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Paris Hilton lights up Toronto film festival
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Paris Hilton and director Adria Petty (R) arrive at the "Paris, Not France" screening at the 33rd Toronto International Film Festival September 9, 2008. [Agencies]

It's not easy being Paris Hilton, always being photographed by the paparazzi doing things as mundane as ordering a hamburger at a drive-in.

"Paris, Not France," a documentary about the life and business of being Hilton debuted on Tuesday at the Toronto International Film Festival. From one perspective, it doesn't seem like much fun being a 27-year-old global celebrity.

The movie from director Adria Petty, daughter of rocker Tom Petty, shows Hilton at work on red carpets and at home with her family and friends. Petty spent a year documenting Hilton's life and came away with an insider's view.

Hilton, derided by some as a spoiled rich kid with little real talent but adored by her fans, is given largely sympathetic treatment.

"I had a conception that she might not be very smart before I met her. I didn't really go in with too many prejudices against her, but just like everyone else I wondered what she was all about," Petty said in an interview on Wednesday.

"As soon as I met her, I knew within a minute that she was a cool chick, a smart girl, and hard-working. She certainly wasn't lounging on a chaise eating cherries."

Petty said the documentary is designed not to sway Hilton doubters but to entertain. Petty wanted to make this generation's "Truth or Dare," referring to Madonna's behind-the-scenes look at her 1990 Blond Ambition Tour.

It wasn't that hard to get Hilton to talk candidly, Petty said.

"I think it was really liberating for her because I don't think she's ever been encouraged to talk about things in a candid and open way."

The business of being Hilton

Hilton discusses her infamous sex tape, growing up in the media glare and her critics and fans. Petty follows Hilton as she promotes products that bear her name such as perfume, television shows, a book and album.

The business of being Hilton seems to carry on non-stop. In one scene, a makeup artist prepares Hilton for a public appearance -- while she's asleep.

Interviews with her parents Rick and Kathy Hilton, sister Nicky and others such as Donald Trump and feminist Camille Paglia provide commentary on the most famous member of the family that founded the Hilton hotels chain.

At Tuesday's screening, accompanied by her boyfriend, rocker Benji Madden of the band Good Charlotte, Hilton smiled. With only that gesture, a burst of camera flashes went off.

But when the lights came up after the 85-minute documentary, the pair scurried out a side door without waiting for the director's question-and-answer session that is common after public screenings at the Toronto film festival.

When Hilton emerged outside, festival volunteers linked hands to provide a human fence shielding her from fans jockeying to catch a glimpse her.

Not one to disappoint, Hilton did what she does best: stopping briefly, signing a few autographs, posing for cameras but not saying much. Then she faded into the Toronto night.

(China Daily/Agencies September 12, 2008)

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