Fest resumes on somber note

TORONTO — A day after nixing all activities in reaction to the horrific events south of the border, the Toronto Intl. Film Festival stumbled back into action Wednesday. Screenings, press conferences and industry events were back onboard, but the atmosphere was subdued and execs, filmmakers, thesps and journalists were all having difficulty focusing on the fest.

The most heavily screened show in town remained CNN, with folks still glued to monitors 24 hours after the terrorist attacks.

Fest director Piers Handling announced midday that screenings will continue through to the end of the event, but all official social events have been canceled.

The red-carpet ceremonies before the nightly gala screenings at Roy Thomson Hall have been nixed and the closing-night bash has also been ditched. Instead of the traditional awards brunch Sunday at the Four Seasons Hotel, Handling will host a press conference announcing the fest winners.

“All of us at the festival are completely devastated by what happened (Tuesday),” Handling said. “Obviously, a pall has been cast over the festival. The festival should now be a subdued event. The festival is about celebration and it shouldn’t continue as that type of event. That’s why events are canceled. We don’t want it to seem like the party goes on.”

Screenings reskedded

Many of the public and press and industry screenings dropped Tuesday will be rescheduled, Handling said.

But some pics will not make it to the Canuck fest due to the events in the U.S. “Pinero,” a biopic of New York poet-playwright Miguel Pinero starring Benjamin Bratt, was pulled from the festival at the request of pic’s director Leon Ichaso. The helmer felt it was inappropriate to screen the dark pic about life in New York City this week. “Pinero” was to have its Toronto preem Wednesday night.

Thai pic “Jan Dara” from helmer Nonzee Nimibutr was also taken off the Toronto sked because both the pic and the filmmaker were grounded in Thailand.

Pics for which prints still had not arrived in Toronto Wednesday included Indian pic “Asoka,” Yugoslav film “Absolute Hundred,” U.S. helmer Frank Whaley’s “The Jimmy Show,” Chilean/U.K. co-production “Loco Fever” and “Sisters” from Russian director Sergei Bodrov Jr.

Many of the pics that will screen in the coming days will do so without any stars on hand. Today’s gala screening of “Serendipity” will go ahead after rumors that it wouldn’t, with a print being driven up to Toronto. But the pic’s stars John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale will not be accompanying it to the fest.

Canuck singer Sarah McLachlan also nixed her visit to help promote Lilith Fair docu “Lilith on Top.”

Stranded in Toronto

Also, execs, filmmakers and talent were stranded in Toronto with all air travel grounded. Thesps Juliette Lewis and Gina Gershon from “Picture Claire” were stuck in town, while others — such as “Pinero” star Bratt — drove back to New York.

French pic “Cet amour-la” was one of the galas canceled Tuesday, but pic’s star Jeanne Moreau, at an emotional press conference Wednesday, said she understood the festival’s decision to keep the event going following the terrorist attacks.

“Why should we stop living because some people try to kill what energy there is in life,” Moreau said.

There was even some acquisition activity Wednesday, with Lions Gate Films taking North American theatrical distribution rights to “Lovely & Amazing,” the second pic by writer-helmer Nicole Holofcener (“Walking & Talking”), from Blow Up Pictures, Good Machine and Roadside Attractions.

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