Canadian filmmakers Gary Burns, Deepa Mehta and Guy Maddin have been awarded prominent positions in the line-up of the Toronto International Film Festival, as the event announced its Perspective Canada programme.

Burns' A Problem With Fear (pictured) will open the programme, Mehta's The Republic Of Love will be a Gala presentation and Maddin's The Saddest Music In The World will be a Special Presentation. Veteran Canadian documentary filmmaker Allan King's Dying At Grace will make its world premiere in the festival's Masters programme.

Other Canadian films selected to make their world premiere include Carl Bessai's Emile, starring Sir Ian McKellen and Deborah Kara Unger; Cube director Vincenzo Natali's existential comedy Nothing; and Jacob Tierney's Twist, a modern retelling of the Dickens novel. Bernard Emond's International Critics Week selection 20h 17, Rue Darling will also screen.

Burns, an audience-pleaser but a commercial underdog, marks his fourth feature in Perspective Canada - 2000's waydowntown won the festival's Best Canadian Feature prize. Written by Burns and Donna Brunsdale, A Problem With Fear tells the story of a morbidly fearful young man whose dread creates a fear storm. Produced by Shirley Vercruysse, Luc Dery and George Baptist, it stars Paulo Costanzo, Emily Hampshire and Camille Sullivan.

Mehta's The Republic Of Love, a Canada-UK coproduction, is a departure from her usual Indian cultural milieu. An adaptation of Carol Shields' novel - Shields died earlier this month - it stars Bruce Greenwood, Emilia Fox, Edward Fox and Claire Bloom and was produced by Toronto's Triptych Media and the UK's Dan Films. UK-based The Works is handling international sales while Seville Pictures will distribute in Canada.

The iconoclastic Maddin has not changed his colours. The Saddest Music In The World features Isabella Rossellini as beer baroness who mounts the title's competition in Depression-era Winnipeg. Inspired by a screenplay by UK novelist Kazuo Ishiguro, the film is produced by Toronto's Rhombus Media which will sell it internationally through Rhombus International.

Dying At Grace explores the lives and deaths of five terminally ill patients at a Toronto palliative care hospital.

2003 Perspective Canada features (including previously announced titles)

20H, 17, Rue Darling, dir. Bernard Emond
The Barbarian Invasions, dir. Denys Arcand
The Bread Maker, dir. Anita McGee
Dying At Grace, dir. Allan King
Emile, dir. Carl Bessai
Falling Angels, dir. Scott Smith
Gaz Bar Blues, dir. Louis Belanger
Hollywood North, dir. Peter O'Brian
Imitations Of Life, dir. Mike Hoolboom
Love, Sex, And Eating The Bones, dir. Sudz Sutherland
Nothing, dir. Vincenzo Natali
On The Corner, dir. Nathaniel Geary
A Problem With Fear, dir. Gary Burns
, dir. John Greyson
The Saddest Music In The World, dir. Guy Maddin
Twist, dir. Jacob Tierney

The Corporation, dir. Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbott
Flyerman, dir. Jeff Stephenson, Jason Tan
The Magical Life Of Long Tack Sam, dir. Ann Marie Fleming
Totem, dir. Gil Cardinal