Here Are the 20 Hottest Sales Titles at This Year’s Toronto and Venice Film Festivals
ManOfTheCenturyMovie News Here Are the 20 Hottest Sales Titles at This Year’s Toronto and Venice Film Festivals

Here Are the 20 Hottest Sales Titles at This Year’s Toronto and Venice Film Festivals

Here Are the 20 Hottest Sales Titles at This Year’s Toronto and Venice Film Festivals

What does it mean to be one of the “hottest” or “buzziest” titles in a film festival sales market if there’s no stars drum up that excitement? Or if there’s little likelihood of an all-night bidding war by a streamer spending in the 7-figures to land their next Oscar contender?

As we reported earlier today, those are all ways in which the strike threatens to weigh on the film markets at Venice, Telluride, and Toronto. A handful of those films are directorial debuts by famous actors-turned-filmmakers, and some even have interim agreements from SAG-AFTRA that will let them promote. But all these films should stand on their own merits and could catch the eyes of the many non-AMPTP distributors that need creative ways to fill out their slates.

In part because of the strikes, the Venice and TIFF slates are loaded with independent movies without U.S. distribution, so whittling down to even these 20 was a challenge. Below, we take on that challenge, with all titles presented in alphabetical order.

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“Aggro Dr1ft” (Venice Out of Competition/TIFF Midnight Madness)
Director: Harmony Korine
Domestic Sales: CAA

“Aggro Dr1ft” follows a melancholic assassin traversing the seedy underbelly of Miami’s mobsters, strippers, and drifters in pursuit of his next target. Sounds pretty normal to us, Harmony Korine. Oh, wait, it’s shot entirely with infrared photography? And you described it as not a movie but “what comes after movies” and an “ode to the aggressive drifter” that feels “more like a video game?” Got it. Strike or not, there’s a lot of curiosity for this one.

“Close to You” (TIFF Special Presentations)
Director: Dominic Savage
Domestic Sales: UTA

Elliot Page worked closely with director Dominic Savage for this very personal drama about transitioning, family, and identity, to the point that Page is not just a producer but a co-writer on the project. Those close to the project are hopeful it could bring some awards notice for Page. His Pageboy production company also executive produced “Backspot,” a TIFF Discovery title produced in Canada and made on a slim budget by a non-binary director.

“The Critic” (TIFF Special Presentations)
Director: Anand Tucker
Domestic Sales: UTA and CAA

Ian McKellen is said to give a strong, awards-caliber performance in this period thriller set during pre-war England. McKellen plays a notorious theatre critic who gets caught up in a web of blackmail as he tries to save his own skin. The film is adapted from an Anthony Quinn novel and also stars Gemma Arterton, Mark Strong, Ben Barnes, and Lesley Manville.

Here Are the 20 Hottest Sales Titles at This Years | ManOfTheCenturyMovie
“The Contestant”Courtesy of TIFF

“The Contestant” (TIFF Docs)
Director: Clair Titley
Domestic Sales: MRC

This one appeals to anyone who has ever gone down a rabbit hole of watching bizarre Japanese game shows and should prove to be a conversation-starter. “The Contestant” tells the story of a man who, between 1998-99 (just before “The Truman Show” was released!), spent a year naked and alone in a small room filling out magazine sweepstakes in order to survive as part of a reality show. The producers see it as a true water cooler doc and even have potential remake rights for any interested buyers.

“Daddio” (TIFF Special Presentations)
Director: Christy Hall
Domestic Sales: CAA and WME

Conceived for the stage by writer-director Christy Hall (“I Am Not Okay with This”) before it landed on the Black List and made its way to star and producer Dakota Johnson, “Daddio” is set almost entirely within a taxi cab and is a two-hander with Sean Penn playing a truly unfiltered New York cabbie, the kind that should be familiar to any New Yorker who has been in a cab since the ’80s. But don’t think it’s not cinematic. Producer Ro Donnelly and Emma Tillinger Koskoff, a long-time Scorsese collaborator, tell IndieWire it plays gripping and still massive in scope on the big screen, which is why they are searching for a theatrical deal.

