Toronto film festival gets off to a romantic start

Thu Sep 4, 2008 11:19pm EDT
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By Bob Tourtellotte

TORONTO (Reuters) - The curtain rose on the Toronto International Film Festival on Thursday night with romance "Passchendaele" playing to a packed theater and starting a 10-day parade of films and stars at one of the world's top movie gatherings.

In keeping with tradition, the event opened by shining its spotlight on a Canadian movie, but Hollywood invades in the days ahead with the likes of George Clooney, Brad Pitt and even Paris Hilton in town.

Before the festival ends on September 13, more than 300 films will screen here as filmmakers hope to gain attention that earns box office bucks and movie fan buzz ahead of Hollywood's upcoming Oscar season. Last year's Toronto darling, teen pregnancy comedy "Juno," went on to win wide acclaim.

But Thursday belonged to Canadian actor Paul Gross, who wrote, directed and starred-in "Passchendaele," a love story set against the backdrop of Canadians fighting in World War I.

"In the end, love is all that can counter the implacable brutality" of war, Gross told the opening night audience.

Beyond the romance, "Passchendaele" explores class and ethnic clashes in the country and serves up a healthy amount of Canadian patriotism.

Gross told Reuters that seeing his movie selected for opening night at a festival that has long promoted Canadian filmmakers was particularly gratifying.

"This film took an uncommonly long time to get around to making, and hundreds of people were involved," he said of the labor of love that took more than 15 years from idea to movie. "This is a great tribute to the people involved."   Continued...

<p>Actor Gerard Butler (R) signs autographs at the special presentation screening of the film "RocknRolla" at the 33rd Toronto International Film Festival, September 4, 2008. REUTERS/ Mike Cassese</p>