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Toronto Film Festival kicks off

2004/09/11 | 421 views | Permalink | Source

Toronto Contributing writer

Wearing an elegant black velvet coatdress and husband Warren Beatty, scene diva Annette Bening stepped onto the red carpet and officially kicked off the 29th year of the Toronto International Film Festival Thursday.

This year's gala opening was Bening's "Being Julia", a film set in the 1930s London, based on the novel "Theatre" by W. Somerset Maugham. She plays a stage star who acquires a young lover to soothe her fears of aging, only to exact her revenge when the relationship goes south.

"We love our movie. We're hopelessly partial to it", Bening told reporters outside Toronto's grandest concert venue. "It's something that I worked very hard on and I really care very deeply about it".

Featuring films from 61 countries, the Toronto festival draws huge crowds and this year, pumping an average $67 million into the economy annually. The ten-day event is expected to attract an estimated 250,000 moviegoers, film industry types, and assorted media.

The international lineup includes Korean gems like Song Il-gon's "Spider Forest", which makes Toronto the site of its international premier, the hotly anticipated "Old Boy" by Park Chan-ook and Kim Ki-duk's "3-Iron", both of which will have their first screenings before a North American audience.

"Old Boy" in particular scores a high rate of interest, still smoking from its wild success in the eyes of the Cannes jury led by Quentin Tarantino earlier this year.

The fourth and final Korean entry this year is "Low Life" by the revered Im Kwon-taek, whose film will run in the festival's vaunted Masters program. Although organizers also hoped that director Park Chan-wook would be in attendance, Im is expected to be the only to personally present his film.

While Korean films are often very well-received by audiences here, it's unlikely that any of the four will inspire fans to lose their cool. In 2002, after a screening of Kim Tae-gyun's high-flying "Volcano High", one man hollered, "Korean movies rule!", an outburst met with some nervous laughter.

Filmmakers treasure such enthusiasm, making Toronto a top destination for buzz-worthy flicks. The city's savvy, well-watched audiences champion favorites, propelling small indies into the celluloid stratosphere, like last year's New Zealand splash "Whale Rider". No wonder, then, that of this year's 328 films (painstakingly culled from 3,300 entries, the festival will feature a record number 100 world premiers.

The fact so many international filmmakers want to make Toronto the place where their film is introduced to the world is an incredible testament to the film lovers of this city", festival co-director Noah Cowan said at the unveiling of this year's list of films.

Of course, no film festival would be complete without some of Hollywood's shiniest stars. This year the red carpet's been unfurled for the likes of Al Pacino, Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Dustin Hoffman, Kevin Spacey, Sean Penn, Scarlett Johansson, Orlando Bloom, Brendan Fraser, Topher Grace, Jeremy Irons, Sigourney Weaver and Zhang Ziyi.

By Jin David Kim

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