Toronto 2012: Festival Director Piers Handling Expects Strong Film Market

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TORONTO - After lengthening its red carpets to help star-driven titles debut to foreign buyers, Toronto International Film Festival organizers are pumping up the volume on their unofficial market.

"I don’t think it's just going to be OK. I think it's going to be a very strong year," TIFF director Piers Handling told The Hollywood Reporter about the slew of sales companies headed to Toronto to close deals with key distributors from around the globe.

Robert Redford's The Company You Keep and Brian De Palma’s Passion will both arrive in Toronto for a North American debut without U.S. distribution, and, as things stand today, so too will Derek Cianfrance’s The Place Beyond The Pines and Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers.

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Despite a flat economy, Handling expects an exceptional year for film sales in Toronto, which is well on its way to recovering from the deep market trough experienced in 2008-09.

"There’s no question the industry has become more healthy. It certainly went into a deep drought and I don’t think it has come back out entirely,” Handling said.

As in past years, TIFF programmers are front-end loading the festival with sales titles, many of which are star-driven to boost buyer appeal.

These include: What Maisie Knew, by directors Scott McGhee and David Siegel; Shola Lynch’s Free Angela and All Political Prisoners; Liz GarbusLove, Marilyn, To the Wonder, by Terrence Malick; and Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing.

Handling insisted mid-range indie titles with budgets of between $20 million to $40 million, the range in which most international filmmakers screening in Toronto work, remain the most challenged in finding buyers.

"They’re not working with the big budgets, the tentpole summer films. And they’re not making the low-budget $10-million-dollar pictures. They’ve done that, been there, seen it. So they’re in the mid-range," Handling said of mid-budget indie filmmakers.

Other hot films for U.S. buyers include Mira Nair’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Deepa Mehta’s Midnight's Children, Sally Potter’s Ginger and Rosa, Mike Newell’s Great Expectations and Thanks for Sharing, by Stuart Blumberg.

U.S. distributors will also have their pick of Ramaa Mosley’s Brass Teapot, the tennis doc Venus and Serena by Maiken Baird, Kon-Tiki, by directors Joachim Roenning and Espen Sandberg, Chinese director Hur Jin-Ho’s Dangerous Liaisons and Ariel Vromen’s The Iceman.

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