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October 2, 2014
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Toronto film festival unveils glossy line-up

Eddie Redmayne playing theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking in James Marsh’s The Theory of Everything.

Scheduling criteria tighter to include only true world premieres during first four days

TORONTO — Noah Baumbach’s While We’re Young and Ed Zwick’s Pawn Sacrifice will be among the world premieres at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, one of the top movie showcases and a favoured platform to unveil Oscar contenders.

The festival yesterday announced about 60 titles, including many of the high-profile gala presentations that will unspool at the 39th version of the September 4-14 event. Departing with recent practice, festival organizers did not announce the opening film, and said that it would be determined closer to the event.

While We’re Young, by indie darling Baumbach, stars Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts as a middle aged couple whose lives are disrupted when a free-spirited younger couple enters the picture.

Pawn Sacrifice stars Tobey Maguire as American chess legend Bobby Fischer, locked in a world championship match in 1972 with Soviet rival Boris Spassky, played by Liev Schreiber.

All told, nearly 300 films are expected to screen at the festival, which ranks with Cannes, Sundance, Venice, and Berlin as leading movie events.

The festival is tightening its scheduling criteria this year to include only true world premieres during its first four days, when media and industry attention is brightest, although organizers said that was not the cause of the delay in naming the opening night film.

“Absolutely not. We have a lot of movies to watch... and they’re not always ready on our timeline,” festival artistic director Cameron Bailey said.

The tougher criteria is meant to halt recent occurrences of films touted as “world premieres” appearing days previously at the smaller Telluride Film Festival, a largely industry-only event that unveils its screenings at the last minute.

Telluride’s growing media profile in recent years has led to some Toronto films billed as world premiers having their thunder stolen by the smaller festival.

“It was always a little strange, because the films were going to Telluride, some of them were being snuck into Telluride, so... I think the media and public and industry just wanted clarity about what a world premiere was,” festival director Piers Handling said following the announcement.

He said industry reaction has been favourable. “We’re having conversations with all of the rights owners of the films and making it very, very clear what the policy is.”

Other films announced yesterday include the world premiere of James Marsh’s The Theory of Everything, which tells the story of theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, and the international premiere of Wild, starring Reese Witherspoon as a recovering heroin addict who sets out on a 1,600-km hike up the US west coast.

Wild director Jean-Marc Vallee scored strong reviews at last year’s Toronto festival and eventual Oscar glory, with Dallas Buyers Club.

The festival will close with historical drama A Little Chaos, directed by Harry Potter actor Alan Rickman and starring Kate Winslet as a landscaper appointed to design one of the fountains at the Palace of Versailles.

Argentine director Damian Szifron’s Relatos Salvajes (Wild Tales) — a contender for Cannes’ Palm d’Or earlier this year — will also screen at Toronto. The movie starring big names such as Ricardo Darín and Leonardo Sbaraglia is a string of six thematically linked stories each with a central character being cheated or humiliated, who then extracts revenge, often of an extreme form.

With Spanish auteur Pedro Almodóvar — a director known for offbeat humour — as a producer, the darkly comic film has a serious undercurrent that speaks of corruption, the class system and the little guy being squeezed.

Infidelity, road rage, even cars being towed provoke the ire of Szifron’s characters, who explode like pressure cookers and act out the dark, violent and delicious revenge fantasies most people repress.

The French maintain their strong presence at the festival: this year François Ozon and Catherine Deneuve follow Potiche with the Ruth Rendell adaptation The New Girlfriend, while Charlotte Gainsbourg, Tahir Rahim and Omar Sy star in Senegal-set Samba.

Mia Hansen-Løve’s Eden also screens, as do new films from countrymen David Oelhoffen and Regis Wargnier.

James Gandolfini’s penultimate film, Nicole Holofcener’s Enough Said, screened to great warmth at the festival last year; this year, there’s a premiere for his final film, The Drop, co-starring Tom Hardy and Noomi Rapace and shot just before his death in June 2013.

Herald with Reuters, online media

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