Deepa Mehta's long-sufferingdrama Water has been selected asthe opening night gala at the 30th Toronto International FilmFestival. It was one of eleven world premieres announced at TIFF's openingpress conference Tuesday.
Also making their worldpremieres are three Special Presentations: Anand Tucker's Shopgirl, based on the novella by Steven Martin, starringMartin opposite Claire Danes; Jason Reitman's Thank You For Smoking, an expose of Washington DC lobbyists, starring AaronEckhart and a large supporting cast including Robert Duvall, Katie Holmes andAdam Brody; and Mistress Of Spices fromBend It Like Beckhamcollaborators Paul Mayeda Berges and Gurinder Chadha, starring Aishwarya Raiand Dylan McDermott.
Contemporary World Cinema seesfour world premieres including Michael Caton-Jones' Rwandan genocide story ShootingDogs (UK/Germany) starring JohnHurt; Twelve And Holding, from L.I.E.director Michael Cuesta (US); ZhangYang's post-Cultural Revolution drama Sunflower; and 7 Virgins, from Spanish filmmaker Alberto Rodriguez, about a reform school inmatereleased on a 48-hour pass.
The Discovery line-upfeatures one world premiere: Dreaming Lhasa, directed by Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonma, a storyset in India's Tibetan community, home to the exiled Dalai Lama.
Other world bows include Kaalpurush, from Indian auteur Buddhadev Dasgupta screening inthe Masters line-up; US filmmaker James Babbit's The Quiet, starring Elisha Cuthbert and Camilla Belle, screeningin the Visions section.
The festival also added toits list of North American premieres, including Ang Lee's gay love story BrokebackMountain - confirmation that thefilm will premiere at Venice before heading to Toronto - and Canadian Cannescompetitors: David Cronenberg's A History Of Violence and Atom Egoyan's Where The Truth Lies. Other titles include Australia/UK coproduction TheProposition, starring Guy Pearce andRay Winstone and directed by John Hillcoat from a screenplay by musician NickCave.
Dreaming Of Space, from Russia's Alexey Uchitel is set at the dawn ofthe Soviet space era while India filmmaker Shonali Bose's Amu follows a young Indo-American woman who visits herancestral land only to confront the secrets and lies of her past. Ireland'sPerry Ogden makes his feature debut with Pavee Lackeen. Rounding out the North American premieres announcedare French-Lebanese coproduction A Perfect Day, from Khalil Joreige and Joana Hadjithomas, abouttraumatized survivors of Lebanon's civil war and You Bet Your Life, from Austrian debut filmmaker Antonin Svoboda,about a compulsive gambler.
International premieresinclude Stewart Main's 50 Ways Of Saying Fabulous from New Zealand; Richard E. Grant'ssemi-autobiographical debut as writer-director, Wah-Wah, a South Africa/France/UK coproduction; Dane AndersThomas Jensen's black comedy, Adam's Apple, about a neo-Nazi assigned community service with a priest. Australianwriter-director Sarah Watt makes her feature debut with Look Both Ways, about the aftermath of a train wreck whileArgentine title Sisters, fromdebut filmmaker Julia Solomonoff, tells of women separated by that country'srepressive dictatorship who reunite years later in suburban Texas.
Tradition holds that aCanadian film, if meritorious enough, opens the festival. At first glance itwould seem Mehta and her world premiere saved TIFF programmers the bothersometask of selecting between the Cronenberg and Egoyan titles for the openingslot. But festival co-director Noah Cowan dismissed the notion, suggesting thatafter all the negotiating was complete everyone was satisfied with his or herposition in the festival. "What we saw today was a great day for Canadian film.It speaks volumes about what really matters: showcasing the best of Canadianfilm."
The presence of a body guardfor Mehta at the press conference was a sharp reminder of the woes she and herproducer David Hamilton have endured over the past five years. Initialproduction of Water, the thirdfilm in Mehta's Element trilogy -- after Earth (1996) and Fire (1998), was brought to a halt by protesters in India in 2000 who claimedthe film defamed the Hindu faith. Sets were destroyed and Mehta was burned ineffigy. The production was remounted in Sri Lanka with an entirely new cast butusing the original script.
Speaking to ScreenDaily,Mehta said that despite the massive setbacks she and Hamilton never gave up.She said directing two films in the interregnum helped channel the anger andfrustration and to move on. "We were able to look objectively at the originalscript, with no baggage. And it was still worth doing." Indeed, Hamilton saidthe revised production may be the stronger for the adversity.