‘Room’ wins top prize at Toronto International Film Festival

21 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Room’ wins Toronto Film Festival audience award.

I had hoped to avoid anything more than a passing mention of awards season for a month or so, but when news came in that Lenny Abrahamson’s Room had won the People’s Choice Prize at the Toronto Film Festival we were forced to abandon that resolution.NEW YORK (AP) — The top award of the 40th Toronto International Film Festival on Sunday went to Lenny Abrahamson’s “Room,” an emotional tale of a captive mother and her five-year son.Room, based on the 2010 novel by Emma Donoghue, tells the story of Jack, a five-year-old boy (Tremblay) who is being held captive in a tiny room along with his mother (Larson).The three world-renowned filmmakers on TIFF’s inaugural Platform jury for international cinema looked around the globe for a winner and decided he was right here in Toronto.

That award — voted for by, yes, the “people” at Toronto — has gained currency in recent decades thanks to its ability to predict Oscar success (it has a better record than, for instance, the Golden Globes). Journeyman local filmmaker Alan Zweig took the $25,000 prize for HURT, a devastating but compassionate look at fallen Canadian idol Steve Fonyo, who raised millions for cancer research with his cross-country run 30 years ago.

Produced by Dublin-based Element Pictures in cooperation with the Irish Film Board, Room stars Brie Larson as a woman who is held captive with her five-year-old son in a garden shed. The Platform prize was amongst many handed out Sunday in a ceremony at TIFF Bell Lightbox to close the 11-day festival, which saw 473,000 moviegoers take in hundreds of features and shorts. Room had already received favourable reviews following its premiere at the Telluride Film Festival earlier this month, with much praise being lavished on Larson and her young co-star Jacob Tremblay. “This win is a major accolade and a huge tribute to Lenny, Emma and the rest of the amazing cast and crew,” Ed Guiney, producer of the picture, said. “Toronto is one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world, with more than 300 films playing over 10 days, so this award gives us great momentum as we head towards our North American release next month.” John Crowley’s Brooklyn, adapted from Colm Tóibín’s novel, has been attracting much praise since its triumphant premiere at the Sundance Film Festival at the start of the year.

Room won the category over two runners-up, Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight, starring Mark Ruffalo and Michael Keaton, as Boston Globe journalists whose investigation uncovered the Massachusetts Catholic sex abuse scandal, and Pan Nalin’s Hindi drama Angry Indian Goddesses. Zweig, a TIFF regular and 2013 prize winner of the fest’s Best Canadian Feature prize for When Jews Were Funny, said he was “in shock” to be chosen from amongst the 12 international films competing for the top prize in the new Platform program, which in some respects is similar to the Palme d’Or at Cannes.

A few potential prize winners have yet to premiere — Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies, Quentin Tarantino’s Hateful Eight, Alejandro G Iñárritu’s The Revenant — but the mass of the competition is there. Runner-up went to Tom McCarthy’s “Spotlight,” a newspaper procedural starring Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo about the Boston Globe’s investigative reporting on sexual abuse by Catholic priests. The prize for the festival’s inaugural Platform sidebar of international films was awarded to Alan Zweig’s “Hurt,” a documentary about Canadian cancer hero Steve Fonyo. Johnson’s runner-up Al Purdy Was Here and This Changes Everything, director Avi Lewis’s adaptation of his wife Naomi Klein’s critique of capitalism-versus-the-environment. The three jurors were only supposed to choose one winner, but also decided to handed out three honourable mentions to other films that impressed them: Gabriel Mascaro’s Neon Bull, He Ping’s The Promised Land and Pablo Trapero’s The Clan.

Don McKellar, a member of the three-person jury that chose the Canadian winners, said there were so many great Canuck films, jurors took six hours for their deliberations, setting a new TIFF record. The jurors noted it “explores the… fragility of human destiny in a country (Canada) that much of the world sees as a paradise.” For his part, Zweig thanked Fonyo and noted his gratitude at being recognized by these global jurors and, “not a bunch of people from Toronto who know me.” Jurors from the International Federation of Film Critics awarded prizes to the Slovakian addiction drama Eva Nova by Marko Skop and to the Mexican refugee drama Desierto.

The latter, by Jonas Cuaron (son of Gravity director Alfonso Cuaron), starred Gael Garcia Bernal, the latter of whom opened his remarks with the observation, “I’m so hungover, it’s unbelievable.” He went on to call Desierto, “pertinent, because of the the discourse of hatred that’s becoming more accepted in the political world. Bernal dedicated the prize to the many desperate migrants currently dominating global attention, and who are on the move “not because they choose to, but because they need to.” The film, about young teens’ misadventures, heartbreaks and tragedies during a summer in cottage country near Thunder Bay, won the $15,000 City of Toronto Award for Best Canadian First Feature Film. Then there is Paddy Breathnach’s Viva which, after good reviews at Telluride, has been put forward as our entry in the best foreign language Oscar race.

Here are some directors that won the prize before Lenny: Pedro Almodovar, Terry Gilliam, Ang Lee, Nic Roeg, Takeshi Kitano. “Just looked at list of past winners and nearly fell off the bed,” Lenny tweeted after the news came through.

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