Eminem Highlights Toronto’s Rap Battle Scene in New TIFF Film

Eminem is just as much of a big deal now as he was back when your parents forbade you from blasting his music around your younger siblings.

Not only is his album Curtain Call: The Hits now the longest-charting hip-hop album in the history of the Billboard 200, he is currently making headlines with a new film. The 15-time Grammy Award-winning rapper – who played a defining role in many of our junior high and high school days – was just revealed as the producer of a new satirical film that will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).

Bodied isn’t just premiering in Toronto; the city is front and centre in the film as it explores Toronto’s colourful rap battle scene.

Directed by Grammy-winning director Joseph Khan – a longtime friend of Eminem’s who directed the music videos for “Love The Way You Lie” and “We Made You” – the film explores the life of Canadian rapper Alex Larson (AKA Kid Twist). For those in the dark, Larson – the film’s screenwriter – is a central part of Toronto’s rap battle scene. As a grad student, he chose the unconventional topic of rap battle for his thesis. The initiative would turn into much more that a school assignment as he becomes embroiled in Toronto’s underground rap culture – one that wasn’t initially welcoming.

Based on Larson’s journey in the rap world to become one of the top battlers in Canada, the film stars Canadian actor Calum Worthy as Larson. Also gracing the screen are Anthony Michael Hall, Debra Wilson, Charlamagne tha God, Alter Perez, Rory Uphold, Jackie Long and Shoniqua Shanda. It features rap battle circuit faces like Dizaster, Dumbfounded, Loaded Lux and Hollow Da Don (if you know, then you know).

Of course, it was the same underground rap battle scene that made the once unknown and poverty-stricken Detroit native Marshall Mathers (Eminem) the larger-than-life rap legend he has become. Though the film’s details are currently hush-hush, what we do know is that it will heavily explore race relations and the emergence of white rappers on the scene.

The film will premiere on opening night of TIFF as part of their Midnight Madness Program.

In other TIFF news, those who prefer the nostalgic, all-Canadian sounds of the iconic Tragically Hip, if you can get tickets (a major “if”), you can be among the first to see the documentary Long Time Running. The hot-ticket film documents the lead-up to the beloved band’s 2016 Canada-wide Mad Machine Poem tour after frontman Gord Downie’s terminal brain cancer announcement. Directed by Canadian filmmakers Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier, the doc is filled with no shortage of both feel good nostalgic music and goose bump-inducing moments and features both performance and behind-the-scenes footage.

Members of The Tragically Hip (left to right) Gord Sinclair, Paul Langlois, Gord Downie, Johnny Fay and Rob Baker are shown in a recent handout photo. Langlois says he’s honoured that his hometown of Kingston, Ont., has decided to dedicate a street to the veteran group. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Clemens Rikken

Now just over a month away (the festival runs September 7-17), as usual, half of Hollywood (which could include James Franco, Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lawrence and George Clooney) will descend upon Toronto for 10 days of red carpets, premieres, flowing cocktails and paparazzi snaps.

The TIFF countdown is officially on.