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NRW@Toronto International Film Festival

43rd Toronto International Film Festival: nine Filmstiftung-backed productions have been invited to North America’s biggest film festival

  • Gala Presentations: „High Life“ by Claire Denis
  • Platform: „The Innocent“ by Simon Jaquemet and „Rojo“ by Benjamin Naishtat
  • Contemporary World Cinema: „The Most Beautiful Couple“ by Sven Taddicken, „Styx“ by Wolfgang Fischer and „Sew the Winter to my Skin“ by Jahmil X.T. Qubeka
  • Discovery: „Saf“ by Ali Vatansever
  • In other sidebars: „In my Room“ by Ulrich Köhler, „Never Look Away“ by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
  • Toronto International Film Festival from 6 to 16 September, 2018

NRW out in force: nine Filmstiftung-backed productions have been invited to the 43rd Toronto International Film Festival (tiff), including six as world premieres. The following productions with backing from NRW will be shown in Toronto:

High Life“ by Claire Denis will celebrate its world premiere in the Gala Presentations, while „The Innocent“ by Simon Jaquemet and „Rojo“ by Benjamin Naishtat will have their world premieres in the Platform sidebar. Sven Taddicken's drama „The Most Beautiful Couple“ and „Sew the Winter to my Skin“ by Jahmil X.T. Qubeka will be shown as world premieres in the Contemporary World Cinema section which will also present „Styx“ by Wolfgang Fischer. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck will have his film „Never Look Away” shown as one of the Special Presentations, and „In my Room“ by Ulrich Köhler is being screened in the Wavelengths sidebar. In addition, „Saf“ will celebrate its premiere in the Discovery sidebar. The Toronto International Film Festival is being held this year from 6 to 16 September.

„Nine outstanding films made with support from the Filmstiftung NRW, and no less than six of them as world premieres: congratulations to the casts and crews on this success at North America’s most successful film festival!“, says Petra Müller, CEO of the Film- und Medienstiftung NRW. „The films range in genre from science fiction through drama to thriller and will be presenting a broad spectrum to an international audience here. The festival’s growing appeal will generate considerable attention for the films, and the festival is often the kick-off for the films' subsequent Oscar campaigns. We are looking forward to seeing the programme and hope that the filmmakers will have a successful festival.“

The films in detail:

Gala Presentations

High Life“ (world premiere)
The shoot for the new film by director Claire Denis (screenplay together with Jean-Pol Fargeau) was completed almost entirely in Cologne’s Medienparks NRW Studios. The lead roles are taken by Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, André Benjamin, Mia Goth, Lars Eidinger, and Jessie Ross in her first feature film role. „High Life" is a production of Cologne-based Pandora Filmproduktion and Alcatraz Films (FR), The Apocalypse Company (UK), Madants (PL) with Andrew Lauren Productions (USA), in co-production with Arte France Cinema, ZDF/Arte in association with Canal+ and Ciné+. The Filmstiftung NRW backed the project development and production with 1.25 mn Euros, with additional support coming from DFFF, MBB, FFA as well as CNC, the British Film Institute and the Polish Film Institute. Pandora Film Verleih will release the film in the cinemas, with Wild Bunch handling world sales. About the film: Deep space. Beyond our solar system. Monte and his daughter Willow live together onboard a spaceship. They are the only survivors of a crew made up of convicted felons who had bought themselves out of their sentences by going on this mission without any chance of return. In complete isolation, father and daughter approach their destination – a black hole in which time and space have ceased to exist. „High Life“ will be screening in competition at the San Sebastián Film Festival at the end of September.


