Toronto joins the battle

World War I film 'Passchendaele' will open fest

The 33rd annual Toronto International Film Festival will open Sept. 4 with the world premiere of Paul Gross' World War I drama "Passchendaele."

Gross ("Due South"), a Canadian actor-turned-director, wrote and stars in the $16 million homegrown feature co-produced by Rhombus Media, producer of this year's Festival de Cannes opener "Blindness."

"Passchendaele" centers on a wounded army sergeant (Gross) who falls in love with a nurse, played by Caroline Dhavernas ("Hollywoodland"). The sergeant eventually finds himself in Belgium alongside the nurse's chronically ill brother as both fight with fellow Canadian soldiers on the blood-stained fields of Passchendaele.

"It is rare that Canadians get to experience their own histories via the moving image, particularly on the big screen," said Piers Handling, director and CEO of the Toronto International Film Festival Group.

The fest runs Sept. 4-13.

The film's producer credits are shared by Niv Fichman, Frank Siracusa and Francis Damberger as part of a three-way partnership among Whizbang Films, Rhombus Media and the Damberger Film and Cattle Co.

The cast includes Gil Bellows and Joe Dinicol.

Alliance Films will release "Passchendaele" in Canada on Oct. 17, the 90th anniversary of the end of World War I.

In 2007, Toronto gave its opening-night slot to another cautionary war tale, Jeremy Podeswa's Holocaust drama "Fugitive Pieces." (partialdiff)