TORONTO, Sept. 6 (Xinhua) -- With the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) shining a bright light on Chinese filmmakers this year, festivities kicked off Thursday with an action-packed schedule, many high-wattage stars, and some distinct Chinese elements.
Going on its 37th year, the renowned festival shook things up at their opening night gala.
It's an unspoken rule, TIFF usually kickstarts its 11-day event with a Canadian film. But this year, event organizers changed things up and chose instead a film called "Looper," a China-U.S. co-production.
The sci-fi thriller brought with it lots of glitz and glamour, including its stars Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Emily Blunt, onto the red carpet event for the film's official world premiere.
Set in 2047, Gordon-Levitt plays the role of a mafia hitman who ends up getting an assignment to kill his future self, a role played by Bruce Willis. The ultimate result of this futuristic plot is a twisted action-packed storyline that takes its audience through all sorts of emotions.
The action flick, which enjoys a co-production status, was partially funded by a company based in Beijing. Because of that, "Looper" has got some Chinese elements which reflects TIFF's special emphasis on Chinese productions this year.
With an increased representation of Chinese films in its programming, and TIFF holding its first ever Asian Film Summit - an event which aims to bring industry heavyweights from both the East and the West together and create project opportunities - the festival has put China's flourishing movie industry in the spotlight this year.
Being chosen as the opening night gala, "Looper" reflects the festival's new focus on Chinese talent.
Besides being partially filmed in Shanghai, Chinese actress Xu Qing is also cast to play the part of Willis' wife in the movie. Willis talks about his "romantic" on-set experience with her at a press conference held hours before the premiere.
"I had a really good experience working with Summer (Xu Qing), it just felt like we were in love, just felt like romance," he says. "And the fact that she might not have understood what I was saying or I might not have understood what she was saying didn't ever feel like there was a problem or issue."
But Willis says working with Gordon-Levitt was a whole other story. Because of the futuristic plot, it took a while for him to get used to the idea and all the make-up that was used to make Gordon-Levitt look like a younger him.
"Science fiction films especially are like magic tricks and it kind of fools you, and when I saw the film, I was so surprised that the magic trick we're trying to do works," says Willis. "It's so hard to look at someone else and go, 'Oh yeah, that's the younger me.' You just have to believe it, you have to go with the magic trick part of it."
Though fooling Willis and their audience into believing that was no easy task. The young actor spent nearly three hours everyday plastering layers and layers of make-up on his face and did a lot of research and homework in order to emulate Willis' mannerisms.
"I studied his movies and I would take the audio from some of his movies and put them on my iPod so I could listen to them," says Gordon-Levitt. "But I think the most important thing for me was just getting to know him, hanging out having dinner, talking about whatever, that's where I think I really learned what I wanted to do with the character."
In the end, everyone's hard work paid off. Director and writer Rian Johnson says he is "thrilled to be able to show the film for the first time to a crowd here in Toronto, which is such a movie-loving town."
"Looper," which is set to debut in both China and the U.S. on Sept. 28, is just one of 372 films screening at TIFF this year. Boasting to be the first time for the most world premieres and the first time they've had films come from as many as 72 countries, TIFF's programming this year also marks a first for China, with 28 Chinese-language films screening.
Some of them include Stephen Fung's Tai Chi 0, Dangerous Liaisons starring Zhang Ziyi, Chen Kaige's Caught in the Web and Lu Chuan's The Last Supper, to name a few.
Lu's historic movie brought part of its cast Lu Yulai, Qin Lan and Liu Ye, to help kick off TIFF's opening night party. And in a few days, action star Jackie Chan will also be gracing TIFF. While not taking part in any of the films this year, he's set to make an appearance at the Asian Film Summit.
Tracing its roots back to 1976, TIFF started out featuring a collection of films from other festivals. It has since become one of the most successful cinematic events in the world and has even earned the reputation of its ability to generate Oscar buzz for talents and movies involved.
This year, the festival runs on Sept. 6-16.