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Festival News
Final tally: 345 movies
Michelle Pfeiffer, John Cusack and Sophia Loren are among the stars expected for next month's bash, writes LIAM LACEY

By LIAM LACEY, The Globe and Mail
August 31, 2002

TORONTO -- From shameless stargazers to hardcore cineastes, there's plenty of choice at this year's 27th Toronto International Film Festival.

From Sophia Loren to Michelle Pfeiffer, from Adam Sandler to John Cusack (along with occasional names from the past such as Suzanne Pleshette and Tim Curry), a long A-list from Hollywood and European cinema was rhymed off as an addendum to an even longer lineup of films, more than half of which are not in English, and come from around the globe.

At the Toronto news conference yesterday, festival director Piers Handling emphasized the depth and diversity of the lineup for the festival, which runs from Sept. 5 to 14. The program includes 345 films (264 features) from 50 countries, including 194 world or North American premieres, and more than 50 in a language other than English, many in the portmanteau Contemporary World Cinema program.

Seven more galas were announced, bringing the total to 18. These include a new film from Todd Haynes (Velvet Goldmine, Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story) entitled Far from Heaven, which revists the 1950s melodrama style of Douglas Sirk. Other new films include Joel Schumacher's thriller, Phone Booth, and Neil Jordan's The Good Thief, with Nick Nolte, a remake of the Jean-Pierre Melville French classic, Bob le flambeur. Fellow Irishman Jim Sheridan brings In America, about an Irish family that emigrates to New York. From Spain comes The Other Side of the Bed, a musical comedy directed by Emilio Martinez-Lazaro. And from France come veteran director Patrice Leconte's L'Homme du train and Daniele Thompson's Jet Lag, about a chance encounter between two travellers.

In the Master's section, dedicated to established directors of world cinema, highlights include this year's Cannes festival Grand Prix winner, The Man Without a Past, by Aki Kaurismaki, and French feminist Catherine Breillat's Sex Is Comedy. The Masters list also includes two films from India, Buddhadeb Dasgupta's A Tale of a Naughty Girl, the story of a prostitute's daughter; and Adoor Gopalakrishnan's Shadow Kill, about corruption in India before independence.

In the new Visions program -- dedicated to filmmakers who push the boundaries of filmmaking -- the technical-knockout highlight goes to Alexandr Sokurov's 90-minute, single-take historical drama, Russian Ark, set in St. Petersburg's Hermitage. Other entries include Brazilian Fernando Meirelles's Cannes sensation, City of God. As well, the festival announced a new $20,000 award, the Independent Film Channel Visions Award, for cinematic innovation. The winning film will be chosen by a three-person jury made up of directors Alison Maclean (Crush, Jesus' Son), Whit Stillman (The Last Days of Disco) and Wayne Clarkson, executive director of the Canadian Film Centre.

Much of the interest will focus on the Special Presentations this year, which feature new works directed by two Hollywood actors. Robert Duvall brings Assassination Tango, while Matt Dillon shows his debut film, City of Ghosts. Max, from director Menno Meyjes, stars Noah Taylor (Shine) as a young Adolf Hitler, and tells the story of his friendship with the Jewish art teacher Max Rothman (John Cusack).

Stephen Frears, the spotlight director two years ago, returns to the festival with Dirty Pretty Things, a drama about English immigrants. In the same category, Michael Moore brings his hard-hitting documentary on American gun culture, Bowling for Columbine. Phillip Noyce (Dead Calm) has two special presentations, The Quiet American (based on the Graham Greene novel, and starring Michael Caine and Brendan Fraser) and Rabbit-Proof Fence, about two aboriginal children attempting to run away from a residential school.

In Auto Focus, screenwriter/director Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver, Mishima) looks at the life and death of Hogan's Heroes star Bob Crane (played by Greg Kinnear). Rounding out the list of Special Presentations is the premiere of a new film from Spain's Pedro Almodovar (All About My Mother), entitled Talk to Her.

Other festival highlights include Dialogues, a presentation of six films picked by filmmakers or artists who found them particularly influential. These range from Michael Ondaatje discussing Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation,to Michael Almereyda (Hamlet) talking about the influence of the 1971 revenge flick, Billy Jack.

The festival's general manager, Michele Maheux, said that proceeds from two Sept. 11 gala screenings would go to UNICEF and Handicap International. The first of those is The Guys, a dramatic feature directed by Jim Simpson, and starring Sigourney Weaver and Anthony LaPaglia. Based on a current New York stage play, which was also directed by Simpson, it is based on the stories of firefighters who lost their lives on Sept. 11. The other gala is 11/09/01, an omnibus film of short works directed by 11 international filmmakers responding to the terrorist attacks.

Single gala tickets can be purchased at the box office, located at the Eaton Centre, starting Aug. 24. Closing-night gala film and party tickets for Brian De Palma's Femme Fatale are now available on the festival's Web site at http://www.bell.ca/filmfest or by calling the Bell Infoline at 416-968-FILM.

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