Toronto '05 Fest Lineup Grows, Organizers Highlight Crop of World Premieres Aimed at Buyers
by Eugene Hernandez
With just six weeks to go until opening night, organizers of the Toronto International Film Festival are singling out a growing list of titles that are seen as anticipated world premieres. That is, in the words of the festival, "yet-to-be-seen films expected to attract attention from distributors, exhibitors, and other industry insiders." Among the world premieres officially added to the festival lineup Tuesday were Lorene Machado's "Bam Bam and Celeste," Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe's "Brothers of the Head," Danis Tanovic's "L'Enfer," David Ayer's "Harsh Times," Rowan Woods' "Little Fish," Joshua Stern's "Neverwas," Jeff Stanzler's "Sorry, Haters," Terry Gilliam's "Tideland," and Adam Rapp's "Winter Passing."
In recent years, the Toronto International Film Festival has become an increasingly important marketplace, and with the addition of Noah Cowan as the festival's Co-Director last year, the business side of the fest has become an even higher priority with Cowan working to court even great business activity after taking the post.
"I think we have becomes a 'business-friendly' festival because of two things - our vast, supportive public audience, which allows distributors a quick and educated read on films, and our very informal market structure, which allows buyers (and even sellers) to actually watch films while they are here," explained Cowan, who has a long history with the festival but also took time away from the event to run Cowboy Pictures with John Vanco in New York a few years ago.
Fest organizers also highlighted a number of previously announced titles that they feel will be of interest to buyers, including Deepa Mehta's "Water," Jason Reitman's "Thank You for Smoking," Michael Cuesta's "Twelve and Holding," Jamie Babbit's "The Quiet," Paul Mayeda Berges' "Mistress Of Spices," Antonin Svoboda's "You Bet Your Life," Wayne Beach's "Slow Burn," and Lee Daniels' "Shadowboxer."
Those films will be trying to gain the sort of awareness afforded Paul Haggis' "Crash" last year, which was nabbed by Lions Gate in a deal announced in Toronto. It has since gone on to be a big hit in theaters domestically this summer.
"Toronto has been an active market for American independents since the late 1980s," emphasized Cowan in a statement to indieWIRE Tuesday. "Michael Moore, Todd Solondz, Hal Hartley and now Paul Haggis, to name but a few, have had their first films launched into the North American distribution system out of this Festival. At the same time, we have been careful to spotlight non-English language films in a way that ensures a place for them in US and Canadian theatres."
Machado's "Bam Bam," screening in the festival's Discovery section, was written by and stars Margaret Cho in the story of friends who travel across the U.S. hoping to become reality TV makeover contestants. Stanzler's "Sorry, Haters" in the same section, with Robin Wright Penn, Abdel Kechiche and Sandra Oh, is described as the story of an Arab cab driver that picks up a trouble woman in New York.
Gilliam's "Tideland," in the festival's Masters section, is an adaptation of Mitch Cullin's novel, set in the fantasy world of a young narrator who "drifts from the harsh reality of her childhood to escape into the fantasies of her own active imagination." It features Janet McTeer, Brendan Fletcher, Jeff Bridges, and Jennifer Tilly. Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe's "Brothers Of The Head" is a music mockumentary in the Visions section about conjoined twins (played by Luke and Harry Treadway).
Tanovic's "L'Enfer" in the Special Presentations section is the story of three sisters bound by a shared experience witnessing an act of violence, it stars Emmanuelle Béart and is written by Krzysztof Piesiewicz, who developed this film as part of a trilogy with the late Krzysztof Kieslowski. Writer David Ayer's directorial debut "Harsh Times," also in the Special Presentations section, is the story of two unemployed friends in South Central L.A. starring Christian Bale, Freddy Rodriguez, and Eva Longoria.
In the same section, Rowan Woods' "Little Fish," starring Cate Blanchett, Dustin Nguyen, Sam Neill and Hugo Weaving, is the story of a woman struggling with her past who becomes entangled in a drug deal. Joshua Stern's "Neverwas," also in the Special Presentations section, stars Aaron Eckhart, Nick Nolte, Sir Ian McKellen, Brittany Murphy, and Alan Cumming, in the story of a psychiatrist who goes to work at a mental institution that houses his father. Also in the section is Rapp's "Winter Passing" with Zooey Deschanel, Ed Harris and Will Ferrell, described as the story of a woman returning home to visit her reclusive father after being away from him for seven years.
Acquisitions in Toronto last year included Kim Ki-Duk's "3-Iron" and Alice Wu's "Saving Face" by Sony Classics, Lukas Moodysson's "A Hole In My Heart" by Newmarket, Pawel Pawlikowski's "My Summer of Love" by Focus Features, and Susan Kaplan's "Three of Hearts: A Postmodern Family" by THiNKFilm, among others.
"Regarding this year's extraordinary crop of films with rights available, there are several factors involved. Our success last year in helping to position such diverse films as 'Crash' and 'My Summer Of Love' has not gone unnoticed," Cowan told indieWIRE yesterday, when asked about the festival roster. "But also the way films are being financed and produced has changed. Private financiers are inclined to wait and allow the public and critics to play a greater role in how their films enter the marketplace. This change democratizes what films actually make it on to screens and so is most welcome."
Next week, organizers will unveil the event's Canadian titles, and the complete lineup will be presented on August 23rd at the launch press conference.
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