Up for grabs at Toronto festival

Visitors to next week’s Toronto International Film Festival can take a break by visiting the city’s fantastic Hockey Hall of Fame. But there should be no shortage of elbowing, body checks and brawling in the festival’s theaters, where an unusually large number of high-profile movies will be fighting for distribution deals.

The Cannes and Sundance cinematic gatherings may attract more media attention as sales markets, but Toronto delivers a steady stream of significant deals for films financed outside the studio system; in the last few years Toronto has yielded distribution pacts for “The Hurt Locker,” “The Wrestler” and “The Visitor.”

At this year’s festival, running Sept. 8 to 18, buyers from the specialized film divisions such as Fox Searchlight, Sony Pictures Classics, Lionsgate and other distributors will be forced to sprint from screening to screening to judge the merits of at least two dozen new features.

The bidding has been turning more aggressive. In recent months, a number of these distributors have been buying up movies either sight unseen or in the earliest stages of production -- as was the case with the upcoming releases “The Wettest County in the World” (starring Shia LaBouef), Ron Howard’s race-car movie “Rush” and Ryan Gosling’s crime drama “Only God Forgives.”

In addition to the completed movies playing in the festival, buyers also will look at footage from unfinished productions, such as “Heroes of Nanking” (starring Christian Bale), “Predisposed” (with Jesse Eisenberg) and Stephen Frears’ “Lay the Favorite.”


“There are lots of good movies with a lot of good talent,” said John Flock, whose W2 Media will be in Toronto looking to buy domestic rights for his new distribution company. He believes the plethora of fresh features could drive down sales prices. “I don’t think it’s a great thing for the financiers and the filmmakers. But it will be good for the indie distributors.”

Here’s a look at some of Toronto’s more significant acquisition titles:


Logline: A set of global, interlocking stories about sexual relationships.

Plus: Strong cast (Rachel Weisz, Jude Law and Anthony Hopkins) under the tutelage of director Fernando Mereilles (“The Constant Gardener”) makes for a compelling hook.

Minus: Interwoven stories (“21 Grams”) can fall flat.

Sales agent: UTA


Logline: Actor John Barrymore (Christopher Plummer) revives his 1920 Broadway role in “Richard III.”

Plus: Role brought Plummer a Tony on Broadway.

Minus: Perhaps a bit too theatrical for a film.

Sales agent: Film Sales Co.

“The Brooklyn Brothers Beat the Best”

Logline: Two musicians give their music career one last try.

Plus: Romances set against clubs (“Once”) can sing a happy tune.

Minus: If the music isn’t good, movie might not be.

Sales agent: ICM

“Dark Horse”

Logline: A dark comedy about a man-child still living at home whose romantic forays go badly.

Plus: Director Todd Solondz (“Happiness”) tackles middle-class malaise in a story that could be less misanthropic than his other movies.

Minus: The director still has a keen ability to offend.

Sales agent: Goldcrest Films

“Friends With Kids”

Logline: A circle of married and single friends begins to unravel when some couples start having children.

Plus: Jennifer Westfeldt’s (“Kissing Jessica Stein”) directorial debut features a strong ensemble cast, including partner Jon Hamm.

Minus: Premise has more potential for platitudes than actual insight.

Sales agent: Cinetic Media


Logline: A black-and-white look at Brazilian soccer star Heleno de Freitas.

Plus: The world loves soccer, and we need a good movie about the sport.

Minus: May not be the next “Bend It Like Beckham.”

Sales agent: ICM

“The Hunter”

Logline: A mercenary (Willem Dafoe) is dispatched to the wilderness by a mysterious biotech company to search for the last surviving Tasmanian tiger.

Plus: A thriller with environmental implications, Dafoe’s performance could make it a standout.

Minus: Needs to reach well beyond the Greenpeace crowd.

Sales agent: UTA


Logline: Psychological drama starring Clive Owen as a helpless father trying to protect his daughter from a faceless intruder.

Plus: Filmmaker Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (“28 Weeks Later”) is known for his edgy take on human emotions.

Minus: The horror genre is a bit bloated lately.

Sales agent: UTA

“Killer Joe”

Logline: Emile Hirsch plots to kill his mother, with the assistance of a hit man (Matthew McConaughey).

Plus: Good black comedies -- “Fargo,” “Bad Santa” -- can deliver.

Minus: Director William Friedkin (“Bug,” “The Hunted”) not exactly hot.

Sales agent: CAA

“Lovely Molly”

Logline: A newlywed revisits her family home, and the memories aren’t at all pleasant.

Plus: From writer-director Eduardo Sanchez, part of the “Blair Witch Project” team.

Minus: From writer-director Eduardo Sanchez, part of the “Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2" team.

Sales agent: WME

“The Oranges”

Logline: An older man (Hugh Laurie) has an affair with a neighbor’s young daughter (Leighton Meester).

Plus: Director Julian Farino (“The Office,” “Big Love,” “Entourage”) has solid TV credits.

Minus: Even with comic spin, potential “Lolita” squeamishness.

Sales agent: CAA

“Peace, Love and Misunderstanding”

Logline: A divorcing Manhattan lawyer (Catherine Keener) takes her kids to visit their hippie grandmother (Jane Fonda).

Plus: Potentially great concept and casting.

Minus: Director Bruce Beresford (“Driving Miss Daisy”) needs a hit.

Sales agent: CAA


Logline: Woody Harrelson plays a crooked cop in a story based on one of Los Angeles’ most notorious police scandals.

Plus: Script from James Ellroy (“L.A. Confidential), with writer-director Oren Moverman (“The Messenger”) behind the camera.

Minus: If you like your law enforcement heroic, not for you.

Sales agent: WME

“Salmon Fishing in the Yemen”

Logline: A scientist (Ewan McGregor) introduces salmon fishing to Yemen highlands.

Plus: Well-pedigreed cast (McGregor and Emily Blunt) and director (Lasse Hallstrom).

Minus: Could be an Arabic “River Runs Through It.”

Sales agent: UTA


Logline: A man struggles with his sexual compulsions and the self-destructive behavior of his sister.

Plus: Cast anchored by rising leading man Michael Fassbender and indie darling Carey Mulligan.

Minus: Film could be rated NC-17.

Sales agent: Hanway Films/CAA

“Take this Waltz”

Logline: A married woman (Michelle Williams) struggles to choose between her husband (Seth Rogen) and a man she’s just met.

Plus: Festival darling Sarah Polley (“Away From Her”) makes her directorial return with a high-profile cast.

Minus: With Rogen and Sarah Silverman taking on more dramatic roles, the performances will be closely watched.

Sales agent: TF1


Logline: Francis Ford Coppola’s 3-D tale of a burned-out mystery writer who, years after losing a daughter, visits a small town on a book tour and gets mixed up in a mysterious death of a young girl.

Plus: Coppola fans may be fascinated with the legendary director’s personal connection to the story. (His son Gian-Carlo died in a boating accident in 1986.)

Minus: The 3-D aspects may feel gimmicky.

Sales agent: Hirsch Wallerstein


Logline: Drama about the life of Winnie Mandela (Jennifer Hudson), the wife of Nelson Mandela (Terrence Howard).

Plus: Could be awards-worthy.

Minus: If it’s really a warts-and-all portrait, a complicated story.

Sales agent: CAA

“Your Sister’s Sister”

Logline: Still grieving the death of his brother, a man (Mark Duplass) hooks up with his sister-in-law’s sister (Rosemarie DeWitt), and then the sister-in-law (Emily Blunt) shows up.

Plus: Strong indie cast could be appealing if well-executed.

Minus: Has the potential to fall into the sometimes tedious “mumblecore” movement.

Sales agent: UTA