'Demolition' with Jake Gyllenhaal to launch 40th Toronto film festival

TORONTO: The Toronto International Film Festival will kick off its 40th year with the world premiere of Canadian director Jean-Marc Vallee's "Demolition", starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Naomi Watts, organizers said on Tuesday.

The festival, a frequent launch pad for Oscar contenders, announced some 50 of the hundreds of films it will showcase between Sept. 10 and 20.

"Demolition" follows the unravelling of a successful investment banker after the death of his wife. It is the latest from Vallee, who won wide acclaim with his "Dallas Buyers Club".

Other movies making their world premieres include Ridley Scott's "The Martian", starring Matt Damon, and Stephen Frears' "The Program", with Ben Foster and Dustin Hoffman, which tracks the rise and fall of Lance Armstrong.

Making his return to screen after more than five years is Oscar-winning documentary director Michael Moore with "Where to Invade Next".

Peter Sollett's "Freeheld", starring Julianne Moore and Ellen Page, is based on the true story of a lesbian couple's struggle for equal rights after one is diagnosed with cancer and wishes to leave her pension to her partner.

Organizers said they have tweaked last year's controversial format of excluding films during Toronto's high-profile opening weekend that have already been screened at the more intimate, industry-focused Telluride festival.

This year the limitation is that films shown at the three red-carpet venues during the first four days must be world or North American premieres. This allows moviegoers to catch buzzy films already shown elsewhere at other venues during the opening days.

"We've been consulting with filmmakers and film companies over the last several months," said Artistic Director Cameron Bailey. "We've come up with what we think is the best approach, and everyone that we've talked to in the film community has been happy with it."

The Toronto event, ranked among the world's top film festivals, has grown dramatically from its launch in 1976, when some 80 films screened in five theatres. It was Canada's only major film festival then. Today, some 350 films are showcased in more than 25 theatres.

The festival's top prize, the People's Choice Award, is voted on by festival attendees. The 1999 winner, "American Beauty", was the first to eventually win a Best Picture Oscar, and helped the festival generate greater attention. Six of the last seven audience favourites became Best Picture nominees or winners, including "Slumdog Millionaire", "The King's Speech" and "12 Years a Slave".