Toronto: The Toronto film festival opens on Thursday with a schedule that reflects the economic gloom of the times with hard-hitting critiques on capitalism and apocalyptic visions of the end of humanity.
The glitz and glamour will be toned down and hundreds of parties and other events are expected to be less ostentatious than in past years, said festival co-director Cameron Bailey.
“The economic crisis that started around this time last year is reflected in the film festival. Like almost all art organizations, we were affected by the downturn,” he told AFP, bemoaning the “dip in sponsorship” for the event.
“There are more apocalyptic visions in this year’s line-up, more than we’ve seen in quite a while,” he noted.
Bailey pointed to such films as “The Road” adapted from Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer prize-winning book and starring Viggo Mortensen and Charlize Theron, who wake up one morning to find the world on the threshold of ruin.
Also playing is “Les Derniers Jours du Monde (Happy End)” an apocalyptic tale of people enjoying one last hurrah by French brothers Arnaud and Jean-Marie Larrieu.
Chris Smith’s documentary “Collapse” features reporter Michael Ruppert, a man who predicted the current financial crisis while Wall Street was still in denial.
President George W. Bush’s impending departure from the White House in 2008 was reflected in Toronto with a string of comedies -- a departure from the more earnest films about the war in Iraq and terrorism that had played in previous years.
But the laughter ended abruptly with the sudden collapse of the US subprime mortgage market and resulting global financial crisis.
Investment bank Lehman Brothers failed just as the 2008 film festival was coming to a close.
“In terms of the economy, there’s been a real crisis,” Bailey said. “It’s not just that money has been lost, but faith has been lost in the marketplace and we’ve seen a lot of successful businessmen go to jail.”
There is “uncertainty over the things that we invested our lives in and turned out not to be as solid as we might have hoped.”
The downturn is revisited in a number of films on Toronto’s roster, including Jason Reitman’s “Up in the Air,” starring George Clooney as a man who makes a living firing people, Derrick Borte’s “The Joneses” starring Demi Moore and David Duchovny, and Steven Soderbergh’s “The Informant,” featuring Matt Damon as a corporate whistleblower.
These films “look at the rot inside corporate America” and make a “very powerful and profound statement on the values of the marketplace and how it can really infiltrate and infect human relations,” Bailey said.
The filmmakers ask “what it means when you make money your primary value,” he added.
Twenty years after his searing indictment of corporate greed in “Roger and Me,” US filmmaker Michael Moore also presents his latest critique of capitalism at the 34th Toronto International Film Festival.
The festival is the biggest in North America and has traditionally been a key event for Oscar-conscious studios and distributors because it is attended by a sizable contingent of North American media.
Unlike the Cannes and Berlin festivals, Toronto does not award jury prizes. But moviegoers who bought more than 470,000 tickets for the event in 2008 awarded an audience prize for best motion picture to Danny Boyle’s “Slumdog Millionaire” which went on to be a runaway success at that year’s Oscars.
This year the festival, which runs until 19 September, will showcase 271 feature films and 64 shorts from 64 countries, including 95 world premieres.
The festival opens Thursday evening with Jon Amiel’s “Creation,” which tells the story of Charles Darwin’s work -- while married to a devout Christian -- on his seminal book “On the Origin of Species”.