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Toronto film festival kicks off with Miyazaki’s ‘The Boy and the Heron’, few stars

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– The Toronto International Film Festival opened on Thursday with “The Boy and the Heron” by famed Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki, the first time an animated feature has taken the coveted spot.

Although there was a dearth of star power on the red carpet due to the Hollywood actors strike, festival goers can look forward to some 50 films over 11 days, including Craig Gillespie’s “Dumb Money,” “Lee” which stars Kate Winslet and Taika Waititi’s “Next Goal Wins”.

The festival will also include directorial debuts for Patricia Arquette with “Gonzo Girl” and for Kristin Scott Thomas with “North Star”.

Studio Ghibli executive Junichi Nishioka said it was an honour for “The Boy and the Heron” to have been chosen as the opener for the festival.

“It shows that animation and live-action films don’t need to be differentiated anymore,” he said.

The film, a semi-autobiographical story of a young boy struggling with the death of his mother, is expected to Miyazaki’s swan song. The 82-year-old director, known for works such as “Spirited Away” and “My Neighbor Totoro”, did not attend the opening.

The Writers Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild- American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) have been on strike since May over pay and the use of artificial intelligence.

“Gonzo Girl” stars Arquette, Camila Morrone and William Dafoe were among the few actors gaining union approval to promote their films.

“I am lucky to be here, but a lot of people are unable to attend the festival,” Morrone told , calling the strike “essential” and stressing that it was important to be resolved.

Over 150,000 actors and 65,000 writers across the United States have refused to resume shooting or promote films. The 2023 Emmy Awards have also been postponed to January next year due to the strike.

“We will get back to the bargaining table at some point. I hope it’s tomorrow but it may be a little longer than that. And once we do, I’m confident that we will be able to hold the line and make sure that whatever agreement we end up with, is fair, equitable and respectful for our members,” said Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, national executive director of SAG-AFTRA.

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