Literary TIFF

The Toronto International Film Festival (Sept. 8 – 18) is just a week away. While many movie fans will be charging up their cell phones to catch some pics or selfies with the stars on the red carpet, Arti here at the Pond is interested in spotting the film adaptations of books, or those with literary interest.

This is a photo of the Toronto skyline from Lake Ontario on a hazy morning. Arti took the pic during TIFF14 two years ago. Yes, she’s heading there soon for TIFF16. So stay tuned for future posts.

Hazy Toronto Morning

Here’s a list of some literary titles at TIFF16:

A Quiet Passion 

Not based on a book but no short of literary interest. This is a cinematic biopic of the American poet Emily Dickinson. What’s more, it’s a new film written and directed by the venerable English auteur Terence Davis, who brought us such acclaimed works as Sunset Song (2015), The Deep Blue Sea (2011), and The House of Mirth (2000). Cynthia Nixon plays Emily Dickinson, with Jennifer Ehle as her sister Vinnie. Yes, that Jennifer Ehle. Love to see her in another period role but I know, hard to be rid of the Lizzy Bennet image.

American Pastoral 

Philip Roth actually has two movie adaptations of his books coming out this fall. One is Indignation (2008). The other is American Pastoral (1997), which won him a Pulitzer and was considered a seminal work in his oeuvre. Roth later won the Man Booker International Prize in 2011. The prolific author has long been regarded as the astute depicter of the 20th C. Northeastern Jewish-American psyche. Interesting fact of this adaptation is that it’s the directorial debut of Scottish actor Ewan McGregor, who will also take up the role of Roth’s famous character Seymour ‘Swede’ Levov. How well can he pull it off? Dakota Fanning and Jennifer Connelly co-star.


Based on three short stories by Alice Munro, Canada’s first Nobel Laureate in Literature (2013). Juliet is the protagonist of “Chance”, “Soon”, and “Silence”,  from Munro’s 2004 volume Runaway. So why the name Julieta? Well, these stories are being transported from a Canadian setting into Spain. The film is helmed by director Pedro Almodóvar, who is described as “the most internationally acclaimed Spanish filmmaker since Luis Buñuel” (IMDb). Almodóvar won an Oscar for his writing/original screenplay with “Talk To Her” (2002). Hopefully this adaptation is worthy of Munro’s source material. I’m curious to see how a totally Canadian story is transplanted into a Euro-Spanish milieu.


Certain Women

Another film adaptation based on short stories, this one by author Maile Meloy, from her book Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It (2009). The adaptation tells the story of three women and boasts a high calibre cast with Kristen Stewart, Michelle Williams, and Laura Dern. It is helmed by Kelly Reichardt who had directed Michelle Williams in Wendy and Lucy (2008) to critical acclaims. Last I read is that some elements of the stories had been altered to appeal to a contemporary audience.



This 2016 Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or nominee explores an interesting concept: A bus driver by day, a poet by night in Paterson, New Jersey. Can’t find a better named actor than Adam Driver to take up this unique dual occupational role. Writer/director Jim Jarmusch takes the helm. No stranger to Cannes, Jarmusch’s Broken Flowers (2005, remember Bill Murray?) won the Cannes Grand Prize of the Jury in 2005. The director’s versatility has brought us very different kinds of works throughout his career.


The Salesman

Since the 1990’s, several Iranian film directors have gained high praises internationally for their cinematic works. The recent death of Abbas Kiarostami is a loss on a grand scale for film art. Another distinctive figure is his younger friend and compatriot Asghar Farhadi, whose A Separation is the first Iranian film to win an Oscar (Best Foreign Language Film, 2012). After that Farhadi crafted another multiple-award-winner The Past (2013). This year he brings us The Salesman. The name is a big hint of its literary affiliation. The story is about the disintegration of a marriage as a couple perform Arthur Miller’s play Death of a Salesman as Willy and Linda Loman. Life imitates art, or vice versa? Farhadi is a master of probing conflicts in domestic relationships. At Cannes earlier this year, The Salesman won Farhadi the Best Screenplay and Shahab Hosseini the Best Actor award.

