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The Globe and Mail
September 12, 2002

Sensitivity at a film festival is unheard of any other time, but yesterday being what it was, everyone was walking on eggshells. Especially those involved with films based on the terrorist attacks last year. At a press conference for The Guys, the lead, Anthony LaPaglia, admitted he felt uneasy about screening the film on the anniversary of the attacks. "I don't know if it was appropriate to show it today or not," he said. But its director, Jim Simpson, said he had always planned to show the film on or near the anniversary date. "That [date] was an interesting destination." he said. The pair ultimately decided to go ahead with the Sept. 11 date because that they realized there would be many tributes based on the attacks and "this film was not a big voice."

Simpson is married to Sigourney Weaver, who also stars in the film. The Guys is based on the eulogies a firefighter captain wrote for his men who died during the rescue operation at ground zero and is Simpson's first feature film.

A case of short tempers
The subject of whether 11'09"01, 11 short films by world directors compiled by artistic producer Alain Brignand, was anti-American dominated thepressconference for the film yesterday. A particularly tense moment came when Lynn Gordon, an American-born journalist now living in Canada, accused the directors of producing a political film, especially director Shohei Imamura's short, which compared Sept. 11 to the bombing of Hiroshima. Israeli director Amos Gitai replied that "American's don't want other people to talk about this tragedy in terms other than their own. They want resources from the Middle East but not our opinion. It will give victory to the terrorists if the United States tells the only version of this story."

Indian filmmaker Mira Nair endorsed Gitai's view, saying, "The oppressive thing is having the one line that is always given by the Western media."

The film has been sold in 15 countries but producer Nicolas Mauvernay said not yet in the U.S. "They are in mourning. It will be some time before the film can be released there." For business reasons, the film will not be released in Canada because the two counties are part of the same market. The two directors most heavily criticized for their shorts, Ken Loach and Youssef Chahine, were not at the press conference.

Two thumbs down!
On a lighter note, Roger Ebert's pout-a-thon about not getting into a press screening earlier this week has sparked a bun fight the size of an Imax screen. Even the U.S. media have picked up on the spat, which ended with someone in the crowd yelling, "Why don't you go back to America?"

Ebert sulked that he had in fact maintained his composure and that the whole thing came down to Yank bashing. In fact, the source of the directive against Ebert was Matthew Hays, a Montreal journalist and occasional Globe and Mail contributor. "I'm telling you it was a hissy fit and I have witnesses," Hays said. "During the 10 days of this festival, Toronto feels a bit occupied by Hollywood. On the one hand, it's a wonderful celebration of the art of cinema, but on the other, it's a propping up of the an empty American star system." Hays said he was convinced Ebert was having a classic star fit and said he is still being thanked by TIFF staff for shouting his remarks.

Talk to the press? As if
VIP rooms are out. Reserved tables are in, as witnessed this week at the parties thrown for White Oleander, Moonlight Mile and more. "We didn't want to have a sequestered party," explained Julia Perry, head publicist for Twentieth Century Fox, who hosted a swellegant soiree for Phone Booth at the Red Drink Boutique. The Veuve Cliquot flowed generously as Kiefer Sutherland, Colin Farrell and Joel Shumacher casually mixed with the crowd.

The new trend, however, does not change the leprous status of journalists at these events. "You mean we can actually talk to the stars instead of watching them in a goldfish bowl?" one initially impressed reporter exclaimed. "Oh, uh, well just wait here a minute," another publicist from Fox fretted. "I'll have to check with Mr. Sutherland's personal publicist."

The personal publicists need not worry, as most of the celebrities at Tuesday night's bash hosted by InStyle (David Arquette, Kevin Bacon, Michael Caine, supermodel Shalom Harlowe) managed to protect themselves from prying journalists with their own invisible velvet ropes. How so? When a reporter from the National Post approached Matt Dillon, he promptly turned his back. John Cusack initially seemed quite charmed by a reporter for this paper. But when she introduced herself as a journalist, Mr. Cusack hastily withdrew his hand.


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