349 films from 55 countries are set for the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival, organizers are revealing this morning in Canada. “There is a lot of soul-searching and a lot of extremely gifted, overwhelmingly passionate cinema in the festival this year, TIFF co-director Noah Cowan told indieWIRE in a conversation yesterday. “These are filmmakers who are out to transform the way we see the world, they are out to make a difference.” As previously announced, the event will kick-off with Canadian Jeremy Podeswa‘s “Fugitive Pieces” on September 6th and close with Paolo Barzman‘s “Emotional Arithmetic” on September 15th.
The massive Toronto fest boasts some 340,000 annual admissions and Cowan is preparing attendees for a challenging, serious roster of some provocative and even quite political films. “The tenor of the work coming particularly from the U.S. is fiercely political, aesthetically challenging, and will probably go down as a real beginning of a real golden age for American cinema in a time of war and strife,” Cowan envisioned. “There are so many examples, its a little overwhelming,” he added, specifically noting films such as Alan Ball‘s “Nothing is Private,” Stuart Townsend‘s “Battle in Seattle,” and even Tom McCarthy‘s more subtle, “The Visitor.”
The entire 349 film lineup for the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival, is available in a complete 17 page PDF document.
Joining the Toronto lineup today are new films from Sidney Lumet, Jason Reitman, and even new, unseen documentaries from Michael Moore, Jonathan Demme and Julian Schnabel. Added to the fests Gala Presentations section are Renny Harlin‘s “Cleaner,” Richard Attenborough‘s “Closing The Ring,” Alain Corneau‘s “Le Deuxieme Souffle,” Robin Swicord‘s “The Jane Austen Book Club,” Kenneth Branagh‘s “Sleuth,” and Paul Schrader‘s “The Walker.” While in the Masters section, the event has added Wayne Wang‘s “A Thousand Years of Good Prayers” and “The Princess of Nebraska.”
Some 275 films on the fest roster are features or mid-length titles, according to today’s announcement and while planners have downplayed talk of premiere status in previous press releases this summer, organizers are touting that 85 percent of their films are having either a world, international or North American premiere at the festival this year. Saying that some film critics may have a challenge ahead of them at the festival, Cowan explained, “There is very serious, provocative work that needs to be judged at the very highest levels of criticism.”
“This is not the American filmmaking we’ve become used to over the last decade,” Cowan said. And citing such films as Neil Jordan‘s “The Brave One” and Terry George‘s “Reservation Road,” added, “This all feels very much like the 70s vigilante movies.” Noting such films as Gavin Hood‘s “Rendition,” and Tony Gilroy‘s “Michael Clayton,” Cowan highlighted some “very mainstream movies which have huge ambitions in terms of their political context.” And then, singling out Paul Haggis‘ “In The Valley of Elah,” Brian DePalma‘s “Redacted,” and Nick Broomfield‘s “Battle for Haditha,” he noted that those films directly confront, “what happens to American boys when they are sent into a war that doesn’t make sense.” Parallels with movies such as “The Deer Hunter” and “Apocalypse Now” are evident, he said, and “comes from the same sense of rage that drove those filmmakers.”
New titles in the Special Presentations section this year are Sidney Lumet‘s “Before The Devil Knows Your’re Dead,” Melisa Wallack and Bernie Goldmann‘s “Bill,” Michael Moore‘s “Captain Mike Across America,” Gillian Armstrong‘s “Death Defying Acts,” Vadim Perelman‘s “In Bloom,” Jason Reitman‘s “Juno,” Ira Sachs‘ “Married Life,” Jonathan Demme‘s “Man From Plains,” Alison Eastwood‘s “Rails & Ties,” Brian De Palma‘s “Redacted,” Brad Furman‘s “The Take,” Thomas McCarthy‘s “The Visitor,” and Anand Tucker‘s “When Did You Last See Your Father.”
Added to the Real to Reel documentary section are Paul Crowder and Murray Lerner‘s “Amazing Journey: The Story of The Who,” Julian Schnabel‘s “Lou Reed’s Berlin,” Ran Tal‘s “Children of The Sun,” Philippe Kholy‘s “Callas Assoluta,” Wang Bing‘s “Fengming: A Chinese Memoir,” Grant Gee‘s “Joy Division,” Olga Konskaya and Andrei Nekrasov‘s “Rebellion: The Litvienko Case,” and Jia Zhang-ke‘s “Useless.”
“It has been a long summer,” admitted Noah Cowan, explaining that festival programmers have been debating filmmaker’s ideas and agendas during screenings the past few months. “This is not normal procedure in our screening rooms,” Cowan said. “I hope that the same debates that we had all summer long are going to translate ot the press and public screenings at the festival.”
On the industry side, Cowan predicts a tighter roster of titles aiming for distribution. “It became clear early on that this was going to be a very crowded fall for important cinema from major distributors,” Noah Cowan told indieWIRE, “As a result, we’ve strived to be very careful about the number of acquisition titles that would be on offer here in Toronto.” With industry executives in Toronto to both launch Fall titles into awards season and also try to catch buyers screenings, Cowan acknowledged that TIFF is, “unlike Sundance where a distributor can really focus on the acquisition bidding.” He noted, “We are aware of the fact that we serve many masters here.”
Cowan told indieWIRE that organizers have eased up on emphasizing premiere status in their programming, even though the event still maintains a high percentage of debuts. “Nobody can agree what constitutes a premiere anymore,” Cowan said. “Focusing on premieres has lead to films getting hurt,” he said candidly, “The European model which insists on all world premieres all the time, that doesn’t necessarily benefit the films having those premieres.”
On the other hand, Noah Cowan explained, “World premieres are important at a major event. Getting the balance right is something we are always striving to figure out [and] we do play the game, too.” Citing the Alan Ball’s ‘Nothing is Private’, in which he discouraged the producers of the film from taking it to another festival, he noted, “That’s the kind of movie that we can make a huge difference around and create massive momentum.”
“Bigger, better and fewer was our mantra in terms of films that were seeking U.S. distribution,” Cowan added on Tuesday, noting this year’s available films include a mix of high-profile non-English language titles, a half-dozen high profile films with big stars, and a few horror titles.
Cowan also plugged the festivals Canadian films, particularly titles that were placed in some of the event’s highest profile sections. He noted the continuing maturity of the generation after Cronenberg and Egoyan, highlights such filmmakers as Francois Girard, Jeremy Podeswa, and Clement Virgo. “There are no favors being done here,” Cowan said, “The bench is deep,” adding that the cherry on top for the fest is the world premiere of David Cronenberg‘s “Eastern Promises.”
“Ultimately, the difference is that we are an audience based festival, the blend of material is based on what people here in Toronto are looking forward to seeing,” Cowan told indieWIRE, “I think we’ve struck a balance between titles aiming for commercial distribution alongside films by great masters. They seem to have blended this year.”
Continuing coverage of the Toronto International Film Festival is available in a special section at indieWIRE.com.