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The Best From The Fest: Toronto International Film Festival 2008

From September 4 to 13, this city will be seeing stars—and lots of them! Now in its 33rd year, the venerable Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) turns our town on its head for a celebration of all things cinematic. Here’s our guide on how to avoid lineups, glimpse the glitterati and see the biggest flicks among the festival’s hundreds of hotly anticipated screenings.



WHO’S INVOLVED? Apparently blessed with a superhuman work ethic, Canadian icon Paul Gross wrote, directed and produced this WWI epic. He also plays the film’s lead.

WHAT’S IT ABOUT? The movie revisits the Third Battle of Ypres, a brutal, months-long confrontation during which Allied forces, including 20,000 Canadians, fought the Imperial German army—and relentless rain—to gain strategic control of a Belgian village.

WHY’S IT HERE? Passchendaele is reportedly the most expensive Canadian film ever made, and figures to be the magnum opus of one of the country’s biggest homegrown stars. What better reason to schedule it as TIFF’s opening-night gala premiere?

IF YOU LIKE THIS, DON’T MISS… Another highly touted war movie, Spike Lee’s Miracle at St. Anna follows a group of African-American soldiers trapped in Italy during WWII; Keira Knightley as an 18th-century aristocrat known equally for her extravagant lifestyle and political views in The Duchess.



WHO’S INVOLVED? Jean-Claude Van Damme, one of the biggest action stars in movie history, appears as himself in this surprising comeback story directed by Mabrouk El Mechri.

WHAT’S IT ABOUT? The “Muscles from Brussels” takes a trip to the post office only to land in the middle of a dangerous heist. When, for once, the gun pointed at Van Damme’s head isn’t loaded with blanks, can he still play the role of hero?

WHY’S IT HERE? With its unusual story and cult appeal—JCVD has been called “Being John Malkovich with violence”—this co-production from Belgium, France and Luxembourg is an obvious choice for international premiere as part of TIFF’s Midnight Madness program.

IF YOU LIKE THIS, DON’T MISS… The Good, The Bad and the Weird, a “kimchee western” from South Korea that pays homage to The Good, The Bad and The Ugly; renowned director Wong Kar-wai’s Ashes of Time Redux, a re-working of his 1994 martial arts epic with Hong Kong star Tony Leung Chiu Wai.



WHO’S INVOLVED? Indian-born Canadian Deepa Mehta wrote and directed this film, which features Bollywood superstar Preity Zinta as the female lead.

WHAT’S IT ABOUT? New bride Chand (Zinta) becomes the victim of domestic violence in her arranged marriage. Enter a Jamaican-Canadian co-worker, a magic root and a love spell for Chand’s life to mirror an Indian fable as fantasy and reality converge.

WHY’S IT HERE? Director Mehta’s often-provocative films are consistently acclaimed in Canada and around the world. Her previous effort, Water, was nominated for an Academy Award in 2007..

IF YOU LIKE THIS, DON’T MISS… Adoration—winner of the Ecumenical Jury prize at this year’s Cannes festival—Toronto filmmaker Atom Egoyan’s take on a high-school student who uncovers a shocking lie; Canuck director Bruce McDonald’s first horror flick, Pontypool, a thrilling adaptation of a Tony Burgess novel about a deadly virus that takes over a small Ontario town.



WHO’S INVOLVED? Ricky Gervais, creator and star of acclaimed BBC television series The Office and Extras, brings his British wit to this high-concept comedy. Greg Kinnear is affably game as his co-star.

WHAT’S IT ABOUT? After a brush with death, a misanthropic dentist (Gervais) discovers he can, well, see dead people. Turns out these apparitions are a bothersome lot, and soon begin pestering their exasperated medium for all manner of favours.

WHY’S IT HERE? A giggle god across the pond, Gervais is now looking to conquer North America with his first starring role in a Hollywood movie. Plus, filmgoers deserve a light-hearted break from all the festival’s “prestige pictures.”

IF YOU LIKE THIS, DON’T MISS… Brampton, Ontario-born Michael Cera in Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (an Almost Famous for the indie-rock set?); notorious political humorist Bill Maher questioning organized religion in the satirical documentary Religulous.



WHO’S INVOLVED? Celebrated character actor John Malkovich takes his cues from Australian director Steve Jacobs.

WHAT’S IT ABOUT? Based on J.M. Coetzee’s Booker Prize–winning novel, Disgrace tells the harrowing story of David Lurie (Malkovich), a Cape Town professor who takes refuge on his daughter’s farm after an incident of sexual misconduct. But trouble follows, and a vicious attack forces David to come to uneasy terms with the realities of post-apartheid South Africa.

WHY’S IT HERE? Malkovich is a reliably intriguing performer in even the most suspect ventures, and given the right material—say, an unflinching adaptation of one of the most praised books of the last quarter-century—he can be positively electrifying.

IF YOU LIKE THIS, DON’T MISS… Fernando Meirelles’s vision of the celebrated Jose Saramago tome Blindness; Viggo Mortensen, Renée Zellweger, Ed Harris and Jeremy Irons in Appaloosa, based on Robert B. Parker’s popular western.


Available starting September 3, single tickets are $19.29, or $37.38 for gala presentations (cash or Visa only). Here are your options for securing a seat:

IN PERSON: Box offices are at Manulife Centre and Toronto Life Square for all your ticketing needs, or get same-day passes at the theatre where the film is showing.

FROM YOUR HOTEL: Call 416-968-FILM or visit www.tiff08.ca, then pick up your tickets at the box office.

STAND IN LINE: Take your chance on a sold-out show by waiting in the rush line outside of the theatre. Any empty seats will be sold to those in queue.


The Toronto International Film Festival’s website, www.tiff08.ca, is your best source for a complete lineup, screening times and details on same-day tickets. It’s updated daily during the festival with information on last-minute seat availability.

Need help deciphering the various programs at TIFF? Get your TIFF 101 lesson at 16 Program Choices.

Which celebs will be walking the red carpet? Check out our Star-Spotting Guide for the scoop.

Get your autograph book and cameras ready. See The Best Places to Spot Celebs.

—Viviane Kertész and Craig Moy

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