In the timeline originally scheduled for 2020, press from far and wide would be descending into the Great White North right about now, ready to consume massive amounts of poutine and dig into a lot of awards-season potentials, work from a who’s who’s of world-cinema auteurs and any number of unknown pleasures projected onto big screens. We currently live in the worst timeline, however, if thankfully not the worst-case-scenario reality — which means that yes, we do get a film festival, just not the type we’ve come to know, love and count on.

The 45th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival is indeed still taking place, kicking off today and wrapping things up on September 19th. Over the course of the next 10 days, the annual event will show a number of movies ranging from serious star-driven dramas to psychotronic midnight movies, if not as many as usual. There will be screenings, if not exactly the recognizable, red-carpet kind, and with borders closed, they’ll be largely locals-only affairs. And while no one will likely cry about film critics not attending in person except for the film critics not attending in person, there is the sense that experiencing a film festival from afar — of being unable to be in the rooms where these movies happen for the first time, and transmitting the immediate sense of life-shifting joy, sadness, rage and discovery back to folks — is, like so many things these days, a second-hand approximation of life as we know it.

Better to light a candle than curse the darkness, they say, so we’re looking ahead to what’s unfurling in the upcoming week-plus and highlighting 20 of TIFF 2020’s entries that we have our eyes on. There are some of the typical Oscar-courting titles you expect with one of the big fall fests, as well as a handful of intriguing docs, a few foreign-language films, indies featuring famous faces, directorial debuts by three — count ’em, three! — well-known actors and the occasional politicians-vs-zombies adrenaline rush.

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