03/16/2012 12:40 EDT | Updated 05/16/2012 05:12 EDT

TIFF's urban filmmaking spotlight to shine on Mumbai

Mumbai will share the spotlight at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival, which has unveiled the Indian metropolis as the focus of its City to City program this September.

TIFF artistic director Cameron Bailey made the announcement late Thursday from Mumbai, where he is attending the media and entertainment convention FICCI Frames.

"There's been an exciting evolution recently that's seen local independent films emerge to contrast with Bollywood's dazzling commercial movies," Bailey said in a statement.

"Whether you call it Mumbai or Bombay, this city is a massive player in the global film world, and a place I've grown to love in all its diversity. Toronto audiences are in for a thrill this September."

TIFF has long been a supporter of Indian cinema, including hosting events and movie screenings that brought Bollywood stars and indie filmmakers — like Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Priyanka Chopra, Kiran Rao, Aamir Khan and Karan Johar — to Toronto.

Urban filmmaking focus

Heading into its fourth year, the City to City program highlights a current urban moviemaking hotspot and has previously featured Tel Aviv, Istanbul and Buenos Aires.

The three past editions explored how directors in each featured city have represented the urban landscape. However, the upcoming Mumbai spotlight will showcase "filmmakers living and working in Mumbai, regardless of where their films are set," Bailey said.

The program got off to a contentious start in 2009 when the inaugural locale of Tel Aviv sparked controversy. A group of filmmakers, artists, activists and intellectuals denounced organizers for the choice, and blasted TIFF for being subverted by "the Israeli propaganda machine." A separate group of filmmakers and performers subsequently united to support TIFF and the fledgling program.

The 37th Toronto International Film Festival runs Sept. 6-16.