Toronto Film Fest 2007: Cronenberg's Eastern Promises and Wright's Atonement Highlights

September 12, 2007–Among the artistic highlights of the 32nd edition of the Toronto Film Festival are Joe Wright's literary adaptation, “Atonement,” and David Cronenberg's Russian Mafia gangster film, “Eastern Promises.” Both films are released by Focus Feature, which has a strong lineup this fall.

“Toronto is everything you dreamed a glamorous European film festival would be when you were growing up,” said Brit helmer Joe Wright, whose “Atonement” is garnering strong awards buzz following acclaimed bows at both Venice and Toronto.

Acclaim also came from Canadian helmer David Cronenberg, whose “Eastern Promises” wowed audiences with its take on Russian mobsters in London. The piturec is the first the helmer has shot entirely outside of Canada. “I feel like I've come full circle,” Cronenberg said.

“The festival and I have grown up together. We both started in relative obscurity and have both grown to achieve some measure of international reputation,” Cronenberg continued. “It can be frustrating for those used to the rules and regulations of Cannes, but most buyers and sellers are creative people, too. The lack of formality can be an advantage.”

Another vet, Canadian producer-distributor Robert Lantos, 10 of whose pictures have opened the festival dating back to its beginnings, in 1976, isn't quite as upbeat.

“Toronto used to be a place for discoveries,” he said. “The idea of a festival is to shine a light on dark nooks and crannies. But that model plays out less and less each year as movie stars come in with their private jets to do their junkets.”

Both “Atonement” and “Eastern Promises” are being released in the U.S. by Focus Features, whose fall lineup also includes Ang Lee's Golden Lion winner “Lust, Caution” and Terry George's “Reservation Road,” all plying at Toronto in Gala presentations.

“It is almost at the levels that human endurance can sustain right now in terms of the number of festivals, but I don't think Toronto is suffering,” Focus co-topper James Schamus said. “The festival is in its full maturity, and they're managing their size pretty well. As for us right now, shoot me if I don't tell you I'm ridiculously happy.”