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Toronto Fest slate is ‘Sweet’

'Cider,' 'Onegin' to unspool

TORONTO — Woody Allen’s “Sweet and Lowdown,” a couple of the Fiennes clan and the “Cider House Rules” will make the trek north to Canada as fest director Piers Handling unveiled the final program for the 1999 Toronto Intl. Film Festival.

Tapped to make their North American premieres in the Gala screenings section are Allen’s “Sweet and Lowdown,” starring Sean Penn and Uma Thurman, and Lasse Hallstrom’s “The Cider House Rules,” starring Michael Caine and Tobey Maguire.

Wrapping the fest will be helmer Martha Fiennes directing brother Ralph in “Onegin,” based on the Alexander Pushkin novel. As previously announced, favorite son Atom Egoyan’s “Felicia’s Journey” opens the festivities.

The 24th edition boasts a record 319 films and 171 world and North American premieres; it unspools from Sept. 9-18.

The Gala screenings, held at the Roy Thomson Hall, include Allen’s “Sweet and Lowdown”; the world preem of the Italian “Love in the Mirror,” a romantic comedy about a troupe of traveling players in the early 17th century; and Regis Wargnier’s “Est-Ouest,” a saga of a French woman living in Stalinist Russia starring Sandrine Bonnaire and Catherine Deneuve.

Slotted as Special Presentations are Bill Forsyth’s Scottish charmer “Gregory’s Two Girls”; the world premiere of Paul Schrader’s “Forever Mine,” which stars Joseph Fiennes and Gretchen Moll; and the English-language version of the Japanese animated feature “Princess Mononoke,” the all-time top grosser from the land of the rising sun; and Kevin Smith’s controversial religious comedy “Dogma.”

France’s Benoit Jacquot brings his latest, “Pas de Scandale” to the Special Presentations section along with Norman Jewison’s work-in-progress “The Hurricane” with Denzel Washington and Alan Rudolph’s adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s novel “Breakfast of Champions,” starring Bruce Willis.

Also making a Special Presentations appearance are fest faves Errol Morris with the nonfiction “Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr.,” which centers on an “execution technologist”; and Ron Mann with “Grass,” narrated by Woody Harrelson, which examines marijuana as a recreational drug.

Anticipated nonfiction offerings in the Real to Reel section include Chantal Akerman’s hate crime tale, “Sud;” and Jason Priestley’s tour portrait “Barenaked in America,” on Toronto-based rockers the Barenaked Ladies.

Fest’s largest section, Contemporary World Cinema, includes Tim Roth’s directorial debut “The War Zone”; Zhang Yang’s “Shower,” an ode to Beijing steam baths; “Les Amants Criminels,” from French social satirist Francois Ozon; Shinobu Yaguchi’s “Adrenaline Drive”; “Burlesk King,” Mel Chionglo’s look at life on the edge of Philippine society; Gregg Araki’s “Splendor”; and actor-director Sylvia Chang’s romance “Tempting Heart.” Shane Meadows’ latest, “A Room for Romeo Brass,” and Lynne Ramsay’s Cannes-prized “Ratcatcher” are new additions to the program along with cinematographer Christopher Doyle’s first feature, “Away With Words”; Harmony Korine’s “Julien Donkey-Boy”; Majid Majidi’s “The Color of Heaven,” about a blind boy in Northern Iran; and Cannes top prize-winners “Rosetta” and “L’Humanite.”

Cutting edge Discovery program comprises 31 features and three shorts. They include Lane Janger’s “Just One Time”; Jamie Babbit’s comedy “But I’m a Cheerleader,” with Cathy Moriarty and RuPaul ; and Australian Julie Money’s “Envy.” Other entries rep Brazil, South Korea, Norway, Slovenia and Ecuador.

The popular Dialogues: Talking With Pictures will again feature contempo filmmakers screening movies that were inspiring and inspirational to their careers. Gregg Araki intros Leo McCarey’s screwball comedy “The Awful Truth”; Lawrence Kasdan presents Akira Kurosawa’s “Yojimbo”; horrormeister George Romero doffs his hat to Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s “The Tales of Hoffmann”; and Tim Roth presents “Elephant,” a film by the late Alan Clarke, who cast the actor in his 1983 “Made in Britain.”

Toronto’s concurrent industry conference Symposium ’99 runs Sept. 13-14. Though the fest lacks a formal market component, its ability to fill its program with debuting movies has thrust it among the top annual fest stops for U.S. and international film execs and acquisitions reps; it also serves as a major media launch pad for new product.

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