Toronto is proof that a film's country of origin is a moot point these days.
1 Aug 2012 - 2:15 PM  UPDATED 1 Aug 2012 - 2:15 PM

Even if the Toronto International Film Festival, or TIFF as it is known, announced the high profile entries and world premieres in its US-dominated Galas and Special Presentations programs on July 24, these are only the tip of a veritable iceberg of some 350 films that will unspool in the Canadian metropolis.

Films are made between countries these days and filmmakers and actors work across borders all the time

As one might imagine, seeing all the films presents quite a challenge. Yet TIFF is primarily an audience festival, or a so-called festival of festivals—like our own local annual events—so that many of the films have already premiered elsewhere.

Still, there's no festival as big, and the organisers like it that they have the biggest festival on the American continent and that they beat the Yanks at their own game. They are proud too of the new the level of efficiency they have been able to achieve with the 2010 opening of the Bell Lightbox, which in part was made possible by the generous donation of the family of Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman, a local boy who made millions in Hollywood. The huge glass and steel structure now sits proudly on Reitman Square.

“The land was valued at $22 million and it's right in the heart of downtown Toronto,” explains the festival's artistic director Cameron Bailey. “Ivan's family had a carwash on it for many years. They're immigrants, Holocaust survivors from Europe [Communist Czechoslovakia] who came over and started a number of businesses and worked very hard.”

Bailey is diplomatic, though, when asked regarding TIFF being the number one American film festival. “When it comes to movies, I really feel like it's just one world where national boundaries don't matter so much. Films are made between countries these days and filmmakers and actors work across borders all the time. We have through many different factors, some of them planned, some of them accidental, become a very important festival in North America and we happen to be at the right time of the calendar as well.”

Cannes, of course, is not. Toronto and Venice have become the launching pads for Oscar movies, especially since the Academy Awards ceremony was moved forward from March to February. So that the stars come out in droves, even if they don't stay for long. The one thing that the understated TIFF lacks, though, is the pageant. The Lightbox might be purpose-built, though without the Cannes Palais's pomp and ceremony and red-carpeted stairs, there's an absence of glamorous photo opportunities, and a lack of glamour in general. Largely, the filmmakers and stars attend their films' premieres in an attempt to sell and promote their movies. Australian buyers say they find Toronto more manageable, and cheaper, even if deals aren't locked in over sumptuous French cuisine, as they often are in Cannes.

As for this year's program, there will surely be more Australian films added, amid the numerous announcements that trickle in right up until August 21. Wayne Blair's The Sapphires, which world premiered in Cannes, and Cate Shortland's Lore, which screened at the Sydney Film Festival, have already been announced as part of Special Presentations. Australian actors appear in three highly anticipated films, all releasing through Roadshow. Hugo Weaving reteams with his Matrix directors, the Wachowskis, for Cloud Atlas, Rose Byrne appears in A Place Beyond the Pines, and Jacki Weaver is in Silver Linings Playbook. Naomi Watts also stars in the long-awaited Spanish-US tsunami drama The Impossible. The Australian documentary Storm Surfers 3D will screen as part of the Real to Reel program.

Anticipated Toronto World Premieres

Looper (RS Sept 27)
The Dark Knight Returns star Joseph Gordon-Levitt reunites with his Brick director Rian Johnson for this time travel gangster yarn.

A Place Beyond the Pines (RS)
Ryan Gosling has likewise risen to stardom since appearing in Derek Cianfrance's Blue Valentine and now returns with his director friend for the story of a professional motorcycle rider who turns to bank robberies to support his newborn son. The act puts him on a collision course with a cop-turned-politician played by Bradley Cooper. Rose Byrne plays the politician's wife.

Silver Linings Playbook (RS Nov 29)
The Fighter's David O. Russell directs man of the moment Bradley Cooper in this romantic comedy where he plays a former high school teacher, who after being institutionalised for depression, goes back home to live with his mum, Jacki Weaver. He finds himself in a secret arrangement with his eccentric neighbour, Jennifer Lawrence, who has problems of her own. Robert De Niro plays Cooper's dad.

Cloud Atlas (RS)
Based on David Mitchell's 2004 novel and co-written and directed by The Matrix creators Lana and Andy Wachowski and German helmer Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run), this time-warping epic adventure contains six stories set in a different time and place that become intricately connected. Tom Hanks looks like an ageing balding version of George Michael as one of his four characters, while Hugo Weaving must content himself with one—a well-to-do advocate of Social Darwinism.

Mr Pip (Transmission)
Los Angeles-based Shrek director Andrew Adamson returns home to New Zealand to direct this adaptation of NZ author Lloyd Jones's popular 2006 novel starring Hugh Laurie.

Four Possible Surprises

The Impossible (Hoyts)
Spain's Juan Antonio Bayona (The Orphanage) makes his English-language debut (pictured, top) in this harrowing effects-laden movie. Based on a true story, it stars Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor as parents of a family caught in the tsunami that hit Thailand in 2004.

Quartet (Transmission)
The directorial debut of Dustin Hoffman is a mischievous comedy about temperamental retired opera singers with old grudges and shared passions. Written by Oscar-winning Ronald Harwood (The Pianist, Australia) it stars Maggie Smith who can do no wrong at the moment (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Downton Abbey) and to see her alongside Michael Gambon and Billy Connolly in a nursing home for opera singers has to be an oddity at least.

Much Ado About Nothing
The Avengers director, Joss Whedon, gives Shakespeare a contemporary spin. Shot in just 12 days using the original text and a cast of largely unknowns.

Thanks for Sharing (Transmission)
A dramatic comedy starring Mark Ruffalo, Tim Robbins, Gwyneth Paltrow and Joely Richardson where a group of unlikely friends are brought together through shared determination to recover from sex addictions. Sharing sex addictions with Mark Ruffalo—you've got me in already.


Storm Surfers 3D (Madman)
Directed by Christopher Nelius and Justin McMillan, this is an epic, character-driven adventure documentary following two best friends on their quest to hunt down and ride the biggest and most dangerous waves in the world. Aussie tow-surfing legend Ross Clarke-Jones and two-time world champion Tom Carroll enlist the help of surf forecaster Ben Matson, and together they track and chase giant storms across the Great Southern Ocean.

Future Announcments

July 31: Documentary, Midnight Madness, Vanguard, City to City, TIFF Kids
August 8: All nine Canadian sections and initiatives
August 14: More Galas and Special Presentations, Wavelengths, future Projections and Contemporary World Cinema
August 21: Discovery, Masters, Mavericks