Irish out in force in Toronto
The 32nd Toronto International Film Festival opened last night with the world premiere of Jeremy Podeswa’s Fugitive Pieces, starring Stephen Dillane as a man traumatised by his childhood experiences in Nazioccupied Poland. A native of Toronto, Podeswa spent most of the summer in Dublin, directing episodes for the second series of The Tudors.
Toronto, which now rivals Cannes as the world’s most important festival, will be awash with international actors and film-makers over the event’s 10-day duration. The programme includes more than 250 feature films and is peppered with movies intended as Oscar contenders in the spring.
A record six feature films made by Irish directors have been selected for Toronto. They include the world premiere of Neil Jordan’s The Brave One and the North American premieres of Tom Collins’s Kings and Lenny Abrahamson’s Garage. All three will be released in Ireland on consecutive weeks from September 21st (see cover story).
The other three movies by Irish directors will have their world premieres. Boy A reunites the Intermission team of director John Crowley and writer Mark O’Rowe. Andrew Garfield stars as a young man who has spent most of his life in juvenile institutions for the murder of another child. Peter Mullan plays the care worker who helps him when he is released and given a new identity.
Irish actor Stuart Townsend makes his debut as writerdirector with Battle in Seattle, set over five days in 1999 when demonstrators took to the streets of Seattle in protest against the World Trade Organisation. The cast includes Charlize Theron, Woody Harrelson, Ray Liotta and Michelle Rodriguez.
Writer-director Terry George, who won the audience award at Toronto in 2004 for Hotel Rwanda, will present his new film. Reservation Road follows the repercussions of a young child’s death. It stars Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Ruffalo, Jennifer Connelly and Mira Sorvino.
In addition, Richard Attenborough’s Closing the Ring, which was filmed in Northern Ireland and Canada, will have its world premiere in Toronto. It takes place during the second World War and in the present day. The cast includes Shirley MacLaine, Christopher
Plummer and Neve Campbell.
Irish actors are well represented in the international productions showing at Toronto. Colin Farrell co-stars with Ewan McGregor. They play brothers tempted into crime in the new Woody Allen film, Cassandra’s Dream. Young Carlow resident Saoirse Ronan features in two Toronto presentations, Atonement, which opens in Ireland today, and with Catherine Zeta-Jones and Guy Pearce in Gillian Armstrong’s Death Defying Acts. Eva Birthistle plays the wife and agent of Rembrandt (Martin Freeman) in Peter Greenaway’s Nightwatching.
In addition, Gabriel Byrne joins Susan Sarandon and Max von Sydow in Toronto’s closing night presentation, Emotional Arithmetic, which observes a reunion of Holocaust survivors. Pierce Brosnan co-stars with Chris Cooper, Patricia Clarkson and Rachel McAdams in Married Life. And Stephen Rea plays a homeless man knocked down by a drunken driver (Mena Suvari) in Stuart Gordon’s Stuck, in which Rea spends most of the movie embedded in the car’s windscreen.
Werner Herzog in the deep freeze
In Toronto last year with Rescue Dawn, the reliably idiosyncratic Werner Herzog returns next week with his new documentary, Encounters at the End of the World. Set among an isolated Antarctic community, it promises encounters described in the programme as “alternately surreal, absurd, profound and, sometimes, all of the above”.
Newcomers to the area train by covering their heads with buckets to simulate blizzard blindness. Underwater scientists casually discover three new species of life in one day. And, as a corrective to March of the Penguins, an expert describes the birds’ aberrant behaviour, such as threesomes and all-out avian madness. firstname.lastname@example.org Michael Dwyer reports from Toronto next Tuesday and Friday in The Irish Times
Put up or shut up: Connie Nielsen in Stuart Townsend’s Battle in Seattle