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Swift, Spielberg add star power in Toronto

After two years of toned-down festivities, the Toronto International Film Festival returns with full-capacity theatres and more than 200 feature films aiming to make a mark in Hollywood’s awards race.

Oprah Winfrey, Taylor Swift, Steven Spielberg and Lee Jung-jae are among the stars slated to appear on red carpets. Tickets for screenings, which unlike other major film festivals are open to the general public, sold out in minutes.

Several films will have their world premieres at the 11-day festival, a launching pad for Oscar contenders known as TIFF.

“A lot of the movies that you see at TIFF are the movies that will be talked about all through Oscar season and over the many months to come,” said Christian Blauvelt, executive managing editor of IndieWire.

Viola Davis stars in The Woman King, the story of Agojie, the real-life 18th century all-women unit of warriors from the West African kingdom of Dahomey.

“This is the role that she’s (Viola) been looking for her whole career,” Blauvelt said. “It’s such a unique thing. Fictionalised versions of this have appeared in the past, like Black Panther, but this is the real story.”

Spielberg’s semi-autobiographical film The Fabelmans will also debut in Toronto, alongside the musical biopic Weird: The Al Yankovic Story, featuring Daniel Radcliffe as the musician.

Sequel Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, starring Daniel Craig, is expected to draw crowds despite Craig’s absence from the premiere.

Swift will appear to talk about her 10-minute music video All Too Well: A Short Film. Tickets to the event sold out in minutes, with some being re-sold online for $A3400.

Festival opener The Swimmers, directed by Sally El Hosaini, traces the journey of Yusra and Sara Mardani from war-torn Damascus to Germany, and later, to the 2016 Rio Olympics.

After two years of COVID closures, Toronto’s hospitality industry is ready to welcome people back. The festival held largely online viewings in 2020 at the height of the pandemic and last year offered a mix of online and limited in-person screenings.

“It’s not only the first time that TIFF is back after a two-year hiatus, it’s also the first time in two years that the summer is coming to an end and the hospitality industry is still open,” said Jeffrey Feldman, public relations and events director at Marbl Group.

“We’re a city that’s growing and bustling and we are built to entertain and to welcome the world.”

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