One of the world's top film showcases is starting on a musical note as a documentary portrait of the rock band U2 opens the Toronto International Film Festival.
Organizers say the Canadian festival will launch Sept. 8 with "From the Sky Down," a chronicle of the Irish band led by singer Bono. The film was made by "An Inconvenient Truth" director Davis Guggenheim and marks the first time in its 36-year history that the Toronto festival has opened with a documentary.
Guggenheim said the film explores why "this band has endured and thrived." The four-member band formed in 1978 and has been turning out hit albums since the early 1980s, including "War," "The Joshua Tree," "Achtung Baby" and "Zooropa."
"In the terrain of rock bands, implosion or explosion is seemingly inevitable. U2 has defied the gravitational pull toward destruction," said Guggenheim, an Oscar winner for "An Inconvenient Truth" who also made the 2008 musical documentary "It Might Get Loud," featuring U2 guitarist The Edge, Jimmy Page and Jack White.
Director Cameron Crowe ("Almost Famous") ventures into musical documentary with another Toronto premiere, "Pearl Jam Twenty," tracing the band's formation and how its members pulled back from the spotlight to cope after its rise to stardom.
Singer Madonna also is headed to the Toronto festival, as director of "W.E.," a film that intercuts between the romance of a modern woman (Abbie Cornish) and the relationship of American socialite Wallis Simpson and Britain's King Edward VIII, who abdicated the throne for love in the 1930s.
Toronto is among the world's largest film festivals, a spot where Hollywood studios and international filmmakers debut many prospects that will be in the running for next February's Oscars.
Other highlights for the 11-day festival include Brad Pitt's baseball tale "Moneyball"; Jennifer Garner, Hugh Jackman and Olivia Wilde's comic story "Butter"; Kristen Wiig, Megan Fox and Jon Hamm's parenthood comedy "Friends with Kids"; and Keira Knightley's Sigmund Freud-Carl Jung drama "A Dangerous Method," directed by David Cronenberg and featuring Viggo Mortensen and Michael Fassbender.
George Clooney has two films at Toronto, directing and co-starring alongside Ryan Gosling in the political saga "The Ides of March" and starring in the family story "The Descendants," directed by Alexander Payne ("Sideways").
Rachel Weisz also appears in two Toronto films, the love-affair chronicle "The Deep Blue Sea" and the ensemble love story "360," inspired by Arthur Schnitzler's play "La Ronde" and featuring Jude Law, Rachel Weisz and Anthony Hopkins.
Also playing at Toronto are Glenn Close's Irish drama "Albert Nobbs"; Jane Fonda and Catherine Keener's family comedy "Peace, Love & Misunderstanding"; Sarah Polley's relationship tale "Take This Waltz," with Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen; Ralph Fiennes' Shakespeare adaptation "Coriolanus"; Freida Pinto's "Trishna," an adaptation of Thomas Hardy's "Tess of the d'Urbervilles" transplanted to modern India; and Francis Ford Coppola's murder mystery "Twixt," with Val Kilmer.
Toronto International Film Festival, http://www.tiff.net