As diversity takes centre stage in Hollywood discussions, TIFF is preparing for its time to shine.

What originally started as “a collection of films from other festivals” 40 years ago has turned into one of cinema’s most star-studded events.

The celebration of global cinema officially kicks off with Antoine Fuqua’s remake of 1960 western The Magnificent Seven. It features a multicultural cast rarely seen in the western film genre. Among the names in the film are Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt and South Korea’s Byung-hun Lee.

It also comes at a time where the film industry has come under fire for its lack of diversity after this year’s Oscars featured no acting nominees of colour, sparking the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag.

David Oyelowo, who was born in Britain and is of Nigerian heritage, wants to see more films portray Africa in a fresh light.

He stars in another anticipated movie: Mira Nair’s Queen of Katwe alongside Lupita Nyong’o, about a young Ugandan girl trying to become a world chess champion.

“If you want to see the future of film, you need to come to Toronto this year,” says Cameron Bailey, artistic director of the festival. “It feels like the range of the lineup in terms of the diversity of the stories that are being told and the storytellers that are telling them, the introduction of new technology, like the VR lineup we have, the way that the festival has pretty smoothly integrated television and long-form storytelling. All of those things, I think, are where film is headed.”

Also screening are Jeff Nichols’ film Loving, about the battle to abolish a ban on interracial marriage in Virginia, and Moonlight, a story about a gay African-American man struggling with his sexuality, that opened to rave reviews at this week’s Telluride film festival.

The gala line up boasts seven films directed by women, the most in the festival’s history.

Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 8 – 18.

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