2008 Toronto International Film Fest (logo)

Toronto International Film Festival

Why sweat a war when you can make a porno?

That seems to be the theme at the Toronto International Film Festival, which is noticeably lightening up a year after having a slate dominated by dour Iraq war movies.

"If you look back at the great years of comedy, like the 1930s, Americans were having a hard time then with an economic crisis and war. But people do what they can to laugh," says Cameron Bailey, codirector of the fest, whose 33rd edition launhes Thursday and runs through Sept. 13.

Major yuks are expected from Kevin Smith's Zack and Miri Make a Porno, starring Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks, as well as the Coen brothers' spy caper Burn After Reading, with George Clooney and Brad Pitt; the satirical documentary Religulous from Bill Maher and Seinfeld/Borat writer-director Larry Charles; and the supernatural rom-com Ghost Town, with Ricky Gervais, Greg Kinnear and Tea Leoni (who's sitting the party out to avoid facing questions about rehabbing sex-addicted spouse David Duchovny).

As the world's largest public film festival, this year's blowout will draw over 500 movie stars, screen 312 films from 64 countries and sell about 350,000 tickets to the city's mass of cinema-crazed denziens.

This year's red-carpet roster includes: Pitt, Matt Damon, Keira Knightley, Jennifer Aniston, Tim Robbins, David Schwimmer, Charlize Theron, Queen Latifah, Mark Ruffalo, Edward Norton, Rachel Weisz, Spike Lee, Rachel McAdams, Colin Farrell, John Malkovich, Michel Caine, Guy Ritchie and, to keep the tween set happy, Zac Efron.

Among the other gala presentations: Norton and Farrell's cop face-off Pride and Glory; the friendship-after-war film The Lucky Ones with McAdams and Robbins; Knightley's latest costume drama, The Duchess; Kathryn Bigelow's Iraq war film (you can't have a film festival without one) Hurt Locker, with Guy Pearce and Ralph Fiennes; the sexy French satire The Girl from Monaco (La Fille de Monaco); and The Secret Life of Bees, an all-star coming-of-age story of a young girl (Dakota Fanning) in the shadow of the civil rights movement, with Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson and Alicia Keys.

While more countries represented at TIFF '08—including a first-time entry from the Bahamas—the number of films has shrunk by 40 from last year's total.

The reason for fewer films? According to Bailey, smaller films were being ignored in the rush to see the big commercial releases.

"We're a global film festival," he says, "and ensuring all kinds of films are given due attention is a good and healthy sign that shows our depth of reach and diversity."

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