10 July, 2008
by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor
Although it does not start for almost two more months, the first press releases from the Toronto International Film Festival (www.tiff08.ca) are already stirring up anticipation for what has become one of the top film festival events in the world. Overlapping with the closing days of the Venice Film Festival and immediately following the boutique Telluride Film Festival in Colorado, the Canadian juggernaut is viewed by many industry insiders as the official start of the fall film season and the first chapter in what has become an extended “awards season”.
The independent and international film industries, which have been battered these past few months with downbeat economic realities and troubling closures of several major American and European distribution companies, are looking to Toronto to provide a ray of sunshine in an otherwise gloomy forecast. Whether Toronto can provide that shot of adrenaline that the industry desperately needs is still unclear, but the first announcements of films to screen at the prestigious showcase are already generating considerable industry buzz and speculation.
Two highly anticipated European films were announced a few days ago in the first of several programming announcements that will be sequentially released over the next month. Good, a UK/German co-production by Brazilian director Vicente Amorim, will have its world premiere at the event. Viggo Mortensen stars as John Halder, a literature professor in the 1930s who writes a novel advocating compassionate euthanasia. His interest in “mercy killing” is quite personal….he has a neurotic wife, two demanding children and a mother suffering from senile dementia. When the book is unexpectedly enlisted by powerful political figures in support of government propaganda, Halder encounters a troubling moral dilemma with personal consequences. The film, director Amorim’s follow up to his 2003 The Middle Of The World, also stars Jason Isaacs, Jodie Whittaker, Mark Strong and Gemma Jones. It was produced by London-based production company Good Films and German shingle Miromar Entertainment. For more information and to view a trailer, visit the film’s official website.
Toronto serves as the North American festival premiere for the celebrated Italian film Il Divo directed by Paolo Sorrentino. The Italian/French co-production won the Jury Prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. The film is a biopic of the controversial Italian prime minister Giulio Andreotti, who was elected to the office seven times over a 40 year political career. In many ways, he held the fate of Italy in his hands for over half a century until the disconcerting accusations of involvement with the Mafia caused his political downfall. The film has been praised as an insightful, intensely political film that delves into the hidden character of one of the most powerful figures in the history of Italian politics. The film was produced by Rome-based Indigo Films in collaboration with Studio Canal and Arte France Cinéma. The project received subsidy support from Il Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali, Centre National de la Cinématographie, Eurimages and the Film Commission Torino-Piemonte. For more information and to view a trailer of the film, visit the official film website.
Other films already announced for the event include: Disgrace, an Australian/South African drama directed by Steve Jacobs and starring John Malkovich; Miracle at St. Anna, a world premiere presentation by iconic American director Spike Lee; Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, an American indie film set in New York’s rock-n-roll scene directed by Peter Sollett; and the Iraq War drama The Hurt Locker by American director Kathryn Biglelow, with an all-star cast that includes Ralph Fiennes, Guy Pearce, David Morse, Jeremy Renner and Christian Camargo.
The Festival previously announced that it will open with the World Premiere of Passchendaele, written, directed and produced by celebrated Canadian filmmaker Paul Gross. The 33rd Toronto International Film Festival runs September 4 to 13, 2008.