The Toronto International Film Festival opened on Thursday with drama Fugitive Pieces telling a poetic tale that asks audiences to find hope even when faced with atrocities of war.
Over the next 10 days, the festival will bring out stars such as Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Jodi Foster to tout movies they hope will win critical praise, earn solid box office and launch campaigns for the Oscars.
But among the numerous red carpet premieres at the festival, organizers also promise serious personal, political and emotional dramas in many of the 275 feature films that will play to packed houses. Fugitive Pieces fits their bill.
The film, written and directed by Jeremy Podeswa, is based on a best-selling novel about a Holocaust survivor who, as a young boy, sees his family murdered. He grows into adulthood coping with their deaths and despite his emotional scars, he learns to show generosity and kindness to others.
"It demonstrates the best of what people are capable of, their boundless capacity for love, for generosity and self-sacrifice even in the most difficult of circumstances," Podeswa told audiences.
Organizers have touted the many serious-minded movies that will screen here -- back in August when the final lineup was unveiled, co-director Noah Cowan told Reuters: "it feels like the cinema is relevant again."
On opening night, animated French film Persepolis also told of people overcoming fear, hatred and murder to come to a greater understanding of themselves and of humanity.
The movie from writer/director Marjane Satrapi and co-director Vincent Paronnaud tells of a young girl growing up disillusioned with Iran's Islamic revolution.
In The Brave One, Jodie Foster plays a woman whose fiance is murdered by gang members, sending her on a vigilante-style killing spree. She finds some sense of relief, but much inner turmoil.
Director Nick Broomfield's Battle for Haditha, dramatizes the mass killing of 24 Iraqi civilians by U.S. Marines in 2005, and attempts to examine the forces that led to the horrific event -- lack of communication, lack of understanding and cultural differences, among numerous other elements.
"I thought what would be interesting is to take one incident and examine the anatomy of it as a way to understand the war ... not only from the Marine point of view, but also from the Iraqi point of view," Broomfield told Reuters.
Politics is thick in the air, too. Director Jonathan Demme offers his documentary of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Man from Plains.
Director Michael Moore has Captain Mike Across America, which takes audiences on a journey through the 2004 presidential election when his anti-Bush movie Fahrenheit 9/11 stirred political fires.