Entertainment & Arts

Toronto film festival spotlights diversity

Nate Parker in The Birth of a Nation Image copyright Fox
Image caption Nate Parker plays Nat Turner, the leader of a 19th Century slave revolt in The Birth of a Nation

The Toronto International Film Festival opens later with a raft of films that will spotlight the ongoing diversity debate in Hollywood.

Nearly 400 films will screen at the 11-day event in Canada's largest city.

Thursday's opening film is Antoine Fuqua's reboot of the 1960 western classic The Magnificent Seven, with a starry cast lead by Denzel Washington.

The festival, now in its 41st year, has a reputation as a launch pad for films that go on to Oscars success.

After this year's #OscarsSoWhite backlash, Toronto will premiere a number of movies exploring racial themes that are already gaining awards season buzz.

Most, of course, were already in production well before the furore that saw bosses at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which awards the Oscars, take a number of steps to make its membership more diverse.

When the Toronto programme was announced in July, its artistic director Cameron Bailey said it contained "global voice, transformative stories and diverse perspectives".

Image copyright Pathe International
Image caption Rosamund Pike and David Oyelowo in A United Kingdom

Among the world premieres will be two films both starring British actor David Oyelowo.

In A United Kingdom he plays the King of Botswana whose marriage to an English bank clerk (played by Rosamund Pike) in the 1940s stirs up controversy and intolerance.

Meanwhile, Disney movie Queen of Katwe casts Oyelowo as a teacher who helps a Ugandan slum girl chase her dream of becoming a chess champion.

Also screening are Jeff Nichols' film Loving, about the battle to abolish a ban on interracial marriage in Virginia, and Moonlight, a story about a gay African-American man grappling with his sexuality, that got rave reviews at this week's Telluride film festival.

On Saturday, 20th Century Fox will preview its space race drama Hidden Figures, about the trio of African-American women working at Nasa who were the mathematical brains behind the 1962 launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit.

There is also likely to be intense interest around the screening of slave revolt drama drama The Birth of a Nation amid the ongoing controversy over director Nate Parker's rape trial 15 years ago, in which he was acquitted.

The film, a breakout hit at the Sundance festival in January, had been considered an early awards shoo-in.

Several other films screening at Toronto are gathering awards momentum.

Among them are Denis Villeneuve's sci-fi movie Arrival, starring Amy Adams, and musical La La Land, with Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone.

Other gala openings include real-life stories such as Snowden, Oliver Stone's film about whistle-blower Edward Snowden, and Deepwater Horizon, about the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil rig disaster.

Ewan McGregor's American Pastoral, his first feature as a director, and a big screen version of children's book A Monster Calls also get their first showing.

The line-up also features new documentaries from Leonardo DiCaprio (Before the Flood), Werner Herzog (Into the Inferno) and Morgan Spurlock (Rats).

The Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 8 - 18.

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