„The Innocent“ („Der Unschuldige“) (world premiere)
Simon Jaquemet (screenplay and direction) tells Ruth’s story. Her life is torn between the desire to maintain her well-ordered Christian family life and the destructive attraction to her former fiance who has now been released after more than 20 years in prison. He never confessed to the murder for which he was convicted. The lead roles are taken by  Judith Hofmann, Christian Kaiser,  and Thomas Schüpbach. „The Innocent" is a production of 8horses (CH) in co-production with Cologne’s augenschein Filmproduktion in association with ZDF and Arte. The Filmstiftung NRW backed the production with 250,000 Euros. FilmKinoText  will distribute. „The Innocent" will be screening in competition at the San Sebastián Film Festival at the end of September.

Rojo“ (world premiere)
Benjamin Naishtat wrote the screenplay and was the director on „Rojo", a production of Pucará Cine (ARG) in co-production with Cologne-based Sutor Kolonko, Desvia (BR), Ecce Films (FR), Bord Cadre (CH) and Viking Film (NL). The Filmstiftung backed the film with 35,000 Euros, with additional support coming from the World Cinema Fund, INCAA, IBERMEDIA, CNC, NL Film Fund and Hubert Bals Fund. World sales are being handled by Luxbox. About the film: Argentina in 1975. After visiting a restaurant with his wife, Dr. Claudio Mora, an upstanding lawyer in a provincial town, is attacked by a stranger who shortly afterwards shoots himself in the head by his own hand. After a fateful decision, Mora abandons the critically wounded man in the nearby desert. While his deed threatens to catch up with him and guilt starts eating into him, he discovers a world full of betrayal, corruption and violence below the cosy surface of provincial society. The lead roles are played by Dario Grandinetti, Andrea Frigerio and Alfredo Castro.

Contemporary World Cinema

„The Most Beautiful Couple“ („Das schönste Paar“) (world premiere)
In „The Most Beautiful Couple“ by writer-director Sven Taddicken, two young teachers, Malte and Liv, are spending their summer holiday together on a Mediterranean island. The holiday is disrupted when they are attacked by three unknown young men and this tragically ends with Liv being raped. Two years later, the couple shows an astonishing strength in being able to deal with the traumatic experience. When Malte has a chance encounter with one of the perpetrators, he finds himself driven to seek revenge and sets out in pursuit. It comes to a confrontation, and the relationship between Malte and Liv is also put to the test. Luise Heyer and Maximilian Brückner can be seen in the leads, with Leonard Kunz and Jasna Fritzi Bauer among the supporting roles. The Filmstiftung NRW backed the production by One Two Films in co-production with Arsam International (F) with 300,000 Euros. Additional funding came from MBB and the FFA, with the BKM backing the screenplay. WDR and ARTE are the partners for the TV exploitation. Zorro will release the film theatrically in Germany, with world sales being handled by Beta Cinema.

„Sew the Winter to my Skin“ (world premiere)
Based on true events, the film by Jahmil X.T. Qubeka tells the story of the outlaw John Kepe, the self-proclaimed „Samson of the Boschberg“. Long before apartheid in South Africa, in the early 1950s, he steals from the rich to give to the poor. He is able to evade capture for decades before he is finally caught for the murder of a farm worker and sentenced to death. The drama was produced by Yellowbone Entertainment (ZAF) in co-production with Die Gesellschaft DGS. The Filmstiftung backed the international sales which are being handled by Rushlake Media.

Rike, a 40-year-old doctor from Europe embodies a typical Western model of happiness and success. She is educated, confident, determined and committed. We see Rike’s everyday life as a paramedic  in Cologne before she begins her holiday in Gibraltar. She sails out to sea alone in her sailing boat. Her goal: Ascension Island in the Atlantic Ocean. But her dream holiday is brought to an abrupt end when, after a storm, she finds herself on the high seas close to an overloaded and stricken fishing boat. Around a hundred people are about to drown. Rike initially follows maritime law and radios for help. But when her calls for help remained unanswered, time starts running out, and rescue by third parties appears unlikely, she makes a momentous decision. Susanne Wolff and Gedion Wekesa Oduor play the leads. „Styx“ (screenplay and direction: Wolfgang Fischer; co-author: Ika Künzel) is a production by Schiwago Film in co-production with Vienna-based Amour Fou Filmproduktion in association with the broadcasters WDR and Arte G.E.I.E.. Distribution is handled by Zorro Film, with world sales by Beta Cinema. The Filmstiftung NRW backed the project with 500,000 Euros, with additional backing from Eurimages, the Austrian Film Institute (ÖFI), DFFF, BKM, MBB and FFA. „Styx“ had its world premiere as the opening film of Panorama Special at this year’s Berlinale.

