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Canadian films back on the radar

Toronto pushes local films

Some years, the Canuck pics fly well below the radar at the Toronto Intl. Film Festival, easily overshadowed by the star-studded Hollywood titles and the season’s top arthouse films. But local cinema looks to have a higher profile at the 32nd edition of the Toronto fest thanks to some much-anticipated Canadian films.

Toronto auteur David Cronenberg, no stranger to his hometown film fest, will be back at the event with his latest, “Eastern Promises,” a London-set gangster pic that reunites Cronenberg with his “A History of Violence” leading man, Viggo Mortensen. The cast also includes Naomi Watts, Vincent Cassel and Armin Mueller-Stahl. The motion picture is also set to open the London Film Festival in October.

Montreal-based filmmaker Denys Arcand is a longtime Toronto fest favorite as well and his most recent feature, “Days of Darkness,” which was the closing-night selection at Cannes this year, will have its have its North American preem at Toronto. The French-language pic, which stars Marc Labreche as a frustrated Quebec civil servant, opens in France later in September and is expected to be launched wide in Quebec in early December. Pic is Arcand’s first since his Oscar-winning “The Barbarian Invasions.”

Toronto will also both open and close with Canuck pics. Fest will kick off Sept. 6 with the world preem of Toronto helmer Jeremy Podeswa’s “Fugitive Pieces.” Podeswa has close ties to the festival. His early shorts screened there, and both of his previous features, “Eclipse” and “The Five Senses,” preemed at the Toronto fest.

“Fugitive Pieces,” based on the novel by Anne Michaels, tells the story of Jakob Beer (Stephen Dillane), who is still coming to grips with his experiences as a child during World War II. He was orphaned in Poland and eventually had his life saved by a Greek archaeologist.

The pic is produced by Robert Lantos from Toronto-based Serendipity Point Films and is the 10th time this seasoned Canuck producer has a film opening the Toronto festival.

The festival is set to close with another World War II-themed Canadian drama, director Paolo Barzman’s “Emotional Arithmetic,” the tale of three survivors of the Holocaust who meet up decades later in a Quebec farmhouse. It stars Susan Sarandon, Christopher Plummer and Gabriel Byrne.

Other prominent Canuck pics at Toronto include helmer Guy Maddin’s meditation on his hometown, “My Winnipeg”; Montreal filmmaker Francois Girard’s “Silk,” one of the biggest-budgeted Canuck pics of the year and Girard’s first feature since “The Red Violin”; Clement Virgo’s Nova Scotia-set “Poor Boy’s Game”; and Roger Spottiswoode’s “Shake Hands With the Devil,” a drama set against the backdrop of the failed U.N. mission in Rwanda.

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