Eagerly anticipated new films from Niki Caro, Danis Tanovic and Neil Jordan will be seen by US buyers for the first time in Toronto.

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If Toronto is the start of a new cycle in the calendar, the deals - or lack of them - that emerge there will set the tone not just for the awards season but the broader landscape that lies ahead.

A positive response from the acquisitions community could inject life into a bleak sector that has seen a steady flow of North American casualties in recent times. On the other hand, further buyer reticence will only serve to deepen the perception that the film business is falling into a hole.

As with every year, there are titles that arrive in Toronto without North American distribution and yet are weighted with expectations. How these and other films play out in front of the Toronto crowds - and whether they strike a chord with critics - will be key considerations for buyers scouting for the next Slumdog Millionaire.

The lure of commercial fare remains strong, as shown by Lionsgate’s will­ingness several weeks ago to pay $15m for North American rights to Matthew Vaughn’s Kick-Ass in a big sale for WME Global.

“We will not overpay,” says Miramax president Daniel Battsek. “However good it might feel to have a movie you might want, six months down the line when you look at the financial statements, that’s when you know whether or not you’ve made a good ­acquisition.” Much is at stake here and not just for the buyers and sellers, of course-the film-makers will be on tenterhooks.

“We know it’s difficult and the days of the $10m sale are most likely behind us,” says Dean Zanuck, producer on the thriller Get Low, which every studio passed on at script stage. “It’s important to get a sale and get some money coming back in the right direction for the investors. We want it to have a fighting chance and a festival like Toronto is a great stage for us.”

“It’s tough out there,” says Kristi Zea, a producer on the social satire The Joneses. “But ultimately everybody wants to be entertained, so in our view our movie is hopefully as competitive as any of the films in Toronto because its subject matter and actors are held in very high regard. The film itself is eminently capable of competing with the studio films.”

Both of these take their place on a list of buzz titles that have already piqued the curiosity of the acquisitions teams, while others will move into clearer focus.

  • Get Low stars Robert Duvall, Bill ­Murray and Sissy Spacek and is directed by veteran TV cinematographer Aaron ­Schneider. It tells the story of a man in a small town who plans his own funeral in order to solve an old murder. CAA is ­handling sales.
  • The Joneses from Echo Lake Productions stars Demi Moore, David Duchovny and Amber Heard in the tale of a fake family placed in a neighbourhood as part of a top-secret luxury-item marketing strategy. ICM is selling.
  • Ed Norton’s double role as twins in Leaves Of Grass is expected to be one of the hottest tickets in town. Tim Blake Nelson wrote, directed and stars alongside Norton in the story of an Ivy League professor who returns to hishome town where his twin, a small-time drug dealer, has a plan to bring down a local drug lord. It is being sold by WME Global and UTA.
  • Festival opener Creation, from Jon Amiel, stars Paul Bettany as Charles ­Darwin as he struggles to reconcile his scientific work with the deep religious faith of his wife, played by Jennifer ­Connelly. HanWay Films is selling ­worldwide rights.
  • Rodrigo Garcia’s drama Mother And Child, sold by WME Global for North America and by West End overseas, stars Annette Bening, Samuel Jackson, Naomi Watts and Kerry Washington, and centres on the theme of adoption.
  • Colin Farrell will be in town with two films. In Neil Jordan’s fantasy Ondine, sold by CAA, he plays a fisherman who believes he has caught a mermaid. Stephen Rea and Alicja Bachleda also star.
  • Farrell is also in the thriller Triage by No Man’s Land director Danis Tanovic. The film follows a photojournalist who arouses his girlfriend’s curiosity when he returns from assignment without his colleague. CAA is co-representing North American rights with HanWay Films.
  • Don Roos is bringing Love And Other Impossible Pursuits, a comedy-drama chronicling a woman’s tricky relationship with her son. The film stars Natalie Portman, Lisa Kudrow and Charlie Tahan. Incentive, WME and Rena Ronson are handling North American sales. Essential Entertainment is selling international.
  • In Atom Egoyan’s thriller Chloe, Amanda Seyfried plays an escort hired by a doctor to seduce her husband when she suspects him of cheating. Liam Neeson also stars alongside Julianne Moore. StudioCanal holds worldwiderights.
  • In Essential Entertainment’s Solitary Man, Michael Douglas portrays a businessman whose empire begins to crumble after he makes mistakes in his professional and personal lives. Susan Sarandon, Danny DeVito, Jenna Fischer and Mary-Louise Parker round out the key cast. CAA is co-representing North American rights with WME Global.
  • Niki Caro returns with The Vintner’s Luck, the New Zealand film-maker’s first feature since 2005’s North Country. Set in the 19th century, the film tells of a peasant wine-maker’s quest to make the perfect vintage and reunites Caro with her Whale Rider star Keisha Castle-Hughes. Vera Farmiga, Jérémie Renier and Gaspard Ulliel also star. NZ Film has sales rights.
  • Alan Jacobs’ drama Down For Life features a mostly unknown cast of real-life Latina gang members, and is based on a New York Times article about the leader of a South Central gang who tries to leave behind her life of violence. Paradigm is believed to be selling rights.
  • Perrier’s Bounty stars Brendan Gleeson as a gangster out for revenge on a trio who accidentally cause the death of his associate. Jim Broadbent and Cillian ­Murphy also star in the film, which is directed by Ian Fitzgibbon (A Film With Me In It). HanWay Films is handling sales.
  • Radha Mitchell appears in H2O Motion Pictures’ The Waiting City, about an Australian couple who go to India to adopt a baby and recommit to their relationship after intense self-examination.
  • The Works International’s thriller Glorious 39 stars Romola Garai, Bill Nighy, Julie Christie and Christopher Lee. Directed by Stephen Poliakoff, the film is set in London and the Norfolk countryside on the eve of the Second World War.
  • Michael J Bassett’s action fantasy Solomon Kane, based on Robert E Howard’s pulp creation, stars James Purefoy as a 16th-century Puritan who roams the globe to vanquish evil. Pete Postlethwaite also features.Essential Entertainment is selling international and Cinetic represents North America.
  • Jordan Scott’s Cracks stars Eva Green, Juno Temple and Maria Valverde and charts the lives of girls at an elite boarding school. UTA is selling North American rights.
  • Mads Mikkelsen stars in Nicolas Winding Refn’s slice of Norse mythology, Valhalla Rising, being sold by Wild Bunch.
  • Michael Caine stars in Marv Films’ Harry Brown from first-time UK director Daniel Barber. Caine plays a former Marine who doles out justice on a depressed council estate after his friend is murdered. Emily Mortimer co-stars. HanWay Films holds rights.
  • ICM is selling Oliver Parker’s version of Oscar Wilde’s fable Dorian Gray starring Ben Barnes (Prince Caspian). Colin Firth and Rebecca Hall co-star.
  • Werner Herzog has directed two new films out this autumn. Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans has already been acquired by First Look, and is premiering at Venice. Toronto will see the launch of Herzog’s My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done, an intense sub-$5m drama based on real events that stars Oscar nominee Michael Shannon as an actor who re-enacts an Aeschylus play by killing his mother with a sword. Chloe Sevigny and Willem Dafoe co-star. David Lynch’s Absurda is handling sales.