Special Presentations

„Never Look Away“ („Werk ohne Autor“)
Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck wrote the screenplay and directed. The leads are taken by Tom Schilling, Sebastian Koch, Paula Beer, Saskia Rosendahl and Ina Weisse. The film is a production of Wiedemann & Berg Film with Pergamon Film in association with the broadcasters ARD Degeto and Bayerischer Rundfunk. Wiedemann & Berg had already worked with Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck on the Oscar-winning work „The Lives Of Others“. Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Germany is responsible for theatrical distribution, with Beta Cinema handling world sales. Sony Pictures Classics acquired the North American rights. The Filmstiftung NRW supported the production with 400,000 Euros. Additional funding came from MBB, FFA, FFF Bayern, MDM and DFFF. About the film: inspired by true events, the drama passes through three periods of German history to recount the story of the dramatic life of the artist Kurt (Tom Schilling), his passionate love for Elisabeth (Paula Beer), and the far-reaching relationship with his devious father-in-law Professor Seeband (Sebastian Koch) whose hand in the fateful events in Kurt’s life ultimately comes to light in his art and paintings. „Never Look Away“ celebrated its world premiere at the forthcoming 75th Venice Film Festival.


In my Room
The film by Ulrich Köhler (screenplay and direction) tells the story of Armin, who is gradually getting too old for the nightlife and the women he likes. One morning, he wakes up and there’s a deathly quiet: the world looks the same as always, but mankind has disappeared. The leads are taken by Hans Löw and Elena Radonicich, with Michael Wittenborn, Emma Bading, Kathrin Resetarits and Ruth Bickelhaupt appearing in the other roles. A large part of the shoot took place in NRW, including the Lippe district and Vlotho. The film is a production by Cologne’s Pandora Film Produktion in co-production with Echo Film (IT), Komplizen Film and in association with the broadcasters WDR and ARTE. The Filmstiftung supported the production with 695,000 Euros, with additional funding coming from the DFFF, FFA, BKM, MBB, HessenFilm, IDM Südtirol and MiBACT. World sales are being handled by Cologne-based The Match Factory, and Pandora Filmverleih will release „In My Room“ theatrically in Germany. „In My Room“ had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival.


Writer-director Ali Vatansever’s „Saf“ is about Kamil (Erol Afsin) and Remziye (Saadet Aksoy) who are trying to resist the gentrification in the poor Istanbul district of Fikirtipe. A group of companies has bought up the neighbourhood and is having everything demolished to build luxury apartments. But, faced by existential hardship, Kamil has to take on the job of an injured Syrian (Kida Khodr Ramadan) at terrible conditions on this very same building site. However, it’s not long before the Syrian wants his job back.  Kamil has to act and dies as a result. Alone, Remziye now tries to find a solution and is then confronted by a disturbing picture of a man she thought she knew. „Saf“ is a co-production of Terminal Film (TUR) with Cologne’s 2Pilots Filmproduction and 4Proof Film (RU). The Filmstiftung backed the film with 60,000 Euros, additional funding came from Eurimages, the Turkish Ministry of Culture, Sources 2, Sundance Institute, Meetings on the Bridge, Connecting Cottbus and Film Teep. „Saf“ will celebrate its world premiere in Toronto. World sales are being handled by Doc&Film International.

About the festival
Founded in 1976, the Toronto International Film Festival is one the world’s most popular film festivals with around half a million admisisons and is regarded as a barometer for the upcoming Oscar awards.

More information about the festival: