The Toronto International Film Festival opened Thursday night with The Fifth Estate, based on the true-life story of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

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The movie – directed by Bill Condon and starring Sherlock’s Benedict Cumberbatch as Assange – was screened at 8 p.m. at Roy Thomson Hall.

Cumberbatch and Daniel Bruhl both graced the red carpet.

Just before the screening, TIFF paid tribute to the late Roger Ebert. The Pulitzer Prize-winning critic, who was a long-time supporter of the festival, died in April at the age of 70.

His widow Chaz Ebert was presented with a commemorative plaque.

“Roger was a huge presence at the festival for over 30 years,” TIFF director and CEO Piers Handling said in a statement.

“He was one of the key people who put the Toronto International Film Festival on the map, and we feel it is only fitting that we pay tribute to Roger in the way we would hope he would have wanted – in a cinema surrounded by friends, family and the Toronto audience, which was so close to Roger’s heart.”

The plaque is a replica of one that has been installed on a chair named in Ebert’s honour inside TIFF Bell Lightbox’s Cinema One, TIFF’s year-round home and marquee cinema.

“I remember the controversy over Roger’s initial pronouncement that Toronto was one of the most important film festivals in the world. Now no one would give that statement a second thought; it’s a fact taken for granted,” Chaz Ebert said.

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Also on Thursday, the festival celebrated the 30-year anniversary of the The Big Chill.

Director Lawrence Kasdan and stars Glenn Close and Meg Tilly are among the cast and crew who were on hand for a screening and talk at the Princess of Wales Theatre.

“In addition to helping its stars break through and its influence on cinema generally, The Big Chill represents a landmark in TIFF’s own history,” said Handling.

“It showcased the festival’s ability to seek out and attract up-and-coming contemporary classics as well as our audiences’ ability to predict hits through the People’s Choice Awards, and helped the festival move to the forefront of the international landscape.”

The 10-day event wraps up on Sept. 15.

What do you hope to see at this year’s TIFF? Share your favourites in the comments below.