Courtesy of TIFF

Dear Evan Hansen to Open TIFF 2021, Alanis Morissette Gets Gala Treatment

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The musical adaptation Dear Evan Hansen will open this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. The highly anticipated film version of the Tony Award winning musical will kick off TIFF’s Gala screenings when the festival begins September 9. Directed by Stephen Chbosky (Perks of Being a Wallflower), Dear Evan Hansen stars Ben Platt, Julianne Moore, and Amy Adams in a moving story of a high schooler who unwittingly enters the spotlight when a letter he penned for himself is mistaken for a classmate’s suicide note. This marks the third year in a row that TIFF has opened with a music-forward film after the back-to-back doc selections Once Were Brothers and David Byrne’s American Utopia.

“There was no question that Dear Evan Hansen was the ideal film to launch the Festival this year,” said Cameron Bailey, TIFF Artistic Director and Co-Head, in a statement from the festival. “This film is ultimately about healing, forgiveness, and reaffirms how connected and essential we all are to one another. We couldn’t think of a more important idea to celebrate this year as we come together once again to share the power and joy of cinema in theatres together.”

“Dear Evan Hansen is a film about allowing ourselves to be found, and giving ourselves permission to be our true, authentic selves,” added Stephen Chbosky. “After a year and a half of isolation, so many of us are finding our way back to each other. So, now more than ever, I am honoured that the Toronto International Film Festival has chosen Dear Evan Hansen to open this year’s Festival. We could not have asked for a more ideal festival, or audience, or moment to premiere our film.”

TIFF’s announcement today added approximately 20 titles to the previously announced dozen films. Although no new docs were among the films added to the Galas and Special Presentations line-ups, the previously announced portrait of Canadian rocker Alanis Morissette, Jagged, will get the red carpet treatment with a Gala screening. The previously announced music doc Dionne Warwick: Don’t Make Me Over will bring the story of the iconic singer to the Special Presentations line-up. More documentaries will join the festival line-up with next week’s scheduled announcement for the TIFF Docs selections.

Meanwhile, TIFF added One Second from acclaimed Chinese auteur Zhang Yimou as the festival’s closing night Gala. On the Canadian front, Michael McGowan’s adaptation of Miriam Toews’ novel All My Puny Sorrows marked a new addition for Canadian content, while Danis Goulet’s previously announced Night Raiders was tapped for a Gala slot.

Additionally, today’s announcement noted the addition of the Cineplex Scotiabank Theatre for public screenings for the first five days of the festival. Movie theatres recently reopened in Toronto after a ninth-month closure. Audiences returned in droves with theatres following all required safety protocols, while the recent announcements for Canada’s vaccination rate and the easing of cross-border travel means that the festival could look and feel somewhat like it did in the pre-COVID years.

The TIFF 2021 Gala and Special Presentations selections are as follows:


Dir. Kenneth Branagh | United Kingdom
World Premiere

Clifford the Big Red Dog
Dir. Walt Becker | USA/United Kingdom/Canada
World Premiere

Dear Evan Hansen
Dir. Stephen Chbosky | USA
World Premiere – Opening Night Film.

The Electrical Life of Louis Wain
Dir. Will Sharpe | United Kingdom
Canadian Premiere

The Eyes of Tammy Faye
Dir. Michael Showalter | USA
World Premiere

Dir. Alison Klayman | USA
World Premiere

*Last Night in Soho
Dir. Edgar Wright | United Kingdom
North American Premiere

*The Mad Women’s Ball (Le Bal des folles).
Dir. Mélanie Laurent | France
World Premiere

*Night Raiders
Dir. Danis Goulet | Canada/New Zealand
North American Premiere

One Second
Dir. Zhang Yimou | China
North American Premiere – Closing Night Film.

The Survivor
Dir. Barry Levinson | USA/Canada/Hungary
World Premiere


Ali & Ava
Dir. Clio Barnard | United Kingdom
North American Premiere

All My Puny Sorrows
Dir. Michael McGowan | Canada
World Premiere

Dir. Terence Davies | United Kingdom
World Premiere

Bergman Island
Dir. Mia Hansen-Løve | France
International Premiere

Dir. Eric Warin, Tahir Rana | Canada/France/Belgium
World Premiere

*Dionne Warwick: Don’t Make Me Over
Dir. Dave Wooley, David Heilbroner | USA
World Premiere

Drive My Car
Dir. Ryusuke Hamaguchi | Japan
North American Premiere

Dir. Michael Pearce | United Kingdom/USA
International Premiere

The Eyes of Tammy Faye
Dir. Michael Showalter | USA
World Premiere

*The Guilty
Dir. Antoine Fuqua | USA
World Premiere

I’m Your Man
Dir. Maria Schrader | Germany
North American Premiere

Dir. Fabrice du Welz | Belgium/France
International Premiere

Dir. Phillip Noyce | Canada
World Premiere

The Middle Man
Dir. Bent Hamer | Norway/Canada/Germany/Denmark
World Premiere

Official Competition (Competencia Oficial)
Dir. Mariano Cohn, Gastón Duprat | Spain/Argentina
North American Premiere

Paris, 13th District (Les Olympiades)
Dir. Jacques Audiard | France
North American Premiere

*Petite Maman
Dir. Céline Sciamma | France
Canadian Premiere

*The Starling
Dir. Theodore Melfi | USA
World Premiere

The Story of My Wife
Dir. Ildikó Enyedi | Hungary/Germany/Italy/France
North American Premiere

Three Floors (Tre Piani)
Dir. Nanni Moretti | Italy/France
North American Premiere

Dir. Justine Bateman | USA
International Premiere

The Worst Person In The World (Verdens Verste Menneske)
Dir. Joachim Trier | Norway/France/Sweden/Denmark
North American Premiere

*previously announced

TIFF runs Sept. 9-18, 2021.

Pat Mullen is the publisher of POV Magazine. He holds a Master’s in Film Studies from Carleton University where his research focused on adaptation and Canadian cinema. Pat has also contributed to outlets including The Canadian Encyclopedia, Paste, That Shelf, Sharp, Xtra, and Complex. He is the vice president of the Toronto Film Critics Association and an international voter for the Golden Globe Awards.

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