The weekend is over. A number of major films have now had their premieres and special screenings for press and industry. Last night's gala screening of Sarah Polley's Away From Her almost seemed like the starting gun for international distributors to start making offers.

We are now entering hard-core deal-making time in what looks like another healthy market for the world cinema and mature, indie fare that the Toronto International Film Festival specializes in. Still, caution often rules over art. Talk to any sales agent or distributor and it seems what they still like to see are films that slot easily into a certain, predetermined niche.

The stand-up comedy, back-roads-Americana documentary Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show, for instance, was one of the major acquisitions announced over the weekend, with Harvey Weinstein's The Weinstein Company buying up all rights and winning one of the festival's bidding wars.

Weinstein also acquired the hipster horror film All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, which premiered Saturday at the festival's off-limits-to-the-squeamish Midnight Madness program (see story, R2). That deal is rumoured to be worth somewhere between $3.5-million and $4-million (U.S.). Weinstein has also already acquired one of the biggest films to screen this week, Barbara Kopple's just-completed documentary Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing, which almost all industry insiders will be seeing for the first time.

Another major distribution deal was MGM's purchase of all North American rights for acclaim director Werner Herzog's Rescue Dawn, one of the higher-profile films to enter the festival before finding a buyer. The film, starring Christian Bale as Dieter Dengler, an American Navy pilot who is captured after a crash landing in Laos during the Vietnam War, is the second time Herzog has told this story. In 1997, he made the documentary Little Dieter Needs To Fly. MGM said it is planning a theatrical release for Rescue Dawn in December.

Because the film is a kind of adult fairy tale, with enough violence to stop it from being a movie for small children, the agent named a number of major distributors who likely wouldn't buy it.

Of course, that's just one insider's view. And if you walk the streets of Yorkville, it's like walking into an Oz-like world where everyone is either an expert on film aesthetics or film financing -- or usually both. One suited man sitting at the Park Hyatt was hard at work yesterday, for instance, trying to convince another financial type to write a cheque in order to sell some kind of deal on film-related insurance and interest payments. They weren't talking Fassbinder or esoteric cineaste-speak. This was all money. Multiply that a few hundred times and you have a sense of the business being transacted of TIFF.

Besides strong word of mouth about Away From Her, Polley's feature directorial debut based on an Alice Munro short story, other Canadian films have also been gaining interest.

Zombies, for better or worse, remain a strong seller, and the Canadian spoof Fido about a 1950s world in which zombies have been tamed as servants and pets has been a magnet for distributors. TVA Films and Lions Gate were aboard as Canadian and U.S. distributors respectively, even before production started. Now at TIFF, the film starring Carrie-Anne Moss and Billy Connolly is said to have been sold to around 70 per cent of the world's available markets, with Lions Gate acting as international sales agent.

Meanwhile, Everything's Gone Green, a film about thirtysomethings maturing and Vancouver-based surreality, based on the first produced dramatic screenplay by novelist Douglas Coupland, is still in the thick of talks with foreign distributors. But a sales agent for the film said there was strong interest from countries such as Australia, Britain, Russia and Japan. The film already has Canadian distribution with ThinkFilm.

And then there's Monkey Warfare, which has taken on guerrilla tactics to gain publicity, including posters up and down Bloor Street. The film's director Reg Harkema has also been giving away cartloads of vinyl copies of the soundtrack, making them some of the most ubiquitous souvenirs of the festival. That's gotten the word out, which is fundamentally what everyone is trying to do.

This is cache, read story here