Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Toronto International Film Festival 'Discovers' Michigan director's talent

It’s a wrap for the 37th annual Toronto International Film Festival – which announced its award recipients.

Detroit Unleaded by Michigan director wins at TIFF.


Detroit Unleashed from Michigan director Rola Nashef was the inaugural winner of the Grolsch Film Works Discovery Award, which includes a $10,000 cash prize to put toward her next project. Nashef’s film tells the story of a young American of Lebanese background whose father is killed leaving him to take over the operation of the family’s gas station. 

Still from Seven Psychopaths.

Winning the Blackberry People’s Choice Midnight Madness Award -- or cool award as audiences willing to stand in long lines in the dark at midnight refer to it -- was Martin McDonagh’s Seven Psychopaths. It was known early on that this film would win something at TIFF! Single ticket sales for the witty dognap caper sold out in minutes. Even scalpers could not get seats. The story follows a struggling screenwriter (Colin Farrell) who inadvertently becomes entangled in the Los Angeles criminal underworld after his oddball friends (Christopher Walken and Sam Rockwell) kidnap a gangster’s (Woody Harrelson) beloved Shih Tzu.
“McDonagh (who worked with Farrell previously on the witty hit men-on-holiday-caper In Burges) plays with pop-cinema conventions to offer a wryly wacky commentary on psycho-killer thrillers...,” said TIFF’s programmer. First runner up was Barry Levinson’s “The Bay.”
Seven Psychopaths is due in theaters Oct. 12.

A scene from Silver Linings Playbook
The Blackberry People’s Choice Awards -- also voted on by Festival audiences – went to David O. Russell for “Silver Linings Playbook,” starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. It’s an intense, loving, emotional and funny family story in which Cooper and Lawrence find themselves in a secret arrangement to rebuild their broken lives. The film also stars Robert De Niro as a father who yearns to get closer to his son (Cooper), while trying to keep the family afloat with is compulsive bookmaking.  Russell was the director on another interesting feature about personal and family struggles, The Fighter.
Director/actor Ben Affleck in a scene from Argo.
First runner up for the People’s Choice Award was Ben Affleck’s Iran hostage thriller Argo for which he does double-duty as star and director. Opening in theaters Oct. 12, Argo chronicles a team effort by the CIA and the Canadian government to rescue six Americans from Tehran after the U.S. embassy was taken over by Islamist militants in 1978. The six Americans were hidden by Canadian authorities while 52 others were held hostage at the embassy. Canada worked with U.S. operatives to concoct an elaborate scheme (they pretend they’re on a location scout for a movie) to get them out of the country.
During a press conference in Toronto Affleck thanked Canada on behalf of himself and his fellow Americans. 

AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Michelle Siu
“It’s really a movie about Canadian heroics and the relationship between Canada and America,” Affleck said. “Once you see the movie, you’ll see how it resonates, the theme of, ‘Thank you Canada.’”

Affleck’s appearance in Toronto also supported the festival’s premiere of Terrence Malick’s romantic rumination, “To the Wonder,” featuring Rachel McAdams, Javier Bardem and Olga Kurylenko.  Affleck plays an American whose relationship to a woman he met overseas turns cold, leaving him drifting back toward a childhood love.

A scene from Blackbird featuring Connor Jessup.
Brandon Cronenberg’s Antiviral and won the SKYY Vodka Award for Best Canadian First Feature Film. Yes, Brandon is the son of director/producer David Cronenberg, who is one of the principal originators of the film genre known as body horror. Think The Fly and The Dead Zone films featuring a theme that explores people's fears of bodily transformation and infection. Also a winner for this award (it was a tie) was Jason Buxton’s Blackbird starring Connor Jessup, a young actor, and an up and coming writer, director, producer and editor best known for his leading role in the Discovery Kids television series Saddle Club, in which he played Simon Atherton, a 13-year-old computer geek. He is more recently known for his portrayal of Ben Mason, in the 2011 television series Falling Skies. Blackbird is the story of an alienated teenager's posturing online threat ignites a firestorm of fear in a small community.

Other TIFF awards included:

  • Blackberry People’s Choice Documentary Award – Bartholomew Cubbins for Artifact. First runner up was Storm Surfers 3D by Christopher Nelius and Justin McMillan.
  • NETPAC Award for Best World or International Asian Feature Film Premiere – Sion Sono’s The Land of Hope.

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