by Valentina I. Valentini

The lulling summer is over and we're finally kicking off the festival season with Telluride last week and Toronto International Film Festival this week. Although TIFF's raison d'etre is independent cinema, it's hard to deny the Hollywood sheen that takes over the Canadian city for 10 days every September. On the flipside, the relatively lackluster summer for mainstream entertainment (save for Guardians of the Galaxy) has given the market a resurgence in indie films' exposure among larger than usual audiences.

Like a successful woman, TIFF in its 38th year has certainly come into its own though, riding both sides of the market and managing to world premiere Oscar contenders alongside provocative international independent work from 79 countries around the world (that's nine more then last year). And with 285 features it's hard to know where to start, or where to end. Perhaps we're biased, but there are a few titles we think you should have on your fest schedule, featuring some favorites from the Miramax family.

Felicity Jones, who starred alongside Helen Mirren in 2011's The Tempest and had a smaller role in 2009's Brideshead Revisited, leads the story of Stephen Hawking's early days along with Eddie Redmayne in the World Premiere of The Theory of Everything. Jones - who is one of those actresses that stays out of the spotlight in real life and practically steals it when onscreen - also starred opposite Ralph Fiennes in last year's TIFF World Premiere, The Invisible Woman, which was also his directorial debut. Such a remarkable journey and career since The English Patient.

Two independently produced films that Miramax picked up in 2009 have actors back in Toronto for their premieres this week as well: Jason Bateman (Extract) is in the family dramedy This is Where I Leave You with Tina Fey and Jane Fonda, and Kristen Stewart (Adventureland) acts alongside Julianne Moore in Still Alice, about a successful Columbia professor struggling with early onset Alzheimer's.

And two bigger-budgeted movies to keep your eye on are Big Game and A Little Chaos. Our ever-beloved Samuel L. Jackson plays the President of the United States lost in the wilderness after Air Force One is shot down in the action flick Big Game from director Jalmari Helander. Kate Winslet - who had her feature film debut in the 1994 Miramax acquisition Heavenly Creatures - headlines A Little Chaos, a period drama about King Louis XIV. Don't be fooled by the title, there's nothing 'little' about Winslet in her gaudily gorgeous hats. We all remember Titanic.

Big Game/IPA Asia Pacific - A Little Chaos/BBC Films

Other notable alum at this year's fest are Kevin Smith with Tusk, premiering on Saturday, and Thomas McCarthy with The Cobbler, premiering next Thursday. Other titles getting buzz are Chris Evans' directorial debut Before We Go (because, well, who doesn't want to see Captain America direct an indie?), Love & Mercy - about The Beachboys' Brian Wilson with younger and older versions of him played by Paul Dano and John Cusack, respectively, the emotional drama Cake, starring a down-and-dirty Jennifer Aniston, and Noah Baumbach's While We're Young. See it's not all doom and gloom. Baumbach will bring us back with his usual life-as-we-know-it sunny side up storytelling.

So we think this is a good starting point for your TIFF picks. Stay tuned for filmmaker and talent interviews throughout the week.

For more TIFF news follow Valentina @tiniv

Valentina I. Valentini is a freelance journalist and producer based in Los Angeles. She contributes to Variety,,, ICG Magazine, British Cinematographer, HDVideoPro and more, covering the entertainment industry from project conception through distribution. She focuses on the biz of the biz, indie films, rising talent, mainstream features, docs and more. She is film fest fanatic and tech convention troller, and loves the Red Sox.