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Plenty of rattle and hum as U2 doc kicks off TIFF

U2 frontman Bono greets fans as he arrived for a screening of the new documentary From the Sky Down at the Toronto International Film Festival on Thursday night.

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

It just got loud.

The Irish superstars U2, who exactly one year ago stole the city's attention from the Toronto International Film Festival by bringing their U2 360° spectacle tour here, turned heads clear around again on Thursday night. The occasion was the world premiere of From the Sky Down, Davis Guggenheim's revealing documentary on the making of the pivotal 1991 album Achtung Baby. Guggenheim's last film at TIFF was 2008's It Might Get Loud, a look at the musical inspirations of guitarists Jimmy Page, Jack White and U2's The Edge.

From the Sky Down had two screenings on Thursday, one at the Elgin Theatre during the supper hour, followed by a glitzier happening at Roy Thomson Hall. There fans screamed and chanted "Bono, Bono, Bono" as that mono-named singer (dressed all in black, as per usual) mingled on the red carpet he shared with guitarist The Edge (always with the skull cap) and the more snappily attired director, Mr. Guggenheim.

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Later, before the film was screened, festival co-director Cameron Bailey said TIFF was "proud as hell" to have U2 there. As well he might be – it's quite the coup.

Before the red carpet hoopla, Astral Media had hosted a swank party in the Roy Thomson lobby – one not attended by any Irish musicians, but the spot for bubbled drinks and roasted black cod (with ginger-spun sweet potatoes and smoked grapes), made available for recognizable faces such as the actor Jason Priestley, former Blue Jays owner and media mogul Paul Godfrey, director Norman Jewison and former prime minister Brian Mulroney.

At the party, Curb Your Enthusiasm's potty-mouthed Susie Essman offered a risqué monologue that poked fun at CRTC chairman Konrad von Finckenstein – "do you bleep me?," she taunted, and almost had Mr. Mulroney choking on his risotto. After that, Astral head honcho Ian Greenberg – described as an anomalous "tall Jew" by the spunky Ms. Essman – introduced the party's musical guest by mispronouncing the last name of Chantal Kreviazuk, the successful Winnipeg-born chanteuse.

Before she took to the piano, Ms. Kreviazuk took time out to speak to The Globe and Mail, mostly about the creative method – a central theme of From the Sky Down. "We have to be genuine in our process, we have to be in the song," she said. "Once we think about the outcome, we'll often just end up letting ourselves down. We have control over our work ethic and our desire, but not the outcome."

There is a strong musical content to this year's festival. Friday sees the world premiere of The Love We Make. Set in October 2001, the film has legendary documentary maker Albert Maysles ( Gimmer Shelter) following Paul McCartney around New York as the former Beatle prepared for a 9/11 memorial concert. The movie sat on the shelves for a decade, waiting for its moment to arrive.

Grunge-rock icons Pearl Jam also sweep into town this weekend for a pair of concerts at Air Canada Centre and for the world premiere of the Cameron Crowe-directed Pearl Jam Twenty, a career chronicle. Neil Young will be a present too – he is the subject of Neil Young Journeys, the third in Jonathan Demme's trilogy on the Cinnamon Girl singer. The film, which uses footage from Mr. Young's Massey Hall shows earlier this year, receives its world premiere Monday at the Princess of Wales Theatre, newly outfitted with a seat-rattling sound system for the occasion.

The influx of the music documentaries (and their prominent place in the festival line-up) owes much to the success and hubbub over last year's TIFF premiere of The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town, a chronicle of the making of the classic 1978 album by Bruce Springsteen.

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"That film was a landmark moment for us," TIFF programmer Thom Powers says. "It was tremendous for everyone – for the festival, for Sony Music and, not the least of which, the fans.

Mr. Powers programs the festival's Maverick series of on-stage discussions. A year ago, the actor Ed Norton chatted with his musical hero Mr. Springsteen. It was one of the festival's most talked-about events. This year's discussions include ones by Bono, Edge and Mr. Guggenheim on Friday afternoon, as well as an appearance by Neil Young with Mr. Demme on Monday.

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Brad Wheeler is an arts reporter with The Globe and Mail. More

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