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September 9, 2004 2:00 AM
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"Being Julia" Raises the Curtain on the 2004 Toronto International Film Fest

"Being Julia" Raises the Curtain on the 2004 Toronto International Film Fest

by Eugene Hernandez









Annette Bening and Shaun Evans in a scene from "Being Julia," which will open the 2004 Toronto International Film Festival. Image provided by the festival.

The first screenings of the 253 feature films showing at the 2004 Toronto International Film Festival begin this morning in Canada. While a handful of press & industry showings kick off bright and early at 8:30 a.m., and a handful of public screenings are on tap today, the annual Toronto fest will officially open tonight with Istvan Szabo's "Being Julia."

Annette Bening stars in "Julia," written by Oscar winner Ronald Harwood ("The Pianist") and based on a W. Somerset Maugham's novel. Robert Lantos produced the feature. Szabo previously directed films such as "Mephisto," "Meeting Venus," and "Sunshine." In the film, Bening plays a leading British stage actress, married to a successful theater producer (Jeremy Irons), who is charmed by a young American actor. The film is the ninth Lantos production to open the Toronto festival and will be released by Sony Pictures Classics in the U.S. and THINKFilm in Canada.

A total of 328 films (the 253 features and 75 shorts) are on tap in Toronto, a slight drop from last year's 339. This year's roster accounts for a dizzying 27,090 minutes of film that will be unspooled on 21 screens in 16 programs.

Toronto's 2004 fest marks the first as co-director for Noah Cowan. Over three years, Cowan will transition to the festival's top spot. Piers Handling, CEO of the Toronto International Film Festival Group, shares duties at the event, while managing director Michele Maheux remains the number two at the organization.

Slight logistical shifts mark the even this year, while buyers and sellers here in Toronto will again be housed at the Sutton Place; press offices have been set-up this year in the Cumberland Terrace shopping mall in Yorkville.

Guests and industry heading into Toronto on the one-hour flights from New York Wednesday were hamstrung by bad weather. Early fliers Wednesday got in mostly on schedule, but those flying on the late morning and the heavy rains that arrived early Thursday in NYC delayed afternoon planes from New York.

While the Toronto festival is non-competitive, audience awards will be presented at the end of the event, as will an award for the best film in the festival's Discovery section, chosen in a poll of attending journalists. On tap for this year's FIPRESCI film critics jury are Henry Sheehan from KPCC radio and KCET TV in Southern California, Katherine Tulich from Sunday Magazine in Australia, and Norman Wilner from Metro Toronto, here in Canada.

James Toback's "When Will I Be Loved" is among the first day showings for press and industry today, kicking off the market side of Toronto. Also set to screen today is Paul Cox's "Human Touch," David Gordon Green's "Undertow," and Lukas Moodysson's anticipated "A Hole In My Heart."

[indieWIRE will provide coverage of the festival in a special section: http://www.indiewire.com/toronto/, including the new torontoBLOG, offering news and tidbits from the festival updated throughout the festival.]

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