The 33rd edition of the Toronto International Film Festival, known as TIFF, kicked off on Sept. 4. Along with 312 short and feature-length films from 64 countries, the continent's largest film fest had over 500 people on the guest list.

The 33rd edition of the Toronto International Film Festival, known as TIFF, kicked off on Sept. 4. Along with 312 short and feature-length films from 64 countries, the continent's largest film fest had over 500 people on the guest list. It covered Paris Hilton to LeBron James, Anne Hathaway to Jeff Goldblum, Kevin Smith to Japanese critics' darling Hirokazu Kore-Eda.

Each has their own festival experience, and for those whose Toronto premiere comes with the promotion of a theatrical release, it sounds like an unusual one.

Asked how TIFF compares to other festivals, John Malkovich, there to promote three films, said, "That assumes you know something about the festival you're going to, and nothing could be further from the truth."

A star's festival time can be filled almost solely with a hotel room, a press conference, a premiere and after party and a tight rotation of roundtable grilling.

But while those guests are cloistered with swag bags and masseuse service, the movies invited to TIFF are shown around town, given a true royal treatment. Despite accusations from local press of selling out, the festival lived up to this year's slogan, "For the love of film."

For every movie accompanied by a studio junket, like Ghost Town or The Duchess, there are a handful of others with uncertain fates. Some may never break out of the festival circuit or make it to local multiplexes, including works by established directors who rolled the dice on independent production.

One is Danny Boyle, who found a buyer for his Slumdog Millionaire through screenings at TIFF and the Telluride Film Festival. As he told me, "Festivals have breathed life into us. That's a wonderful thing about festivals that should never be underestimated - they pick your baby up and say, 'You can walk,' and off they trot. It's amazing, really."

Hot tickets


"Religulous"

The premiere of a documentary aimed at demystifying religion by avowed skeptic Bill Maher and Borat director Larry Charles drew a small crowd of protesters with poster-board messages like "Pray for Bill," "Don't Mock My Religion" and "Make Peace Not Maher." Asked whether he expects an organized boycott when it opens in October, Maher said, "We can only hope."


"Slumdog Millionaire"

Danny Boyle's new film, which makes a great stew of Indian cinema, Dickens and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, lost its distributor with the recent closing of Warner Independent. By the start of TIFF, it had a newly inked deal with Fox Searchlight and a November release date; by the end, it also had the fest's People's Choice Award.


"The Wrestler"

Darren Aronofsky returns from outer space (The Fountain) with a big TIFF hit. Casting Mickey Rourke as an aging professional wrestler working American Legion halls, Aronofsky reportedly gives new career life to an actor once considered an heir apparent to Brando - before he became a punch line. Fox Searchlight quickly picked it up for a December rollout.


"More Than a Game"

For a student film project, Akron native Kris Belman followed a handful of high school basketball players known nationally for their teamwork and the skills of one particular player, LeBron James (shown here in 2003). Each of them gets his due in the doc, and they were in tears after the world-premiere screening, which had the audience eating out of Belman's hand. Distribution is TBA.

That's what he said

Brad Pitt on working with Angelina Jolie again in the future:

"Angie and I, we're working together every day. I can guarantee you that."

Ricky Gervais on playing a romantic lead in Ghost Town:

"I don't think anyone vomited, because there was no nudity on my part."

Jack White on being in the electric guitar doc It Might Get Loud with Jimmy Page:

"I thought that Jimmy was going to make a fantastic Batman, but then I found out it wasn't that kind of film."

To read more of Melissa Starker's adventures at the Toronto International Film Festival, click to her blog The Bad & The Beautiful at ColumbusAlive.com