Fall Festival Breakouts: 20 Movies That Got People Talking at Venice, Telluride and Toronto

(L to R) Caitriona Balfe as "Ma", Jamie Dornan as "Pa", Judi Dench as "Granny", Jude Hill as "Buddy", and Lewis McAskie as "Will" in director Kenneth Branagh's BELFAST, a Focus Features release. Credit : Rob Youngson / Focus Features
Rob Youngson / Focus Features

Last September, a cautiously recalibrated Venice Film Festival represented one of the few bright spots in world cinema, taking advantage of a brief window between COVID waves to host in-person premieres for such future Oscar nominees as “Nomadland” and “One Night in Miami.” Telluride and Toronto — such vital platforms for auteurs and awards contenders — had to downsize or cancel in 2020, making the return of all three events something to be celebrated.

The logistics may have been complicated for those in attendance, with cumbersome ticketing procedures and mandatory COVID tests to contend with, but there was something exhilarating about being back in theaters, experiencing movies as a group and debating their merits in real time immediately after the screenings.

For those not fortunate enough to make the trek to Venice, Telluride or Toronto, Variety’s critics put together the following roundup of highlights from the three early-September festivals. Not all of these films were successful (some were downright divisive), but it should give you an idea of what to watch for in the months ahead.