Rock documentary on The Band to kick off Toronto Film Festival

Toronto prepares for the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival on September 04. [AFP Photo]

The Toronto International Film Festival opens on a decidedly Canadian note on Thursday with a documentary about influential rockers The Band kicking off 10 days of movies vying for attention in the upcoming Hollywood awards season.

Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Tom Hanks, Joaquin Phoenix, Jennifer Lopez and Renee Zellweger are among the A-list stars expected in Toronto to promote movies including "The Goldfinch," "Judy" and "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" that are already generating Oscar buzz.

"Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and " tells the story of the Canadian songwriter and guitarist from his early years backing Ronnie Hawkins with future members of The Band and their stint in the mid-1960s backing Bob Dylan, as the folk legend made his controversial transition to electrified rock. It follows the conflicts and challenges the group faced en route to becoming one of the most influential bands in rock music history.

The first Canadian documentary to open the Toronto festival in its 44-year history, the movie was inspired by Robertson's 2016 memoir "Testimony" and directed by Toronto-born Daniel Roher.

The Toronto festival has a reputation for bringing early attention to movies that go on to win top awards, including past Oscar best picture winners "Green Book," "12 Years a Slave," and "Slumdog Millionaire."

Fresh from rave reviews in Venice, Phoenix will walk the red carpet for the dark comic book origin story "Joker," and also receive a career award, along with Streep and New Zealand's Taika Waititi, the writer-director behind World War Two satire "Jojo Rabbit."

Hanks brings the world premiere of "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" about the late, beloved U.S. children's TV show host Mister Rogers, while Kidman stars in the adaptation of the epic best-selling 2013 novel "The Goldfinch."

Zellweger takes on screen and singing legend Judy Garland in "Judy," a biopic set around some of her last performances in 1968 in London.

"Hustlers" stars Lopez, Cardi B and Lizzo as a group of pole dancers and strippers who conspire to turn the tables on some of their Wall Street clients, while comedian Eddie Murphy reinvents himself and his screen character in "Dolemite Is My Name."

Other closely watched movies among the 245 feature films at Toronto include "Ford v Ferrari," starring Matt Damon and Christian Bale as the Ford team tasked with building a race car to challenge Ferrari in the 1960s; "Harriet," in which Tony winner Cynthia Erivo plays U.S. abolitionist Harriet Tubman; and a film of Bruce Springsteen giving a private performance of songs from his new solo album "Western Stars."

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