World premieres of Netflix’s All the Light We Cannot See, Amazon’s Expats starring Nicole Kidman, and Euphoria creator Ron Leshem’s Hebrew-language drama Bad Boy were unveiled as part of the Toronto Film Festival’s Primetime program on Monday.
TIFF, making a big step up this year for the sidebar of international prestige TV series, will show the first two episodes of All the Light We Cannot See, a limited series starring Mark Ruffalo and Hugh Laurie, written by Steven Knight (Peaky Blinders) and directed by Shawn Levy (Stranger Things).
And The Farewell director Lulu Wang is returning to Toronto with Amazon’s Expats, with Kidman and Sarayu Blue in a drama about a group of close-knit women expatriates in Hong Kong. There’s also first looks for U.K. Channel Four’s Alice & Jack, a romantic comedy that stars Domhnall Gleeson and Andrea Riseborough.
Also bowing at TIFF is the Israeli crime drama Bad Boy from Leshem and director Hagar Ben-Asher (Bosch, City on a Hill), with the Hebrew-language title arriving in Toronto without U.S. distribution.
Primetime programmer Geoff Macnaughton told The Hollywood Reporter that North American TV audiences are following TIFF and other film festivals in increasingly embracing foreign language subtitles, thanks to the success of Money Heist and Call My Agent and other series on streaming platforms.
“In the last few years, audiences have become much more accepting of what they watch. It speaks to how the world rights are taken by streamers and international series like The Squid Game are finding an audience. You could find a foreign language success story on any platform and streamers are less risk averse,” Macnaughton argued.
TIFF is also expanding its Primetime sidebar for serialized storytelling this year just as the global drama bubble bursts and indie TV producers are chasing new financing models. Indie TV producers are also eyeing the Toronto Film Festival’s imprimatur of cinephiles and global star power by screening here before imminent broadcast or streaming releases.
In response to the popularity of prestige international series on streamers, TIFF has booked nine series into Primetime this year, up from seven last year. That also includes a North American premiere for Paramount+’s Bargain, a Korean battle of survival from Korean hitmaker Byun Seung-min (B.P., The Cursed) as innocent bystanders find themselves stuck in an underground auction house for human organ trafficking when an earthquake traps criminals and victims alike.
The Korean dystopian thriller, which earned the best screenplay prize at Canneseries, is a follow-up to the 2015 short film Bargain by director Lee Chung-hyun that played in Toronto. “It’s a wild ride. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen. it’s so much fun,” Macnaughton said of the Bargain series.
Primetime will also give world premieres to two CBC series, Leslie Norville’s Black Life: Untold Stories, a CBC docuseries that surveys the history of the Black experience in Canada; and Kim O’Bamsawin’s Telling Our Story, about the struggles and revival of the country’s original 11 First Peoples nations.
And there’s a world bow for the Crave streaming comedy Brie Mack Gets a Life, from creator and showrunner Sasha Leigh Henry. Malaika Hennie-Hamadi plays a 25-year-old Black woman and university graduate in a mainly white world, a journey made both difficult and tolerable by Black Attack, her invisible hype girl played by Hannan Younis who helps her navigate life’s frustrations and hurdles.
The Toronto Film Festival is set to run from Sept. 7-17.