Entertainment News

  • 5 September 2014, 11:59

Awards-Seeking Films Head For Toronto Festival

Robert Downey Jr's film The Judge has kicked off this year's Toronto Film Festival which is due to attract dozens of Hollywood stars.

The film, which was produced by his pregnant wife Susan Downey, stars Robert Duvall and Vera Farmiga.

It tells the tale of a lawyer who returns to his hometown to defend his father, the town judge, who is charged with murder.

The cast were photographed on the red carpet on Thursday where the actor and his wife said they were honoured to learn they would open the festival.

Al Pacino's film The Humbling was also shown on the first day of the event which closes on September 14.

Toronto's event has been criticised this year over new rules meant to cement its reputation as an Oscar king-maker.

Over the next four days, organisers will for the first time showcase only world premieres, including from directors Noah Baumbach, Susanne Bier, Francois Ozon, Lone Scherfig and Chris Rock.

The new policy was put in place as festivals compete to land more buzz-creating film debuts, explained the Toronto event's co-director Piers Handling.

"There's a lot more focus on film festivals and a lot more prominence," Handling said.

"It doesn't affect the selection of the films at all - it only affects the scheduling."

Critics however accuse Toronto organisers of using their considerable clout to lure high-profile films, to the detriment of smaller events like the Telluride festival in the US state of Colorado.

Several films that were said to have premiered in Toronto in recent years went on to win a best picture Oscar, including 12 Years A Slave, Argo, The Artist, The King's Speech, and Slumdog Millionaire.

But those films had all first quietly screened to film industry crowds at Telluride.

Many eyes are on British actor Benedict Cumberbatch, who stars as codebreaker Alan Turing in The Imitation Game.

He appeared in Toronto in three films last year: The Fifth Estate, August: Osage County, and 12 Years A Slave, but was overlooked at awards time.

Insiders said this could be his year.

Reese Witherspoon is expected to kick off a big year with two films in Toronto: The Good Lie about an American woman who takes in a Sudanese refugee, and Wild, the film adaptation of Cheryl Strayed's best-selling memoir.

James Gandolfini will make a posthumous return to the big screen in the gangland tale The Drop, shot just before his death in June 2013.

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