This year’s lineup at the Toronto International Film Festival includes 3 films with scores mixed by Phil McGowan. Composers Danny Bensi & Saunder Jurriaans crafted impactful scores for the thrilling The Autopsy of Jane Doe, Netflix documentary Amanda Knox, and Barack Obama biopic Barry, all 3 of which are premiering at this year’s festival.
If you’re at TIFF, head over to a screening if you can!
Read TIFF’s synopsis of each film:
The Autopsy of Jane Doe
The much anticipated English-language debut by Norwegian director André Øvredal (Troll Hunter) is a riveting, chilling, and utterly original horror story. In small-town Virginia, police are called to a gruesome crime scene where a family has been massacred in their own house. In the basement, an even more disturbing discovery is made: the partially buried corpse of a nude woman. The cops take this unidentified victim to a small, family-run morgue, where they ask proprietor Tommy Tilden (Brian Cox) to perform an urgent forensic analysis in order to help determine what happened at the blood-stained house. Tommy’s son Austen (Emile Hirsch) cancels a date with his girlfriend (Ophelia Lovibond) in order to help his father perform an autopsy, and the two Tildens set about their grisly examination in the morgue basement.
Working late into the night as they methodically peel back layers of skin, muscle, and bone, Tommy and Austen are baffled by the lack of external signs of trauma on the victim and the alarming extent of her internal injuries. Increasingly perplexed and frustrated by these forensic anomalies, the pair begins to succumb to late-night jitters, getting spooked at apparitions that seem to be lurking in the shadows. As the dread mounts and the atmosphere gets thick with evil, it becomes apparent that the Tildens’ fate is intertwined with a darkness that neither of them can comprehend.
Hirsch and Cox bring an amusingly intimate familiarity to the father and son’s idyllic but morbid livelihood, which slowly turns into a living nightmare. Grab the scalpel, turn on the tape recorder, and get ready to go deep into the inner cavities of a cadaver, where the mysteries are much more than skin deep.
Colin Geddes, TIFF
The 2007 murder of British exchange student Meredith Kercher in Perugia, Italy has become a case study in the vagaries of crime and punishment. Seattle native Amanda Knox and her boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito were convicted and — after four years in prison — acquitted for Kercher’s murder, though just what happened on that November night remains shrouded in mystery. This gripping, atmospheric documentary from directors Rod Blackhurst and Brian McGinn revisits the story with unprecedented access to its key players and poses troubling questions as to why both the legal system and outside observers got so much wrong about the case.
Knox arrived in Perugia to start university that September. She was 20. Kercher was her roommate. Nothing about Knox’s behaviour or girl-next-door charisma suggested she was capable of a vicious killing. This was what made her an enticing suspect: the notion that a femme fatale could appear so innocent. “Either I’m a psychopath in sheep’s clothing,” declares Knox, “or I’m you.”
Perugia prosecutor Giuliano Mignini, one of the film’s most fascinating subjects, regards Knox as “a little bit of an anarchist.” Journalist Nick Pisa, who speaks candidly about the media’s hunger for sensationalism, attests to the allure of painting Knox as a depraved sex maniac. As the trial progresses, the real Knox and her possible motives recede into the background.
Amanda Knox is true crime at its very best, digging deep into the details of a case we only think we know. It provides all the facts, brings us closer to understanding the biases of those involved, and leaves us to trouble over the many lingering ambiguities.
Thom Powers, TIFF
As President Barack Obama’s term draws to a close, filmmakers are looking back. What makes Barry exceptional is that it looks back not just on Obama’s presidential run, his years in the Senate, or even his early career. The film takes us all the way back to Obama’s junior year at Columbia University. What it reveals about Obama in 1981 could not be of more relevance to America in 2016.
Twenty-year-old Barry (Devon Terrell) arrives in a New York City where turf wars pervade every milieu, from the basketball courts to the university campus where he is bullied by police on his first night. He starts dating a white woman from his political science class. He attends a party in a Harlem housing project. With his Kenyan father and Kansas-born mother, Barry should be able to slip between racially coded camps. Instead, he feels like he doesn’t belong anywhere.
Rather than hammer home its themes of racial tension and ambivalence, Barry immerses us in its protagonist’s experience. Adam Mansbach’s script and Vikram Gandhi’s direction consistently show rather than tell. And Terrell lets us see Barry’s inner frustration mounting — even as the young man learns to exercise the external neutrality that will prove so useful later in his life.
In one of many scenes in which he’s asked where he’s from, Barry outlines his Honolulu-Jakarta-California trajectory and waits for the usual startled reply. Instead, his interlocutor tells him, “That makes you American.”
Barry is the story of a young man searching. It just so happens that what he’s searching for in this film is the very sense of diversity and acceptance that his country is still trying to find 35 years later.
Cameron Bailey, TIFF