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The whole ‘Band,’ including fans and celebs, will return to Toronto for 44th film festival

If it’s (almost) September, it must be time for that easy drive up I-90 to the QEW on the road that always leads to another Toronto International Film Festival.
Credit: TIFF
Robbie Robertson and The Band, 1994 inductees into the Rock and Roll of Fame, are the subjects of TIFF’s Opening Night world premiere film.

TORONTO, ON — This year’s 44th annual edition starts next Thursday (Sept 5.) with the Opening Night Gala, featuring the world premiere of “Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band,” a detailed look at the rock ‘n’ roll hall of famers.

As directed by Daniel Roher (“Ghosts of Our Forest”), the documentary is inspired by Robertson’s 2016 memoir, “Testimony,” and mixes the group’s music, archival footage and interviews with many of the “Band” leader’s collaborators, including the likes of Martin Scorsese, Bruce Springsteen, Van Morrison, Eric Clapton and many others.

“I’m so tremendously honored that the premiere of (our film) will be the opening movie at TIFF this year in my hometown of Toronto, Ontario, Canada,” Robertson said in a festival release.

The hometown hero’s movie will be the first of 245 features (132 of which are world premieres) and 82 shorts sprinkled in with some other things during the 10-day festival extravaganza that generally serves as a signpost to awards season.

In fact, last year’s TIFF helped introduce audiences to major Academy Award winners “Green Book” (Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor Mahershala Ali); “Roma” (Best Foreign Language Film, Best Cinematography and Best Director Alfonso Cuaron); “If Beale Street Could Talk” (Best Supporting Actress Regina King); “Free Solo“ (Best Documentary); and huge fan favorite “A Star Is Born” (Best Original Song “Shallow,” co-written by the singing “star” herself, Lady Gaga).

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The talented Miss G was one of many actors on hand with their TIFF films a year ago, and the 2019 lineup looks equally stunning. Names and faces belonging to Tom Hanks (“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”), Meryl Streep (“The Laundromat”), Dakota Johnson (“The Friend”), Daniel Radcliffe (“Guns Akimbo”), Jennifer Lopez (“Hustlers”), Nicole Kidman (“The Goldfinch”), Eddie Murphy (“Dolemite Is My Name”), Daniel Craig (“Knives Out”), Kerry Washington (“American Son”) and Natalie Portman (“Lucy in the Sky”), to name just a prominent few, will be there to strut their stuff on and off the screen.

Of course, so will movie fans from all over the world, with many likely traipsing up and down TIFF’s now famous “Festival Street,” which takes the film experience from inside the theater outside into an old-fashioned block party and some new-fangled flair.

That’s where the thoroughfare usually called King Street is transformed into a world of interactive festival-related displays, special performances, patios, food trucks and even free movies during the first four days of TIFF, Sept. 5-8.

Check back here early next week for more on festival doings, just before we leave for our own annual 10-day adventure to what becomes “Hollywood North” this time every year. Until then, you can check out tiff.net to find out what else might be going on and certainly playing there.


Look for John M. Urbancich's ratings on recent releases at JMUvies.com.