TORONTO (AFP, REUTERS) - Organisers of the annual Toronto International Film Festival unveiled on Tuesday an ambitious lineup leading off with psychological drama Demolition by Canadian director Jean-Marc Vallee.
The festival, a frequent launch pad for Oscar contenders, announced some 50 of the hundreds of films it will showcase between Sept 10 and 20.
It will kick off with Demolition, which follows the unravelling of a successful investment banker played by Jake Gyllenhaal after the death of his wife. It is the latest from Vallee, who won wide acclaim with his Dallas Buyers Club.
Other movies making their world premieres include Ridley Scott's The Martian, starring Matt Damon, and Stephen Frears' The Program, with Ben Foster and Dustin Hoffman, which tracks the rise and fall of Lance Armstrong.
Making his return to screen after more than five years is Oscar-winning documentary director Michael Moore with Where To Invade Next. Peter Sollett's "Freeheld", starring Julianne Moore and Ellen Page, is based on the true story of a lesbian couple's struggle for equal rights after one is diagnosed with cancer and wishes to leave her pension to her partner.
Organisers said they have tweaked last year's controversial format of excluding films during Toronto's high-profile opening weekend that have already been screened at the more intimate, industry-focused Telluride festival.
This year the limitation is that films shown at the three red-carpet venues during the first four days must be world or North American premieres. This allows moviegoers to catch buzzy films already shown elsewhere at other venues during the opening days.
"We've been consulting with filmmakers and film companies over the last several months," said artistic director Cameron Bailey. "We've come up with what we think is the best approach, and everyone that we've talked to in the film community has been happy with it."
The Toronto event, ranked among the world's top film festivals, has grown dramatically from its launch in 1976, when some 80 films screened in five theaters. It was Canada's only major film festival then. Today, some 350 films are showcased in more than 25 theatres.
The festival's top prize, the People's Choice Award, is voted on by
festival attendees. The 1999 winner, American Beauty, was the first to eventually win a Best Picture Oscar, and helped the festival generate greater attention. Six of the last seven audience favourites became Best Picture nominees or winners, including Slumdog Millionaire, The King's Speech and 12 Years A Slave.