“Day of the Fight” (Venice Days)
Director: Jack Huston
Domestic Sales: CAA

Producer Josh Porter touts “Day of the Fight” as a “Boardwalk Empire” reunion between stars Michael Pitt and Steve Buscemi as well as director-writer Jack Huston, who even wrangled Ron Perlman, Joe Pesci, and John Magaro for his debut film. Shot largely in black and white, the film is a period boxing drama told across years with a timely story of redemption.

“The Dead Don’t Hurt” (TIFF Special Presentations)
Director: Viggo Mortensen
Domestic Sales: HanWay Films

For his sophomore feature as a director, Viggo Mortensen returns to TIFF after screening his 2020 debut “Falling” in Toronto. In this one, he directs himself and Vicky Krieps in a feminist Western as they try and survive the corruption in a tough Nevada town.

Gonzo Girl
“Gonzo Girl”Courtesy of TIFF

“Gonzo Girl” (TIFF Discovery)
Director: Patricia Arquette
Domestic Sales: WME and Gersh

Patricia Arquette’s feature directorial debut sees her take on a semi-autobiographical memoir about a journalist who spent time as Hunter S. Thompson’s assistant, even though the Gonzo writer is fictionalized and never mentioned by name. Willem Dafoe plays “Walker Reade,” while Camila Morrone plays his tormented assistant in this story about power dynamics and creative authorship. Arquette also has a supporting role as Dafoe’s manager.

“Hit Man” (Venice Out of Competition)
Director: Richard Linklater
Domestic Sales: CAA and Cinetic

Part noir, part comedy, and we’re guessing with a little bit of an existential hangout vibe, Glen Powell stars and co-wrote Richard Linklater’s latest film that follows a cop going undercover as a hit man, only for his morals to be tested when he encounters a woman (Adria Arjona) trying to escape an abusive relationship. While it’s only kinda a true crime story, “Hit Man” is based on an article from Texas Monthly Magazine.

“In Restless Dreams: The Music of Paul Simon” (TIFF Special Presentations)
Director: Alex Gibney
Domestic Sales: UTA and AC Independent

Billed as the “definitive” Paul Simon doc, with both Simon and his wife Edie Brickell producing the film alongside Lorne Michaels and jazz icon Wynton Marsalis, the ever-prolific Alex Gibney blends new archival footage that dates back to the “Graceland” days with fresh performances of him duetting with Brickell. With a 209-minute running time, it should be an epic acquisition for the right streamer or network.

“Lee” (TIFF Gala Presentations)
Director: Ellen Kuras
Domestic Sales: UTA and CAA

The feature directorial debut from the seasoned and acclaimed cinematographer Ellen Kuras, “Lee” has been in the works since as far back as 2015. Kate Winslet stars as Lee Miller, a fashion model-turned-photojournalist who captured striking images during WWII, including some of the first shots inside concentration camps. The film is impressive both for its look but also its cast that includes Marion Cotillard, Andrea Riseborough, Noemie Merlant, Alexander Skarsgard, Josh O’Connor, and Andy Samberg.

“Les Indesirables” (TIFF Special Presentations)
Director: Ladj Ly
Domestic Sales: CAA

Ladj Ly’s fiery debut at Cannes in 2019 “Les Miserables” was a massive international hit, grossing $54.4 million worldwide and scoring an Oscar nod for Amazon Studios. His follow-up “Les Indesirables” is drumming up even more excitement and is a politically charged story about racism and class dynamics. It follows the sudden death of a Parisian suburb’s mayor and how his idealistic replacement’s ideas of carrying on their predecessor’s legacy comes at the cost of a Malian woman who refuses to be driven out of her neighborhood.

