TIFF 2015: Ready for Primetime 

What's the best advice for a 40th anniversary? Keep it fresh. Whether it's a marriage, a job or even a film festival, it's fun to look back at the good old days but you have to keep your eye on the future. So it should have come as a surprise to no one the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival—this year celebrating it's 40th year—added a new platform, dubbed "Primetime," to feature some of the most interesting storytelling in international television.

click to enlarge Idris Elba stars in Beasts of No Nation.
  • Idris Elba stars in Beasts of No Nation.
Without question, the biggest splash came from Netflix and its premiere of Beasts of No Nation, the subscription service's first original narrative motion picture. It's fantastic. Starring Idris Elba (BCC's Luther), Beasts of No Nation tells the harrowing tale of a 14-year-old torn from his family to become a child soldier. In order to be eligible for an Oscar the film will be shown in theaters in New York and Los Angeles, but sooner than later it will be available to Netflix's 35 million-plus customers.

Another of my favorites is The Returned, an International Emmy Award-winner from France. TIFF is featuring the second season's premiere episode and it left me ravenous to watch the first season as soon as possible. It's a fascinating twist on the overly used back-from-the-dead genre.

The titular "returned" are the recently deceased who come back to inhabit a small French mountain village. The apparently resurrected people try to resume their lives, but a series of bizarre phenomena begin to occur.  The Sundance Network has already aired the first season in the United States and the series is currently available on DVD.

click to enlarge The premiere episode of Heroes Reborn debuted at TIFF.
  • The premiere episode of Heroes Reborn debuted at TIFF.
Also on display in Toronto is the premiere episode of Heroes Reborn, which will air on NBC later this fall. It's the reboot of the popular network TV series Heroes with a new group of superheroes.

Other TV entries at TIFF include:

Casual, a quirky comedy with the first two episodes directed by Jason Reitman (Juno, Up in the Air). It will soon be available on Hulu.

CROMO, from Argentina, is about a team of scientists who investigate major environmental crimes.

Keith Richards: Under the Influence, a new rockumentary for Netflix.

Trapped, from Iceland, is about a homicide detective who follows murder clues to a remote Icelandic village but is then snowed in at the scene of the crime.
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