Toronto film festival to open with Canadian war drama

June 18th, 2008 - 10:44 am ICT by IANS  

By Gurmukh Singh
Toronto, June 18 (IANS) This year’s Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), which runs from Sep 4 to 13, will open with the Canadian film “Passchendaele”. Written, directed and produced by Paul Gross, “Passchendaele” stars Caroline Dhavernas, Gil Bellows and Joe Dinicol and Gross himself.

“It is rare that Canadians get to experience their own histories via the moving image, particularly on the big screen,” Piers Handling, director and CEO of the Toronto International Film Festival Group, said in a statement.

“We are honoured to open TIFF 2008 with a work as personal and passionate, as significant to both Canadian film and Canadian history as ‘Passchendaele’,” Handling added.

Cameron Bailey, co-director of the film festival, said: “Paul Gross is an inspiring Canadian and a leader in our industry.

“By paying tribute to our nation’s heroes, including his own grandfather, an Alberta veteran of Passchendaele, Gross uses the visceral charge of movies to contribute a foundation chapter to our national history. While never ignoring the horrifying truths of this or any war, ‘Passchendaele’ stands as truly epic storytelling from western Canada.”

“Passchendaele” is the story of a First World War soldier Michael Dunne (a sergeant played by Gross) who returns home to Calgary after being wounded - physically and emotionally - in action in France.

While in hospital, he falls in love with the beautiful and caring nurse Sarah (played by Dhavernas).

However, his life takes an interesting turn when his lover’s brother David (played by Dinicol) enlists to fight in Europe despite suffering from asthma.

Michael too returns to the battlefield to join thousands of Canadians in the third battle of Ypres - commonly known as Passchendaele.

Gross, whose grandfather fought in the First World War, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in an interview: “The inspiration for doing it at all was my grandfather, and it was something I’d wanted to do for years.”

He added: “My real interest in the war began with him, because he served there, and some elements of the story were his - pretty much everything except for the main romantic plot line. Almost everything was drawn from his diaries and narrative accounts from various soldiers.”

Much of the film has been shot in Calgary and on a Canadian forces base in Alberta whose provincial government contributed $5 million towards the completion of this $20 million war drama.

Interestingly, many films premiered at TIFF have gone to become major international hits.

This will be the 33rd edition of the film festival.

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