Jordan Roberts
BURN YOUR MAPS is a road trip movie for the ages, full of wonder, enlightenment, and a goat or two. After a tragedy, Connor (Marton Csokas) and Alise (Vera Farmiga) can’t seem to reconnect. As their marriage is falling apart, their 8-year-old son Wes (Jacob Tremblay, ROOM) copes with loss in his own way: he’s convinced he’s meant to be a Mongolian goat herder. Accompanied by an immigrant Indian filmmaker, Alise and Wes bravely journey halfway around the world in search of answers. Along the way, our intrepid trio manages to find acceptance, forgiveness, and most of all, love.


East Coast Premiere | USA
Director: Antonio Campos
On the morning of July 15, 1974, Christine Chubbuck, a rising 29-year-old television reporter in Sarasota, Florida, went to work, sat at the newscaster’s desk, and read the news. It was a broadcast like any other, until she stopped abruptly and shot herself on live television. The true and tragic story of Christine is the basis of Antonio Campos’s (MARTHA, MARCY, MAY, MARLENE) latest film, a riveting glimpse into Christine’s life and the events leading up to her tragic ending. Rebecca Hall’s performance is hypnotic, tracing her professional ambition and frustration, her unrequited love for a co-worker, and her inner torment with brilliant subtlety and sensibility for such a complex character and story.


Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Celebrated filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar is in pitch perfect form with his latest film, JULIETA, based on the trilogy by Canadian Nobel Prize winner Alice Munro. A chance encounter leads Julieta, played by both Emma Suarez and Arianna Ugarte, on a mysterious path of reflection and discovery in the search for her daughter. Through unexpected twists her once passionate love affair turns into a haunting family melodrama. Incorporating undeniable hints of Greek tragedy and Hitchcockian thrill, Almodóvar effortlessly weaves between the past and present, exploring familial ties, grief, memory, love, and identity.

la-la-land-650LA LA LAND

East Coast Premiere | USA
Director: Damien Chazelle
Written and directed by Academy Award® nominee Damien Chazelle (WHIPLASH, HIFF 2014), LA LA LAND tells the story of Mia (Emma Stone), an aspiring actress, and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a dedicated jazz musician, who are struggling to make ends meet in a city known for crushing hopes and breaking hearts. Set in modern-day Los Angeles, this original musical about everyday life explores the joy and pain of pursuing your dreams. A throwback to the retro look and feel of classic Hollywood musicals, LA LA LAND is a delightful romance filled with magic and whimsy.
Featuring John Legend, Variety 10 Actors to Watch.


US Premiere | Australia
Director: Garth Davis
When Saroo was five years old, he was accidentally separated from his family on a train traveling thousands of miles across India. After learning to survive alone in Kolkata, he was ultimately adopted by a loving Australian couple (Nicole Kidman and David Wenham). Now, 25 years later, armed with only a handful of memories and his unwavering determination, Saroo (Dev Patel in a career-making performance) sets out to find his lost family and finally return to his first home. Prompted by Lucy (Rooney Mara) and with the help of revolutionary Google Earth technology, Saroo embarks on an uplifting and moving journey in Garth Davis’s phenomenal debut LION.


Director: Barry Jenkins
Barry Jenkins’s second feature MOONLIGHT is a beautifully nuanced coming-of-age story that will leave you breathless. When we meet young Chiron (Alex R. Hibbert) in the sunny, rough streets of Miami, he is shy, bullied, and living with his single mom, who struggles with addiction. He is left to fend for himself in the violent neighborhood where his only father figure is the neighborhood drug dealer (Mahershala Ali). Over the course of a decade, Jenkins exquisitely reveals Chiron’s trajectory from childhood to adulthood, his struggles to define his identity and sexuality in a world defined by machismo. With all around mesmerizing performances, including Trevante Rhodes as the adult Chiron, MOONLIGHT builds into one of the most emotionally searing, startling, brilliant and intimate films in recent years.
Featuring Mahershala, Variety 10 Actors to Watch.

ticket-650THE TICKET

Director: Ido Fluk
After James (Dan Stevens, Downton Abbey), a blind man, suddenly regains his vision, he begins to transform his life. Driven by new desires, he develops a hunger for material things–a nicer home, a new car, a promotion–leaving little room for his family and long time loyal friend, Bob (Oliver Platt). His vision also threatens his marriage to Sam (Malin Akerman), who now pays more attention to her appearance but isn’t able to stops James’s eyes from wandering. A beautifully shot portrait, THE TICKET follows James’s journey as he gains his vision but loses sight of who he is in the process.


East Coast Premiere | UK
Director: Benedict Andrews
Rooney Mara and Ben Mendelsohn deliver gripping performances in UNA, the screen adaptation of David Harrower’s award-winning drama Blackbird. A decade after their relationship ended, Una tracks down her former lover Ray, who now goes by a new name in a new city. Her abrupt appearance forces him to revisit their illicit affair–a tryst that ended with him in prison and her on a path of total self-destruction. Furious that he has been allowed another chance at life while she remains continuously haunted by the past, Una turns Ray’s quiet, suburban world upside down. With confidence and grace, veteran theater director Benedict Andrews makes his film debut with this harrowing story of love and trauma.
Featuring Riz Ahmed, Variety 10 Actors to Watch.


East Coast Premiere | USA
Director: Robin Swicord
When the pressures of modern family life becomes too much for lawyer Howard Wakefield (Bryan Cranston), he looks for an out. After being led into the garage attic by a wayward raccoon late one night, Howard decides to stay and observe his baffled and distraught loved ones from the window. Adapted from a short story by E.L. Doctorow, and featuring an astonishing performance by Bryan Cranston, WAKEFIELD is laced with despair, humor, irony and the never ending quest to figure out one’s place on earth.