Toronto honors Queen Elizabeth as refugee drama opens film festival

Toronto honors Queen Elizabeth as refugee drama opens film festival

Toronto honors Queen Elizabeth as refugee drama opens film festival

The Toronto Film Festival (TIFF) began in somber mood on Sept. 8 as theaters dimmed their lights for the passing of Queen Elizabeth II before a Netflix drama about Syrian refugees launched North America’s largest movie gathering.

The Princess of Wales and Royal Alexandra theaters, both festival venues named for members of Britain’s royal family, switched off their marquee signs as news spread of the death of the Commonwealth monarch.

“As we gather to celebrate the power of film to move us and to illuminate our world, I want to acknowledge the passing today of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II,” said festival head Cameron Bailey. “Our thoughts go out to everyone here and around the world mourning her loss.”

“Ninety-six is a fantastic age, but I just think it’s sad,” said actor Matthias Schweighofer, on the red carpet for his opening night film “The Swimmers.”

The drama tells the true story of Syrian sisters Yusra and Sara Mardini, who nearly drowned in the Mediterranean in 2015 as they tugged a rubber boat packed with refugees to a Greek island.

As well as showing the Mardinis’ harrowing journey, “The Swimmers” aims to put a relatable face on refugees. It portrays the sisters’ carefree lives before war arrived, and their bitter bemusement at finding European tourists frolicking in the same sea they had barely survived crossing hours earlier.

Elsewhere on Sept. 8 was the world premiere of “The Inspection,” about a young Black man who enlists in the Marine Corps after being thrown out of his mother’s home for being gay.

It is one of several LGBTQ-themed movies at TIFF, along with Harry Styles’ portrayal of a closeted police officer in “My Policeman,” and Universal’s “Bros” starring Billy Eichner, the first major LGBTQ rom-com from a top Tinseltown studio.

Steven Spielberg will lead a host of Hollywood A-listers across the border for the world premiere of his deeply personal, childhood-inspired “The Fabelmans.”

Other stars due in Toronto this weekend include Jessica Chastain and Eddie Redmayne in “The Good Nurse,” Jennifer Lawrence in “Causeway,” Viola Davis in “The Woman King,” and Nicolas Cage in “Butcher’s Crossing.”

Director Rian Johnson launches “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery,” a whodunit sequel in which Daniel Craig’s sleuth meets a star-studded cast including Edward Norton, Ethan Hawke and Jada Pinkett Smith.

And in his first film since the 2018 best picture Oscar winner “Green Book,” Peter Farrelly brings “The Greatest Beer Run Ever,” starring Zac Efron.

TIFF runs until Sept. 18.