So, it was sometimes difficult to get into screenings, itwas impossible to see everything you wanted and Vera Drake was nowhere to be seen. Journalists always like tohave some complaints but in truth the 2004 edition of the Toronto InternationalFilm Festival left little to grumble about.

Quantity was matched by quality at an event that is stillmore organised than Venice, more friendly than Cannes and less feverish thanSundance.

Given the 328 titles on offer, it is unlikely that any twopeople experienced exactly the same Festival. One person's buzz titleremained another's unseen gem.

Unanimity was rare unless you happened to mention AlexanderPayne. Ask anyone what they had seen and really liked and Payne's sublimeSideways was always the first title theymentioned. Critics wrote love letters expressing their infatuation with itswit, wisdom, performances and acute, bittersweet understanding of the humancondition.

Will Paul Giamatti secure the Oscar nomination he deserves'Could Payne be a Billy Wilder for the 21st century' We'll all raise aglass of some full-bodied vintage to that.

Largely on the basis of American Beauty, Toronto has built a reputation as a successfullaunch pad for future Oscar glory - a reputation that hasn't alwaysrung true.

That may well change this year as it served up a successionof serious Oscar contenders from Sidewaysto Annette Bening's sparkling star turn in Festival opener BeingJulia, Jamie Foxx's immaculateimpersonation of Ray Charles in the epic biopic Ray, the ensemble cast and screenplay of BillCondon's Kinsey and JavierBardem who brought everyone to tears with the humour and humanity of hisperformance in The Sea Within (Mar Adentro), Alejandro Amenabar's mature, measured drama ofa quadriplegic man fighting for the right to end his own life. TheSea Within could well create somedifficulties for the Spanish foreign-language Oscar contender selectioncommittee who also have to measure the claims of Pedro Almodovar's BadEducation (La Mala Educacion).

Sony Pictures Classic co-chief Michael Barker used Torontoto speak out about the improving prospects for foreign-language movies in theAmerican market and there were a huge number of titles of artistic merit andcommercial potential that ranged from Oliver Hirschbiegel's Downfall(Der Untergang) on the last days of Hitlerto Susanne Bier's Brothers (Brodre), Jan Hrebejk's Up And Down (Horem Padem) and Lukas Moodysson's A Hole In TheHeart, a deeply disturbing journey into thedark heart of humanity that polarised opinions but was undoubtedly one of theFestival's talking points.

Often the poor relative at the family gathering of worldcinema, Canada provided a potential crowd-pleaser in the uplifting SaintRalph, inevitably dubbed Canada's BillyElliott.

Anyone seeking the themes that might impose some unity onsuch a diverse programme would have to note that human sexuality continues tofascinate filmmakers, particularly at a time when puritanical attitudes seem tobe regaining ground in America. Everything from Catherine Breillat's AnatomyOf Hell to John Waters puerile schoolboysatire A Dirty Shame challengedthe prudes and hypocrites.

Inevitably, it is recent global conflict that continues toinfluence many filmmakers. Sally Potter revealed that her blank verse romance Yeswas intended as a positive rejoinder to thewaves of anti-Islamic and anti-US hatred in the world. SaverioConstanzo's Privateaddressed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Bruce Weber's documentary ALetter To True was conceived in the shadowsof personal loss and global tragedy.

Everywhere you looked at Toronto there was evidence of theway 9/11 has changed the world, profoundly influencing the films people want tomake and that audiences hope to see.