Toronto Film Fest Welcomes Tourists

Stars set to attend this year include Annette Bening, Al Pacino, Claire Danes, Joseph Fiennes and Colin Firth.

Helen Hunt's A Good Woman, based on Oscar Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan, debuts at the festival. Brazilian director Salles brings to Toronto The Motorcycle Diaries, a film about Che Guevara's youthful adventures.

Everyone’s a Critic

If you've ever wondered how movies get selected for distribution, here's your chance to get involved. The festival maximizes audience participation as the guests vote for the top film.

Unlike Cannes or the Venice Film Festival, Toronto is not competitive — the only award comes from the audience. Organizers place ballots in the theaters and invite visitors to cast a vote for the People's Choice Award.

And that impact is not to be underestimated.

The New Zealand drama Whale Rider got a lot of notice in Toronto in 2002, and its young star, Keisha Castle-Hughes, went on to become the youngest actor ever nominated for a best actress Oscar. "The audiences raved about it, went crazy, gave it the audience award, and then the film picked up a distributor and it became a big hit," said Alexander.

Both experienced and emerging filmmakers will be accessible to the audiences. "With every film that has a director [present] we have an interaction. Often talent will come and introduce the film along with the director of the film," said Alexander.

New York director Alice Wu is anxious to see how audiences will receive her first feature Saving Face, which depicts a lesbian Chinese-American whose life is disrupted when her widowed, and pregnant mother moves in to her apartment.

"As a filmmaker you dream of having an audience full of people," said Wu. "This one will give us a much better idea of how this will play."

For film buffs, that proximity is a rare opportunity to talk with a director who may have been waiting years for the chance to see their work shown in such a high-profile setting.

"I'm sure that I'll be sitting on the edge of my seat — probably getting ready to puke, [but] hopefully not during the introduction or the Q and A," joked Wu.

While the festival certainly brings its share of nerves for some, its still a great way for fans to experience movies and feel more involved in the process of determining who might become the next big star.

If you go …

You can get more information online from: Toronto International Film Festival: http://www.e.bell.ca/filmfest/2004/default.asp Tourism Toronto: http://www.torontotourism.com

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