Fest pulls global arts into focus

Int'l players bring their A-game to Toronto

ANTON CORBIJN and SAM RILEY

As a seminal rock snapper and musicvid helmer, Corbijn was always likely to make his debut movie “Control” look and sound fantastic, with creamy B&W lensing and spine-tingling versions of classic Joy Division tracks. The revelation is that Corbijn also delivers sustained dramatic intensity and superb performances from a largely inexperienced cast, led by the previously unknown Riley as doomed singer Ian Curtis. Riley’s complex portrayal of Curtis — angry, tender, decent, confused, sick, despairing and ultimately unfathomable — carries the movie and makes him a star overnight.

— Adam Dawtrey

SAOIRSE RONAN and ROMOLA GARAI

It’s a close call which of these two young actresses will emerge from “Atonement” as the bigger star, but tipsters suggest Toronto could be the start for both of a long winter on the kudos circuit. All the more intriguing is that they share the same role, the 13-year-old Ronan playing the younger Briony Tallis, and the 25-year-old Garai her older self. Ronan, an Irish schoolgirl, is also reportedly brilliant in “Death Defying Acts,” and has now been cast in the lead of Peter Jackson’s “The Lovely Bones.” Although the fresh-faced Garai seems to have been around for years, in pics such as “Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights” and “I Capture the Castle,” “Atonement” finally looks set to establish her on the A-list.

— Adam Dawtrey

PAPRIKA STEEN

Steen is one of the most popular actresses in Denmark, and since her breakthrough in “The Celebration,” she has become a familiar face to auds abroad. Now she’s involved in three films being shown in Toronto. Steen plays the main role in “The Substitute” (a huge local hit); has a smaller part in “Erik Nietzsche”; and her second feature as a director, “With Your Permission,” is slotted for the Discovery section. Discover away!

— Emma Grey Munthe

BALTASAR KORMAKUR

Kormakur was one of Iceland’s most popular young actors, then became an acclaimed theater director, formed his own theater with two partners — and went into film. With his directorial debut “101 Reykjavik” he garnered awards and festival attention, and continued to do so with “The Sea” and “A Little Trip to Heaven.” In Toronto his award-winning fourth film, “Jar City,” will be shown.

— Emma Grey Munthe

JULIO MEDEM

The Aug. 24 release of Medem’s “Chaotic Ana” was shaping up as an upscale media event, but Toronto will largely decide the strength of its international rollout. Early buzz is that it carries Medem hallmarks: the sex, startling visuals, ellipses and narrative turns. But, charting womankind’s history through the troubled psychological life of a young woman, Ana, it has a far more political scope. This is a wide-ranging, New Age-y Medem with attitude.

— John Hopewell and Jonathan Holland

DARIO ARGENTO

Argento fans are lusting for “The Mother of Tears,” the Italo horror master’s new slasher toplining his daughter Asia Argento as an American who unwittingly unleashes demonic mayhem in Rome. English-language pic is the third installment in the long-gestating “Three Mothers” trilogy, following “Suspiria” (1977) and “Inferno” (1980). Like those cult classics, and unlike his tamer recent work, “Mother” will have a high gore quotient. World preem in Toronto will reveal whether Argento still has his uniquely classy, trashy touch.

— Nick Vivarelli

JAN SVERAK

Having already broken domestic B.O. records and nabbed the audience award at Karlovy Vary, Czech helmer Sverak looks to return to the international spotlight in Toronto with “Vratne lahve” (Empties), the third part in a trilogy that includes “The Elementary School,” and “Kolya,” which won Sverak the foreign-language Oscar a decade ago. Pic reps the director’s latest collaboration with his father, screenwriter and actor Zdenek Sverak.

— Andrew Barker

HANA MAKHMALBAF

As the youngest of Iran’s first family of filmmakers, Makhmalbaf has a lot to live up to. One thing the 17-year-old has never lacked is precociousness. Her debut feature “The Buddhas Collapsed Out of Shame” receives its world preem in Toronto after a troubled few months for the family, with a bomb attack on sister Samira’s Afghan set and father Mohsen being barred from their native Iran. For all the woes of her elders, if Hana’s filmmaking debut — the docu “Joy of Madness” — is anything to go by, the Makhmalbafs may have saved the best for last.

— Ali Jaafar

NADINE LABAKI

Labaki may just be the new face of Arab cinema. Having graduated from successfully making musicvids for Arab popstresses, the helmer’s debut feature “Caramel” is getting a gala preem in Toronto after a triumphant bow in Lebanon — where it’s set to become the country’s biggest hit of the year — and France, where it garnered more than 100,000 admissions in its first week. Not bad, considering she’s just as comfortable in front of the camera, having also starred in “Bosta,” the biggest hit at the Lebanese box office in 2006.

— Ali Jaafar

CANANA

Canana, the shingle founded by Mexican thesps Gael Garcia Bernal, Diego Luna and producer Pablo Cruz, lands at Toronto with its first two films, both exhibiting the trio’s commitment to socially progressive realism.

“Cochochi” is a groundbreaking docudrama by tyros Israel Cardenas and Laura Amelia Guzman portraying the life of the indigenous Raramui.

Also showing is Garcia Bernal’s directorial debut “Deficit,” which focuses on the modern realities of Mexico outside the capital.

— Michael O’Boyle

HUR JIN-HO

With four features to his credit, director Hur has created a niche all his own within South Korean cinema. His understated dramas about relationships and loss have sometimes hit, sometimes missed with audiences, but the industry’s biggest stars are eager to work with him, given his sensitive and assured directing. “Happiness,” with Im Soo-jung (“I’m a Cyborg, but That’s OK”), takes a more comical tack than his previous work.

— Darcy Paquet

JEON DO-YEON

In her home country, Jeon has been recognized for years as one of Korea’s top actresses, with both commercial successes and local honors to her credit, but it was only with “Secret Sunshine” and a best actress award at Cannes that her reputation has started to spread overseas. Intense about her work and able to convincingly play just about any role, Jeon looks assured of a long career.

— Darcy Paquet

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