Lil Nas X: Long Live Montero
“Lil Nas X: Long Live Montero”Courtesy of TIFF

“Lil Nas X: Long Live Montero” (TIFF Docs)
Directors: Carlos Lopez Estrada and Zac Manuel
Domestic Sales: Sony Music

Being hyped as easily the most commercial of the documentaries on the market this fall (and perhaps one of the few likely to land a big deal quickly), “Long Live Montero” follows Lil Nas X during the pop icon’s first global tour. The film comes from Sony Music and the team at RadicalMedia that produced “Summer of Soul.” Though it seemingly fits into that category of glossy biopic/rock-docs that have been everywhere, this one has a young star still on the rise and some pedigree to back it up.

“One Life” (TIFF Special Presentations)
Director: Jason Hawes
Domestic Sales: FilmNation

Described as the British Oskar Schindler, producer Iain Canning first came across the story of Nicholas Winton when he was on set for the Best Picture winner “The King’s Speech.” Canning met Winton and saw him as the “most humble human being in the world,” but a film only materialized after his passing and his daughter sought to share his story, even requesting that Anthony Hopkins be the one to portray him. Jason Hawes, a seasoned TV vet who worked most recently with Canning on the Apple TV+ series “Slow Horses,” brings an intensity and naturalism to the story that should connect with audiences.

“Memory” (Venice Competition)
Director: Michel Franco
Domestic Sales: The Match Factory

Neon made a splash with Mexican director Michel Franco’s “New Order” back in 2020, and his latest is in English with stars Jessica Chastain and Peter Sarsgaard, a story that spans years as part of a weepy but thoughtful romance.

“Mountain Queen: The Summits of Lhakpa Sherpa” (TIFF Docs)
Director: Lucy Walker
Domestic Sales: CAA

Lucy Walker previously came to Toronto with her other Everest documentary “Blindsight” back in 2006. Her latest “Mountain Queen” follows a Nepali woman whose accomplishments as a climber, the first to scale Everest solo, are only part of the story.

The Peasants
“The Peasants”Courtesy of TIFF

“The Peasants” (TIFF Special Presentations)
Directors: D.K. Welchman and Hugh Welchman
Domestic Sales: Anonymous Content

The team from “Loving Vincent” takes on a classic Polish novel and approaches this 19th century romance and epic with the same hybrid, painterly, magical realism animation style that made their prior film a surprise box office hit. With Neon most recently scooping up “Robot Dreams” at Cannes, art-house animation has been surprisingly hot, which could be good news for “The Peasants.” The film has already sold many international territories and has been in early conversations with U.S. distributors.

“Sorry/Not Sorry” (TIFF Docs)
Directors: Caroline Suh and Cara Mones
Domestic Sales: CAA

This New York Times doc revisits the paper’s #MeToo reporting about comedian Louis C.K. and examines how as the rare individual to admit to the allegations against him, he’s managed to revitalize his career and even win a Grammy, all while his accusers have been vilified. The film dives back in time to an old Gawker blind item to try to identify how much of an open secret C.K.’s behavior was and who knew what, and when.

“Wildcat” (TIFF Special Presentations)
Director: Ethan Hawke
Domestic Sales: UTA and CAA

Though hardly his first rodeo in the director’s chair, “Wildcat” is said to show Ethan Hawke really leveling up as a filmmaker. “Wildcat” is far from a cradle-to-grave biopic of author Flannery O’Connor, and TIFF’s Cameron Bailey even said it’s Hawke’s answer to Paul Schrader’s “First Reformed” after he starred in that film. Hawke’s daughter Maya is also getting hype for her performance as O’Connor, and it shouldn’t hurt that Hawke already has an interim agreement for the movie in hand.

“Woman of the Hour” (TIFF Special Presentations)
Director: Anna Kendrick
Domestic Sales: Range Media Partners

Originally titled “The Dating Game,” this one could have big commercial appeal as a ’70s nostalgia play blended with a true crime story of a serial killer who appeared on — and was selected — on the iconic ’70s blind dating show. The film is more psychological thriller than horror and is being hyped as a strong directorial debut for Anna Kendrick, who also stars.

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