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Social issues take center stage at the 2017 Toronto Film Festival amid Oscar buzz

"Mary Shelley," which premiers at the 2017 Toronto Film Festival, is directed by Saudi Arabia's first female director, Haifaa al-Mansour.
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The next wave of Oscar contenders have descended on Toronto.

Of the nearly 200 films screening at the Toronto International Film Festival, many are having either their world premier or North American premier. 

Steven Zeitchik is a film reporter for The L.A. Times who's on the ground in Toronto. When he spoke with The Frame, he explained why this festival is so important to the start of awards season. 

There's nothing quite like Toronto in terms of the sheer wattage of both stars but also films and contenders that come here. So among the dozens of films that are set to come out and have all these Oscar ambitions over the coming months, we're going to get a sense of which of those are the cream and which will rise to the top and which will fade away. 

Zeitchik's TIFF picks:

"Stronger" directed by David Gordon Green 

A film that the director David Gordon Green was behind with Jake Gyllenhaal. It's about the Boston Marathon bombing. Amazon is releasing it a little later in the year. It's quite an intimate and powerful work.

"Mother!" directed by Darron Aronofsky

This will be its North American premier. This is the film with Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem that's actually quite an ambitious, audacious work.

"The Upside" directed by Neil Burger

Kevin hart and Bryan Cranston doing a remake of a french film called "Untouchable" that has a lot of people talking about potential performance Oscars. 

"Mary Shelley" directed by Haifaa al-Mansour

It stars Elle Fanning. It's, of course, about the English author of several hundred years ago. And it's directed by the first female Saudi Arabian director ever. So I think this film is not only about issues having to do with feminism, politics and society's expectations, but it even comes from an artist who implicitly makes that statement. 

"Love Means Zero" directed by Jason Kohn

It's really about the early days of Andre Agassi, vis-a-vis his very polarizing coach, Nick Bollettieri. It is, to my mind, as good a tennis, or as good a sports movie as you'll ever see.

"The Final Year" directed by Greg Barker

This is a director named Greg Barker — a very acclaimed director — who went in to the Obama White House and their foreign policy team — John Kerry, Samantha Power and Ben Rhodes — and basically followed them around for a year.



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