The Toronto International Film Festival is definitely starting off with a bang this year. First,we learned that TIFF was ignoring the tradition of opening the fest with a Canadian film when Jon Amiel's Creation was selected to kick things off. (Even though there are a few free screenings earlier on Thursday's Day One, plus Lone Scherfig's An Education, which is starting a half hour before Creation around the corner from the opening-night Elgin Theatre.) But at least, while not official, the first TIFF film is actually a screening of Lian Lunson's Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man, so some Can-Con informally starts things off.
But this twist was only step one. Next came the protests.
See, the festival is starting a new program this year called City to City, which showcases a group of films that are focused on a particular locale. The inaugural location: Tel Aviv. Soon, many began to protest the lack of Palestinians in the program, likening the choice as part of "the Israeli propaganda machine," and inspiring a group of famous names from Jane Fonda to Danny Glover to sign a statement against the choice. Toronto documentarian John Greyson withdrew his film Covered. Jon Voight spoke out against the statement and Jane Fonda. A Jewish professor in Halifax praised the protest, while others site it as a step towards more Anti-Semitism. And a press conference for the protest is scheduled to compete with the festival's opening day.
Nevertheless, TIFF soldiers on... Grabbing the biggest buzz in our celeb-obsessed world, there are a lot of big-name films hitting the fest with stars galore, like Men Who Stare at Goats, Jennifer's Body, Up in the Air, Youth in Revolt, and The Informant. But while you're sure to hear more about these films soon, and watch them hit screens across the country in no time, there's a whole slew of notable films outside the red carpet, paparazzi-stuffed screenings.
While Canadian films aren't kicking things off, there is a number to look out for. Atom Egoyan is offering up the Julianne Moore, Liam Neeson-starring Chloe, a film fest organizers are comparing to his classic The Sweet Hereafter. Leslie, My Name is Evil is Reginald Harkema's latest, offering up a satirical political commentary on Charlie Manson follower Leslie van Houten. C.R.A.Z.Y. director Jean-Marc Vallee has gone down an entirely different cinematic vein to bring us the Emily Blunt-starring look into England's last golden age -- The Young Victoria. And, of course, one can't forget Guy Maddin and his ode to the NFB -- Night Mayor.
In the international world-at-large, Abres los ojos and The Others helmer Alejandro Amenabar is back with the stunning Agora -- a look at the gender-defeating Roman philosopher Hypatia (Rachel Weisz) and the rise of Christianity in Alexandria. Lars von Trier's Antichrist will certainly start a whole new continent of horror controversy. Claire Denis has returned to Africa with White Material, to give the world a whole different spin than her '88 film Chocolat.
And really, this brief rundown doesn't do the roster justice because the roster is jam-packed with notable films. We can only guess how the bad economy and cinematic struggling will affect future years, but for now, there's a theme for every taste. I mean, you've got to love a festival that gives you psychic military men, feminist horror, intellectual pursuits, blind screenwriters, Hugh Hefner, and quite possibly the last documentary from Michael Moore all in one week.