Why a musical about hockey is fit to open our beloved film fest By Ava Baccari, Photography courtesy of official Score website Hockey night is back in Canada-cue the CBC soundtrack Olivia Newton-John. Um, pardon? That’s right cave-dwellers, the 35 th Toronto International Film Festival opens on September 9 th with homegrown director Mike McGowan’s Score: A Hockey Musical (and oh yes, it really is a musical about hockey.) The choice may seem like a curve-ball move (sports metaphor—couldn’t resist) for TIFF programmers, given the tone of films selected to open the festival over the past few years. (Religious holiday scheduling conflicts and a world premiere snag of the more obvious choice— Barney’s Version, based on the book by Mordecai Richler— by the Venice Film Festival a week earlier, left the vacant slot open for the taking.) Given the doom and gloom tones of previous festival openers— you wouldn’t have seen Glee-style musical numbers in either last year’s Darwin biopic, Creation or Paul Gross’ WWI tribute Passchendaele, in 2008— it’s refreshing to see such an abrupt change of pace for the self-proclaimed second-best film fest in the world (and we’re OK with that too, Cannes!) With a film showcasing the Canadian dream—a starry-eyed shinny player who makes it to the big league— it seems TIFF is taking part in the Torontonian image overhaul of lightening up on ourselves. We’ve countlessly proved that we're creatively and culturally worthy—TIFF’s 2008 People’s Choice Award Slumdog Millionaire, went on to win Best Picture at the Oscars that year and local boy-turned-good Atom Egoyan has been a returning favourite since Next of Kin and The Sweet Hereafter (which surprisingly, isn’t as wholesome as its title claims.) The film stars Toronto-native Noah Reid as 17-year-old Farley, the sheltered son of Olivia Newton-John (fresh off her Glee appearance) and Marc Jordan ( Touched By An Angel) whose world changes the second he joins a major hockey league. (Though the stars will walk the red carpet at Roy Thomson Hall in just a few weeks, if you were lucky enough, you caught Reid most recently at the Factory Theatre during a run of The Innocents, part of Toronto’s SummerWorks theatre festival this year. I say lucky because bad timing and a series of unfortunate events called life, kept me away.) Still worried that a sports musical can’t hold up to its prestigious, cinematic predecessors? Just remember that no one does Canadiana like Mike McGowan (remember the guest appearance of the Stanley Cup in his last flick, One Week? A teaser, perhaps?) An NHL legend's father, Walter Gretzky, Nelly Furtado and Canada's favourite boyfriend, George Stroumboulopoulos all make guest appearances in the film and we’ll just have to wait until the curtain rises, the puck drops and Olivia Newton-John sings, to see if the Canadian dream is better on the ice than in our film fest. PS Look for our interview with Noah and co-star Allie MacDonald in our October issue!