Toronto Film Festival kicks off with The Band, Iannucci

(AP) — The 44th Toronto International Film Festival kicked off Thursday with a documentary celebration of Canada’s own The Band and the premiere of Armando Iannucci’s adaptation of “David Copperfield.”

The start of North America’s largest film festival heralds the beginning of the fall movie season and the coming Oscar race. It’s a condensed awards season this year due to an earlier Academy Awards ceremony, adding a little more pressure on films to make a strong impression right out of the gate at Toronto.

Among the films on tap at this year’s TIFF are the Mr. Rogers drama “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” with Tom Hanks, the Jennifer Lopez stripper revenge tale “Hustlers,” Eddie Murphy’s Netflix film “Dolemite Is My Name,” the Christian Bale-Matt Damon auto-racing tale “Ford v Ferrari,” the legal drama “Just Mercy,” with Michael B. Jordan, and “Judy,” with Renée Zellweger as Judy Garland.


Officially opening the festival Thursday night was “Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band,” a documentary based on Robertson’s 2016 memoir “Testify.” Playing later in the evening, too, was Martin Scorsese’s 1978 classic concert film on The Band’s final show, “The Last Waltz.”

Scorsese, old friends with Robertson, attended the premiere of “Once Were Brothers.” Robertson has frequently composed music for Scorsese’s films, including his latest, “The Irishman.” (That film will debut at the New York Film Festival later this month .)

Also debuting Thursday was Iannucci’s Dickens adaptation “The Personal History of David Copperfield,” starring Dev Patel. It’s the latest film from the “Veep” creator and writer-director the 2017 satire “The Death of Stalin.”

Heading into the festival, both films had been up for sale. But before the curtain went up, both had been sold. That’s a potentially promising start to what is one of the most frenetic movie markets. Late last month, Fox Searchlight acquired “The Personal History of David Copperfield,” with plans to release it next year. Magnolia Pictures picked up “Once Were Brothers” on Thursday.

The acquisitions continued Thursday with IFC Films taking North American distribution rights to “True History of the Kelly Gang” by director Justin Kurzel (“Macbeth,” ″Assassin’s Creed”). The film is adapted from Peter Carey’s Booker Prize-winning novel and stars Russell Crowe, Nicholas Hoult, Charlie Hunnam, Essie Davis and George MacKay.

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