And if movie stars are your thing, you can always catch an actor or actress strolling around the festival’s main arena, the intersection of Yonge and Avenue Road/University Avenue. Head for the Four Seasons Hotel in the Yorkville shopping/tourist district for primary sightings of celebs, but by and large they are everywhere. And call it a night at the Bistro 990 on Bay Street, across from the Sutton Place Hotel. Lots of festival goers, media types, and directors, producers, and stars settle in at the Bistro late night. Most of the public showings have question and answer sessions with the stars and director, or at the very least, they are introduced before the movie begins.

This year, the film festival will screen 336 films from 55 countries, including 252 features. Nearly 75% are world and North American premieres. 60% of the features are screened in a language other than English, and 66 features are directorial debuts, including the Closing Night Gala Presentation, director Jeff Balsmeyer’s Danny Deckchair. The opening night film is famed Canadian moviemaker Denys Arcand’s Les Invasions Barbares, a prizewinner at Cannes.

Also on tap are Robert Altman’s newest, The Company, as well as Dogville, another controversial entry at Cannes. A brief list of movies includes Colin Firth and Tom Wilkinson in Girl With A Pearl Earring, Jack Black and Joan Cusack in Richard Linklater’s The School Of Rock, Marco Bellocchio’s Good Morning, Night from Italy, and Nathalie from France, with Fanny Ardant, Emmanuelle Béart, and Gérard Depardieu. Other movies include Bruno Dumont’s Twentynine Palms, the much talked-about Shattered Glass, about the New Republic’s celebrated plagiarist, Easy by Jane Weinstock, and John Sayles’ Casa De Los Babys. There will be films by famed directors such as João César Monteiro, Rituparno Ghosh, Takeshi Kitano, Michael Haneke, and Gus Van Sant, who will be showing his Cannes Film Festival grand prize winner, Elephant. The National Cinema spotlight shines on New Brazilian Cinema and the Director’s Spotlight highlights films from Turkey. Other highlights include Crimson Gold by Jafar Panahi, James’ Journey To Jerusalem by Ra'anan Alexandrowicz, Kitchen Stories by Bent Hamer, and Osama by Siddiq Barmak.

One of the most popular festival events is Dialogues: Talking With Pictures, which sees some quite famous people showing and talking about their favorite movie or a special work of theirs. This year director Jane Campion presents and discusses Nicolas Roeg’s Bad Timing. Director Hector Babenco presents Eduardo Coutinho’s Twenty Years Later. Filmmaker Margarethe von Trotta presents Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru. Gary Burns presents Robert Altman’s Nashville. Legendary director Francis Ford Coppola presents and talks about his own rarely-seen One From The Heart, and Sir Ridley Scott presents the Director’s Cut of his Alien, with never before seen footage.

And, while her father is showing one of his past films, daughter Sofia Coppola will screen her new directing effort, Lost In Translation. Other actors with films include Keith Gordon with The Singing Detective, Scott Caan with Dallas 362, and Charles Martin Smith with The Snow Walker.

And yes folks, it’s coming. Generally viewed as one of the worst movies ever made or, at the very least, the worst movie many people have ever seen, the scandal of scandals of the Cannes Film Festival will screen at Toronto. Scheduled near the end of the festival, Vincent Gallo’s The Brown Bunny will unreel and definitely demand discussion, asking the question: can a scrawny guy from Buffalo continue to alienate most of the movie-going world’s most important players? The much-talked about and much-maligned film is about, according to an understanding of its basic story line, one guy’s tragic loss of the love of his life.

In The Brown Bunny, Gallo directs and plays a motorcycle racer who journeys from New Hampshire to California. Everyday, he’s haunted by memories of the last time he saw his true love. He wants to make these memories disappear. As he motors across America, with the camera firmly planted in the front seat, he tries to find a new love, and makes outrageous requests of women to come with him on his trip. He might not be able to replace Daisy, the only girl to whom he’s ever been completely devoted, and quite possibly the only girl he will ever love, but he sure is going to try. Daisy is played by Chloe Sevigny, who, in the film’s climactic moment, performs fellatio on Gallo, an act which divided the Cannes audience like few movies ever had. They were already booing at the long static shots and endless dusty road scenes, during which screenwriter Gallo talks and talks and talks. Sevigny’s sex act, and supposedly Gallo’s arrogance, really riled up the masses. Needless to say, it will be the most talked-about movie at Toronto and one that will sell out the instant tickets go on sale.

Visit the Festival's Official website at bell.ca/filmfest or call the Bell Infoline at 416-968-FILM. The Festival Box Office is located at College Park, Market Level, 444 Yonge Street. Day-of-show tickets are available at the theater where the film is unreeling. By Michael Calleri ALT Movie Editor

As Labor Day fades into memory and kids head back to school, North America’s biggest film festival gets under way up in Toronto. While nothing can alter the importance of the Cannes Film Festival every May in France, Toronto’s Film Festival really is the next best thing to being there – Cannes, I mean.

As always, the good news is that newcomers to the festival or folks lolling around metropolitan Buffalo shouldn’t feel as if the Toronto International Film Festival is some sort of closed affair. This year’s cinematic extravaganza runs from Thursday, September 4 through Saturday, September 13. If you’re one of those people who enjoy just driving up to Toronto for the day and hoping to catch a movie or two, you will always be able to see something. Even without a day pass, or an evening pass, or a special festival pass, or even without one of those Gold Patrons IDs; there are plenty of films available to enjoy, often seen by purchasing Rush Tickets the day of the screening. You can also simply walk up to the box office of one of the participating cinemas and buy a ticket or two for a showing that isn’t sold out.