UPDATE 1-Kidnapping tale “Room” takes top prize at Toronto film festival

21 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Room’ wins Toronto Film Festival audience award.

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. 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.Directed by Lenny Abrahamson, Room stars 8-year-old Jacob Tremblay as a small child whose entire world is the room where he lives with his mother (Brie Larson).

Room, Lenny Abrahamson’s drama about a woman abducted, raped and trapped for years in a room with her son – whose father is their kidnapper – has taken the top honour at the Toronto film festival. Coming at the start of the increasingly lengthy awards season, the prize has, in recent decades, been seen as a reliable pointer towards the best picture winner at the Oscars. 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. Since premiering at Telluride and screening in Toronto, the adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s best-selling novel has earned rave reviews and sparked Oscar buzz.

The film, which world premiered the week before at Telluride, won rave reviews for Brie Larson as the woman, and for Jacob Tremblay, who plays five-year-old Jack. 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. In the past, the People’s Choice award has gone to future Oscar Best Picture winners like 12 Years A Slave, The King’s Speech, and Slumdog Millionaire. It is the fifth feature from Irish film-maker Abrahamson, whose film Frank, starring Michael Fassbender as Frank Sidebottom, opened to much acclaim at Sundance last 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. Among them: Black Mass, in which Johnny Depp played gangster James “Whitey” Bulger and The Danish Girl, starring Eddie Redmayne as early 20th century artist Einar Wegener who underwent one of the first sex change operations. “The People” also had their say on some darker films, giving the Midnight Madness nod to the Russian cyborg-action film Hardcore (over the punks-versus-skinhead film Green Room and the horror-comedy The Final Girls). The film has been judged by many critics to be a gripping mix of thriller and small-scale domestic drama; the decision to set the first 45 minutes entirely within the confines of the room itself, was praised as courageous for a movie pitching for mainstream commercial success.

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. Speaking to the Guardian on Friday, Tiff’s Artistic Director, Cameron Bailey, tipped the film as one which “everyone will be speaking about through the autumn”. 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.

Alan Zweig’s Hurt – the story of the descent into addiction and near homelessness of cancer-survivor/cross-country runner Steve Fonyo – was given a $25,000 Toronto Platform Prize by jurors/filmmakers Agnieszka Holland, Claire Denis and Jia Zhang-ke. 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.” Films which had been considered frontrunners, such as Michael Moore’s new documentary, Where to Invade Next, and the Cate Blanchett vehicle Truth, went home empty-handed.

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. But it was still a successful year for Toronto, with industry attendance at a record high and sales, though initially sluggish, picking up as the week progressed.

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