Cowan: Premiere game has lost its luster for Toronto

Festival won't be 'hung up' on debuts

The Toronto International Film Festival is getting out of the festival premiere game (HR 6/29).

Frustrated with how the media and rival festivals assign a film's premiere status, Toronto co-director Noah Cowan said Tuesday that he prefers letting others decide whether films that show in Toronto are world or North American bows.

"Our feeling is the language around the whole premiere game has become so clouded as to make them meaningless," Cowan said from Paris, where he is screening potential French titles for his 2007 edition.

His comments came as Toronto unveiled selections for its upcoming lineup that largely bowed in Cannes and Berlin, including the latest works from Alexander Sokurov ("Alexandra"), Jacques Rivette ("Ne touchez") and Ermanno Olmi ("One Hundred Nails").

The festival also confirmed speculation that Universal Pictures will bring Shekhar Kapur's Cate Blanchett starrer "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" to town for a high-profile bow at Roy Thomson Hall (HR 6/25).

"Elizabeth" will receive a world premiere in Toronto, even though festival organizers labeled its launch as a "gala premiere."

Cowan said other festivals may play the world premiere game to compel producers to screen their films first at their festival, or not at all. Toronto won't.

"Because of timing, they (films) begin their lives at other events. We try not to penalize them for that," he said.

Cowan also wants to get out of the firing line. In the past, Toronto has come under criticism for assigning world-premiere status to films that first received sneak previews in Telluride, for example, or crept into Venice before Toronto at the last moment.

"We like to give a snapshot of important trends in world cinema. We can't be too hung up on premieres," Cowan said.