The Secret Scripture 

After a long wait, and a change in the cast, the film adaptation of Irish writer Sebastian Barry’s Booker shortlisted work is finally completed. In the book, the narrator is a 100 year-old mental hospital patient recalling her life. The old and her younger self are played by Vanessa Redgrave and Rooney Mara respectively. The director is Jim Sheridan, the six-times Oscar nominee who introduced us to Daniel Day-Lewis with the excellent productions of My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown (1989) and later In the Name of the Father (1993).



Born in Oak Park, Illinois in 1935 and after her marriage became a Canadian citizen in 1971, Carol Shields received honours from both countries and internationally as well. The Stone Diaries won the Pulitzer in 1993, among many other accolades, while Unless (2002) was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Here’s the intriguing tale of Unless: a mother one day finds her runaway daughter living on the street and mute. Oscar nominated Catherine Keener plays the mother Reta Winter. Downton Abbey fans should note, Mr. Bates Brendan Coyle also stars.





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If she’s not birding by the Pond, Arti’s likely watching a movie, reading, or writing a review. Creator of Ripple Effects, bylines in Asian American Press, Vague Visages, Curator Magazine.

10 thoughts on “Literary TIFF”

    1. Yes, the venerable Vanessa Redgrave. Actually I was more interested in this adaptation earlier when Jessica Chastain was said to be on board to play the younger character. That would be wonderful to see both Redgrave and Chastain in the same film. But looks like it’s not to be so.


  1. I know Rick will want to see the Alice Munro — but Spain? I know he’ll be broken hearted that the locale was moved. The Dickinson and the Redgrave-Mara particularly interest me here.

    Did you see Cafe Society? I’d love to get your take (I did and glad to share here or email).


    1. Jeanie,

      I tried to get the selection to “Julieta” online but it said “off sale”. I’m going to try in person when I get there. Hopefully there’s a change of situation. And yes, I saw “Cafe Society.” I’m sorry to say, that’s a little disappointing. I’d high expectations for it, but it looks like a lot of reuse of WA humor. While the story may not have appeared before on screen, it doesn’t look fresh or charged with any energy. I have high hopes for KS too, unfortunately it looks like she’s miscast. Well, my taste may differ from the critics, I like “Equals” quite a bit. And I think KS is well suited for her role there.


      1. I wasn’t knocked out, either. I enjoyed it. I was glad I went and it was a fun evening for us but I have to say the $12 price tag wasn’t worth it! But I did think it was a beautiful production — fabulous costumes, sets. Liked Jesse Eisenberg as the “new” Woody-type character very much and his evolution from kid to smooth guy. The consensus of our small viewing group was the two women weren’t thrilled with KS and the man was. Was Woody narrating? His voice has changed a great deal. Liked Carrell, too. So, I’d give it a 2.5. Some parts more, some about a 2.


        1. Yes, the narrator is WA. I find there’s a story in here, but then again, he carries it off to some mundane development and ending. Nothing original, well, can’t have much ‘originality’ if you write and direct one movie yearly for forty some years. But agree with you about the attractive period setting.


  2. Looks like some amazing stuff. I have never been one for the crowds of TIFF, even when it was possible to go. Alice Munro is one of my favourite authors and Runaway one of the books that really converted me. I look forward to Julieta when it becomes available.

    Secret Scripture is a theme I love, so that is a definite too. Although I think Saoirse Ronan might have been a good choice too. I can see her playing a younger Vanessa Redgrave.

    A Quiet Passion. Yup!

    I could never get Carol Shields. Her style never gelled with me. I tried twice with the Stone Diaries and one other and just couldn’t. Perhaps I’ll give the film a try…


    1. Michelle,

      Looks like you’ve a good appreciation for Canadian content. 🙂 I’m not one for the crowds either, but when it comes to film festivals, I just can’t avoid them. Heading to TO tomorrow. More on TIFF coming up, but maybe have to wait till I come back. 😉


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