Toronto fest puts buzz before biz

Opens with world premiere of homegrown film

More Toronto fest news

TORONTO -- The 32nd annual Toronto International Film Festival got under way Thursday with the typical festival excitement ahead of what promises to be 10 days of often serious, political films.

Canadian director Jeremy Podeswa led the cast for the world premiere of "Fugitive Pieces" up the red carpet outside Roy Thomson Hall amid a sea of photographers and shouting TV reporters.

Once inside, Podeswa and his cast, including Stephen Dillane and Robbie Kay, were met with warm applause as Toronto followed tradition by opening with the world premiere of a homegrown movie.

"It's been a long journey. I'm grateful to the festival for making this night possible," Podeswa told the opening-night crowd, noting each of his films had screened at Toronto.

Festival co-director Noah Cowan noted that the festival's lineup this year includes a host of politically charged films that aim to contribute to a wider debate about war and terrorism internationally.

"There is a sense of seriousness as we live in troubled times. Our films reflect that," he said.

U.S. independent films likely to draw fire and attention in Toronto during the coming days include "Nothing Is Private," the feature directorial debut of Alan Ball; Brian De Palma's "Redacted"; Gavin Hood's "Rendition," which stars Reese Witherspoon, Jake Gyllenhaal and Meryl Streep; and Sean Penn's "Into the Wild."

Cowan said there was much emotion and anticipation surrounding Podeswa's third film -- a Holocaust drama that takes viewers from Nazi-occupied Poland to contemporary Canada -- given that the director in his youth worked as a volunteer at the Toronto festival.

"Jeremy is such a great friend of the festival," he said, adding that "Fugitive" spoke to a Canada long inhabited by immigrants and survivors of far-off wars.

This year's festival also might be among the last before Toronto opens its year-round home, Bell Lightbox, which is under construction.

"The Bell Lightbox will allow us to put films in front of audiences every day of the year. As you can imagine, that is a great prospect for us," festival co-director Piers Handling told the opening-night audience.

The Toronto festival kicks into gear today with a slew of screenings for film buyers and runs through Sept. 15.