Film pilgrimage

Never mind the obvious benefits of visiting Toronto. With 328 films, 206 premieres, 148 foreign-language screenings and 60 countries represented, the Toronto International Film Festival offers just about everything that a cinema buff could ask for.

It’s obvious why the event, now in its 29th season, has earned its status as the world’s most significant fall film festival — presenting buzz flicks and touting premieres at the sound of the awards season’s starting bell. Featuring 16 programs — including documentary, contemporary world cinema and galas (premieres with star actors and directors) — the festival pays equal homage to big names and obscure two-minute shorts. That’s why industry insiders have crowned the festival as the best for shopping new movies.

Martin Bandyke, music director and popular show host for Detroit’s WDET-FM (101.9), says he considers himself lucky to have been able to attend and cover the festival for the last 20 years.

“It’s now second only to Cannes in terms of importance,” says Bandyke.

Toronto’s chic reputation as a clean and contemporary city with great restaurants makes the festival a fave among the stars as well. This year the city is bustling with the likes of Dustin Hoffman, Nick Nolte, Annette Bening and Laura Linney. As the stars stroll around town it adds a touch of glamour to the festival’s nine-day run.

Many of the films shown in Toronto will continue to run the circuit of festivals worldwide to woo distributors or larger movie houses. Some will make it to a theater near you, and some won’t. Here are a few of Toronto’s buzz-films for this year, films to look out for that will likely turn up in Detroit theaters:

Enduring Love Perhaps the best feature in the festival, this film, directed by Roger Michell (Notting Hill, Changing Lanes), is an adaptation of a short story by Ian McEwan. It has possibly the most compelling opening scene ever, as a couple played by Daniel Craig and Samantha Morton settle themselves on an English countryside hill to enjoy a quaint picnic that gets disrupted by a runaway hot air balloon. Where the story goes from there is a fantastic journey that will wreak havoc on your emotions and leave you exhausted but grateful.

Beyond the Sea Directed by and starring Kevin Spacey, it’s a colorful, big-budget biopic on the life of Bobby Darin, a singer and performer who made hits such as “Mack the Knife,” “Splish Splash” and the movie’s title tune. Spacey is dazzling, as is his co-star, Kate Bosworth, who plays Darin’s wife, Sandra Dee, in this nostalgic look at the late ’50s music and nightclub scene. You can’t help but snap your fingers and tap your feet during the film’s songs; the performances are electrifying. Darin was a talented and important figure in our music history; and Spacey, who sings the parts, lives up to his billing.

I ♥ Huckabees A film by David Russell (Spanking the Monkey, Flirting with Disaster), it stars Jason Schwartzman as a man looking to attach cosmic significance to his life by enlisting the help of Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin, a husband and wife team of existential detectives. The film is laugh-out-loud outlandish, Russell’s best film to date.

Kinsey Directed by Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters), this biopic about Alfred Kinsey explores the life of a man who sparked a sexual revolution in the 1940s by publishing his scientific study of sex, blasting away the rigid moral code that surrounded the taboo subject up to that point. The flick is hilarious and insightful, starring Liam Neeson, Laura Linney and Peter Sarsgaard.

Other hot titles to check out if you can: Ray, a biopic of Ray Charles, starring Jamie Foxx; p.s., starring Laura Linney and Gabriel Byrne; The Woodsman, starring Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick; Three of Hearts: a Postmodern Family, a documentary about an alternative threesome — two men and a woman — and their complicated journey as they begin having children.

The festival runs through Sept. 18. If you are interested in making the four- to five-hour drive east for the final weekend, check out the festival site at for screening tickets. You can also check film synopses and reviews online. You could wait till you get to Toronto to check the schedule and buy tickets, but taking care of this stuff ahead of time is recommended as the lines at the box office can get menacing.

Wear comfortable shoes, exchange your money at the border and polish up your Canadian accent, eh? It’s a fantastic, unforgettable time.

Kerry Burke is a freelance film writer for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]