Playback does some early speculation on TIFF's opening night film

It may still feel like it's a long way away (too long, to my film-hungry eyes), but the opening night gala for this year's Toronto International Film Festival is already being talked about over at Playback magazine. The profile on the potential contenders this year is higher than usual, with Canadian filmmaking superstars weighing their merits with some of the most anticipated home-grown flicks in years.

The field is superb: David Cronenberg, Denys Arcand, and Jeremy Podeswa have feature films that could potentially lead the fest, while Roger Spottiswoode's profile of Romeo Dallaire - Shake Hands With the Devil - will also be ready in time for TIFF.

Playback picks the lead contender as Alliance Atlantis' Silk, directed by Francois Girard and starring Keira Knightley, who is about to become turbo-hot yet again this summer with the imminent release of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End and Atonement. TIFFgoers love the glam, and bagging Knightley for the red carpet would certainly bring some bling.

My money's on Arcand, however. His Les Invasions Barbares was a sensation at the fest four years ago, opening the 2003 programme. It's also one of the best (and highest-acclaimed) Canadian films of the past decade. He returns to the movie theatres with L'Age des tenebres, which is already participating in Cannes and looks like a shoe-in for a high-profile Canadian premiere at TIFF.

I wouldn't count David Cronenberg out either, who is also coming off a hot international success with A History of Violence - you know, that movie about how Americans are screwed up about violence (which therefore could only have been made in Canada). Cronenberg is prepping a thriller, Eastern Promises, which could easily contend for the premiere slot. Like Violence, Promises stars former Ringer Viggo Mortensen, as well as Konger Naomi Watts, both of whom would make for a glitzy red carpet walk.

Jeremy Podeswa's Fugitive Pieces, based on the Anne Michaels novel, is lacking in star wattage (creepy bad guy Rade Serbedzija and former Bond girl Rosamund Pike are the headliners), but Podeswa is popular among Toronto's filmmaking elite, and the novel was a hit, which promises visibility.

Regardless of which way they go, the festival programmers need to make a good move here, and not repeat last year's disappointing Knud Rasmussen premiere. With so much Canadian talent on the go in time for this year's show, a misfire would really sting.

Photo: IMDB.

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