At a standing-room-only press conference in Toronto on Tuesday [10], the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) unveiled a stellar line-up of 28 Canadian features.

The roster includes 19 world premieres and the North American premiere of Incendies by Denis Villeneuve, whose Montreal massacre drama Polytechnique swept Canada’s most recent Academy Awards.

“Not to be in TIFF would be a disaster,” Villeneuve told ScreenDaily. “It’s the most important film festival in North America and among the top four in the world. I have to be in the Toronto Film Festival or I would kill myself,” he joked, noting the festival offered the ideal North American launch pad. The film, about twins who journey to the Middle East, will receive its world premiere in Venice.

Hotly anticipated Canadian features include the world premiere of Jonathan Sobol’s raucous comedy A Beginners Guide To Endings starring Harvey Keitel as a gambling father in the only gala film added to the line-up.

There is a red carpet world premiere for Force Of Nature: The David Suzuki Movie, a documentary which director Sturla Gunnarsson told Screen is “an affectionate interrogation” of the 75-year-old renowned scientist in his “intimate meditation on mortality.”

Bruce McDonald’s world premiere of Trigger – dubbed a rock’n’roll My Dinner With Andre – has the honour of being the opening film of the TIFF Bell Lightbox on September 12 and Molly Parker is expected to attend. Parker also stars in a veteran’s story called Oliver Sherman by debutant director Ryan Redford.

Montreal director Jacob Tierney (The Trotsky) switches from comedy to thriller in the world premiere of Good Neighbours starring Jay Baruchel, and wunderkind Xavier Dolan’s Heartbeats (Les Amours Imaginaires) will have its English Canadian Premiere, although the film didn’t measure up at the Quebec box office to his debut feature I Killed My Mother.

Meanwhile Mike Goldbach’s DaydreamNation starring Andie MacDowell opens the Canada First! programme and the British Columbia director told the crowd that his first feature debut is “Kafka with cornfields”. Goldbach noted that MacDowell “did not do this for the money or the weather,” as production took place in the province’s rainy northern region, an apt setting for a slyly funny tale about a young woman (Kat Dennings) surrounded by “permanently stoned” classmates while a killer preys and an industrial fire never burns out.

The world premiere of High Cost Of Living – Deborah Chow’s story about the burgeoning relationship between an unlikely pair – is “vital” for such a small film, according to its global sales representative Andrew Noble, vice-president of Filmoption International, as “buyers from Europe, North America and Asia all come here.”

TIFF is also a family affair for Toronto directors such as Ingrid Veninger, whose Modra is a quirky trip back to Slovakia, and writers such as Screen International’s former Canadian correspondent Denis Seguin, who co-produced How to Start Your Own Country with film-maker Jody Shapiro in the Reel To Real programme.

Forty Canadian films will screen in Short Cuts Canada, including one from the Canadian Film Center (founded by Oscar-winning director Norman Jewison) called Champagne. The effervescence of TIFF, with its paradoxically serious cinephile audiences, was best summarised by Goldbach: “If you can get past the glitz and glamour [of TIFF], the audiences are plain old-fashioned movie lovers.”