Toronto Film Fest 2008: Passchendaele Is Opening Night

June 18, 2008–The 33rd Toronto International Film Festival opens September 4 with the world premiere of “Passchendaele,” written, directed and produced by celebrated Canadian filmmaker Paul Gross.

Co-produced by Niv Fichman, Frank Siracusa and Francis Damberger, Passchendaele stars Gross (Men with Brooms, Due South, Slings & Arrows), Caroline Dhavernas (Hollywoodland, Breach, Niagara Motel), Gil Bellows (The Shawshank Redemption, Ally McBeal) and Joe Dinicol (George A. Romero's Diary of the Dead, Train 48). The 33rd Toronto International Film Festival runs September 4 to 13, 2008.

It is rare that Canadians get to experience their own histories via the moving image, particularly on the big screen, says Piers Handling, Director and CEO of the Toronto International Film Festival Group. We are honoured to open TIFF 2008 with a work as personal and passionate, as significant to both Canadian film and Canadian history as Passchendaele.

Paul Gross is an inspiring Canadian and a leader in our industry, says Cameron Bailey, Co-Director of the Toronto International Film Festival. By paying tribute to our nations heroes – including his own grandfather, an Alberta veteran of Passchendaele – Gross uses the visceral charge of movies to contribute a foundation chapter to our national history. While never ignoring the horrifying truths of this or any war, Passchendaele stands as truly epic storytelling from western Canada.

Set during the height of the First World War, “Passchendaele” tells the story of Sgt. Michael Dunne (Gross), a soldier who is brutally wounded in France and returns home to Calgary emotionally and physically scarred. While in the military hospital in Calgary, he meets Sarah (Dhavernas), a mysterious and attractive nurse with whom he falls passionately in love. When Sarahs younger brother David (Dinicol) despite suffering from severe asthma signs up to fight in Europe, Michael is compelled to return to the battlefield to protect him. Alongside thousands of other courageous Canadians, David and Michael are sent to fight in the third battle of Ypres. Commonly known as Passchendaele, it is a battle against impossible odds.

Written and directed by Paul Gross, “Passchendaele” is a Rhombus Media, Whizbang Films and Damberger Film and Cattle Company production. The film is distributed in Canada by Alliance Films.

The official website for the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival, tiff08.ca, will go live on Friday, June 27, 2008. Ticket packages for TIFF08 will be available for purchase by Visa cardholders as of 10am, Monday July 7, 2008, and by cash, debit or Visa as of 10am on Monday, July 14, 2008. Purchase online at tiff08.ca, by phone at 416-968-FILM or 1-877-968-FILM or in person at the TIFFG Box Office at Manulife Centre, 55 Bloor Street West (main floor, north entrance). Box Office hours are 10am to 6pm, Monday to Saturday.

Bell Lightbox

Construction of Bell Lightbox, soon to be one of the worlds leading innovative cultural institutions and headquarters for TIFFG, began on February 1, 2007. A five-storey podium building located on Reitman Square in the heart of Torontos downtown entertainment district, Bell Lightbox is designed by world-renowned Toronto-based architectural firm KPMB. The building includes five cinemas, two galleries, three learning studios, and an enhanced film reference library and archive.

The campaign to build Bell Lightbox is generously supported by founding sponsor Bell. The Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario each have contributed $25 million to realize Bell Lightbox. A gift of more than $22 million has been confirmed from the Reitman family acclaimed filmmaker Ivan Reitman and his sisters Agi Mandel and Susan Michaels and The Daniels Corporation, who together form the King and John Festival Corporation. The project is also supported by RBC as Major Sponsor and Official Bank, VISA, Copyright Collective of Canada, NBC Universal Canada, The Allan Slaight Family, The Brian Linehan Charitable Foundation, CIBC, and many other individuals and corporations. The TIFFG Board of Directors, staff and many generous individuals have also contributed to the campaign. The total amount raised to date is $147 million, three quarters of the total campaign of $196 million.

The Toronto International Film Festival Group is a charitable, not-for-profit, cultural organization whose mission is to transform the way people see the world. Its vision is to lead the world in creative and cultural discovery through the moving image.