The Toronto Film Festival has opened with gala screenings of Deepa Mehta's movie Water and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang starring Val Kilmer.
Thriller Kiss Kiss Bang Bang stars Downey Jr (right) as a thief
Over the next 10 days the event will screen 335 films from 52 countries, including 109 world premieres.
Water, which follows the lives of Hindu widows, triggered violent protests while being filmed in India in 2000 and had to be completed in Sri Lanka.
The festival often features films that will compete for next year's Oscars.
Largest public turnout
Sold-out crowds gathered at two cinemas to watch Water - set in 1938 colonial India - launch the 30th annual Toronto festival.
It is the world's largest publicly-attended film festival, with about 250,000 movie fans, film industry figures and celebrities expected to visit.
On Thursday reporters asked festival co-director Noah Cowan to name possible Oscar contenders from this year's line-up.
"The film on everybody's lips is Mrs Henderson Presents," he said.
Set in a World War Two-era music hall, Mrs Henderson Presents is a musical comedy directed by Stephen Frears starring Bob Hoskins and Judi Dench.
Mr Cowan said other possible Oscar contenders to be screened included North Country, starring Charlize Theron, the Gwyneth Paltrow and Sir Anthony Hopkins film Proof, comedy drama In Her Shoes and the Truman Capote biopic Capote.
Mr Cowan said Toronto would be the centre of the movie world for the next 10 days, and would set the stage for the award season rush.
"There's a lot of jostling and work that goes on here," he said. "If you're not in Toronto you should have a pretty good reason."
Opening film Water is the final part of a trilogy by director Deepa Mehta, with earlier instalments Fire and Earth having previously premiered at the Toronto festival.
Gwyneth Paltrow's film Proof is seen as a possible Oscar contender
Describing the initial protests against her movie, Mehta said "accusations of Water being anti-Hindu were cited as the cause of the film sets being thrown in the river, my effigy being burned and protesters marching in the streets of Varanasi".
Meanwhile actors Val Kilmer, Michelle Monaghan and Robert Downey Jr attended the festival premiere of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.
The thriller casts Downey Jr as a thief posing as an actor, who finds himself in the middle of a murder investigation.