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The top 10 foreign films to see at TIFF 2015

The big Hollywood films - with their Oscar potential and big stars - inevitably enjoy much of the attention over the course of TIFF's run. But for those of us content for those movies to inevitably make their way to a Cineplex in the coming months, one of the greatest joys of the Toronto International Film Festival is that whole International part.

Here are my picks for the top foreign films to see at TIFF 2015.

Bleak Street
I had admittedly never heard of the 2009 murder of dwarf wrestling siblings, Alberto and Alejandro JimĂŠnez, which is a big reason why Bleak Street aiming to adapt this true crime story to screen has us so intrigued. But this isn't just a sensational crime story. What sounds most promising about Bleak Street is its intention to consider more deeply the lives of its victims and perpetrators.

Blood of My Blood
Any movie that - intentional or not - recalls Black Narcissus, is a movie worth seeing. Here, Blood of My Blood isn't in a haunting convent in the Himalayas, but a cursed monastery whose secrets the film traces from the 17th Century to the present. Frankly, this movie had us at "cursed monastery."

Cemetery of Splendour
Apichatpong Weerasethakul's last feature film, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, won the Palme d'Or at Cannes in 2010, and is widely considered one of the best films of the 21st century so far. That sets up a lot of expectations. Once again, Weerasethakul melds the relatable human with the moderately supernatural, with this story about two people investigating a sleep sickness afflicting the world around them.

Der Nachtmar
Last year It Follows offered up a story about teenage sex leading to kids being haunted by a malevolent presence. This year, Der Nacthmar gives us a story about teenage partying that leads to a girl being haunted by a monstrous creature--that no one else can see. Sounds terrifying. Which is precisely why I can't wait to see it.

Francofonia
Aleksandr Sokurov's much loved Russian Ark remains a cinematic classic for the inventive way it plays out entirely in a Russian museum and renders the space alive to recreate or depict the country's rich history. Francofonia promises to see Sokurov once again return to a museum--this time the Louvre--and bring it's art and culture to life. If this is anything like Russian Ark, it'll be a can't miss movie.

Lolo
Julie Delpy has long been a tremendous actress, but she's lately turned into a formidable writer-director of wonderfully whimsical comedies that are equal parts farce and realism. They're not always perfect films, but they are always immensely enjoyable. I expect her latest should deliver the same, this time with a story about a working mom whose new romance could be ruined by her 20-year-old son.

Mountains May Depart
Director Jia Zhang-Ke's last film, A Touch of Sin, was a compelling look at the complexities of modern China, and one of TIFF 13's best films. This film finds the director once again considering his country, and how its capitalist shifts have affected those who live within in. What's particularly intriguing is that Zhang-Ke's movie will cover not just the past, but the speculative future, each with its own distinct look.

Office
Johnnie To is such a prolific director, it's almost not really TIFF without one of his films programmed. This year one of Hong Kong's most fascinating directors brings Office, a movie set in the corporate world of power struggles, backstabbing, stock panics, and starring Chow Yun-Fat. The kicker? It's a musical.

Right Now, Wrong Then
Hong San-soo's films never fail to be entrancing delights of whimsy. They're particularly good palette cleansers if you're digging into heavy dramas throughout the festival. Right Now, Wrong Then promises to be yet another delight, a romantic comedy with a Sliding Doors-angle: a romantic encounter we get to see unfold in two different ways. And who doesn't a little cinematic "What if?" exploration?

Taxi
Jafar Panahi's last film, This is Not a Film, was a modern masterpiece. Taxi sounds as clever and inventive, this time with Panahi hopping in a cab and driving around Tehran to strike up conversations with his passengers. In the process, Taxi offers the chance to get a glimpse of modern-day Iran. If this film is anything like Panahi's last, there will be few bigger TIFF 15 highlights.

What foreign films are you most looking forward to at TIFF 2015? Let us know in the comments. Photo still from The Office.


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