War fare is going guerrilla

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At this year's Toronto International Film Festival, the war movies are all wearing camouflage.

Last year, such topical political films as "Rendition" and "In the Valley of Elah" came into Toronto with a head of steam but left in a cloud of dust. This time, though there is another onslaught of war-themed films due at the fest — which kicks off tonight with Paul Gross' World War I saga "Passchendaele" — they are being billed as everything but war movies.

Where the 2007 crop sought to mine topicality, producers and publicists are positioning new titles as movies that could be happening in any time or place.

"This movie is not about the Iraq War. It's an action-adventure movie that happens to be set in Iraq," producer Nic Chartrier said of his film "The Hurt Locker." Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, the film, which focuses on an Army squad in Iraq that must defuse a bomb in a crowded city, is seeking a U.S. distribution deal.

"Iraq is a dirty word in film marketing right now," said Roadside Attractions co-topper Howard Cohen, who is distributing "Lucky Ones," the Tim Robbins-Rachel McAdams tale of U.S. soldiers recently returned from the Middle East. The film has been held for a Sept. 26 release in hopes that the zeitgeist might change, making the film more marketable. The trailer and ad campaigns emphasize comedy and camaraderie.

"Our goal, in the two seconds you have to communicate this to people, is to show that this is not about the war in Iraq," Cohen said. "It's about American society and how we treat people." (partialdiff)
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