Some big-budget films at the Toronto International Film Festival would be of interest to progressive viewers.

“Pan’s Labyrinth” reflects a groundbreaking concept in storytelling that incorporates a unique blend of fantasy and reality centered on the period after the Spanish Civil War.

While Generalissimo Franco’s ruthless Captain Vidal and his forces root out the remaining partisans in the mountains, his little stepdaughter Ofelia imagines a world of gargoyles, secret vaults and scary creatures.

Vidal and Ofelia carry out their adventures side by side in the countryside, oblivious to each other. They are both gory horror stories, taking place on different planes of reality and depicted in a remarkably seamless manner. Chosen as the Mexican entry for an Oscar award, the film is an amazing masterpiece by director Guillermo del Toro, a follow-up to his acclaimed Spanish Civil War ghost story, “The Devil’s Backbone.”

This is certainly not a children’s film, with scenes of the most graphic horrors of war and the brutality of the Spanish fascist regime splashing across the screen in a dizzying pace. Unforgettable creatures, both real and fantastic, challenge the viewer’s sense of reality.

Highly entertaining, masterfully photographed and animated with effective acting and music scoring, the movie is sure to assault the senses and bring attention to that tragic time in history when it appeared mankind had lost hope for the future and its children.

“Indigenes,” a French film by Rachid Bouchareb, is a dramatization of the selfless contributions made by North African Algerian troops to the liberation of France in World War II.

Four Algerian Muslims, played by actors who won an ensemble award for Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival, enlist for various reasons to fight the Germans to free their “motherland.” Treated as “indigenes,” or blacks, they are refused leaves of stay, given the toughest assignments and denied advancement in the regiment.

They are nonetheless committed to liberate France from Nazism, and their heroism and boundless dedication are chronicled in several battles ending in the liberation of the Alsace region of France.

In view of the widespread discrimination against immigrants in today’s Europe, this film is a refreshing blow to anti-immigrant bigotry. It is also a glowing tribute to many unsung heroes who gave their lives to defeat fascism. Noted sadly as a footnote is the fact that in today’s France, soldiers from former colonial countries, such as Algeria, are denied pensions.

Another Cannes Festival award winner, this one for best film, is “Wind That Shakes the Barley,” by socially conscious British director Ken Loach.

Loach offers a period piece of a revolutionary nature, similar to his previous film, “Land and Freedom,” about the Spanish Civil War.

This time it’s the Irish rebellion of the 1920s and the early years of the IRA. The film, depicting immense humanism and heavily character driven, addresses the powerful issue of commitment to an ideal.

After endless losses and sorrows, the main objective of battle, to remove the British occupying forces from Ireland, is compromised when a settlement is reached that divides the revolutionary forces. The tough choice is either to continue the battle for total liberation or compromise and support the new Irish government that is now controlled by the British. Loach’s skill at humanizing the struggle and developing real characters of great depth makes this a well-deserved award-winning historical work of art.

A new South African political thriller, “Catch a Fire,” based on a true story by Shawn Slovo, is about the emerging military wing of the African National Congress and one of its new recruits, Patrick Chamusso, during the anti-apartheid struggle.

Chamusso, played by Derek Luke, is an oil refinery worker who suffers daily abuses from the apartheid system. Luke gives a remarkable performance. Chamusso finally has enough and escapes, joining the ANC, leaving behind his loving family.

Tim Robbins, who plays security police chief Nic Vos, captures even the subtle nuances of the vicious apartheid system that brutalized so many black Africans. With an amazing flawless Africaaner dialect, and sporting the arrogant self-assured mannerisms of power, Robbins delivers one of his most convincing roles in his long distinguished career as a clever but obsessed functionary bent on halting the advances of the African liberation movement.

Author Shawn Slovo’s father, Joe Slovo, a highly respected leader of the ANC and the South African Communist Party, is depicted along with other real-life exiles who await the new recruits in Angola.

The South African tundra is shot in bright vivid color. Thriller expert Phillip Noyce skillfully directs the film.

The real Chamusso appears at the end of the film during the credits, reminding viewers that the extraordinary events that were just witnessed really did happen in South Africa.