The Toronto International Film Festival, “a festival of festivals,” (TIFF) had its 40th edition, (September 10-20, 2015, Canada), and screened 399 films, (289 features, 110 shorts, more than in the previous year. It is considered an ideal platform for the launching of new works, Canadian and international, and this year, it yielded 132 World, 27 International, and 97 North American premieres with films from 72 countries. Six thousand one hundred and eighteen films were submitted for consideration.
“It was another strong edition of TIFF with a large and diverse programme offering a vital snapshot of international cinema today,” said NETPAC jury member, Nashen Moodley.
The opening night film slot saw the premiere of Demolition, directed by Jean-Marc Vallée (Wild, Dallas Buyers Club). This year, TIFF had a record number of attendees — over 470,000 audience, 5,400 industry, 1,200 press and more than 2,100 buyers - an increase of 9% from last year. The sale of films, too, was strong this year. It included the sale of Hardcore, a Midnight Madness film audience favourite, shot with a Go-Pro camera, for $10 million to STX Entertainment.
Two new sections were added to TIFF’s 16 sectioned programme—Platform (highlighting work by auteurs) and Primetime (focused on TV shows). The Platform jury - film directors Claire Denis, Agnieska Holland and Jia Khangke - awarded the Toronto Platform Prize to director Alan Zweig for Hurt. Other sections in the programme included TIFF Docs, Masters, Vanguard, Midnight Madness sections.
Over 200 speakers participated in the Industry conference, (from September 10-17) during the festival. Notable speakers included Stephen Frears, Jia Zhangke, Asif Kapadia.
The NETPAC Award, presented for the fourth year at TIFF, went to The Whispering Star (Hiso Hiso Boshi), produced and directed by Sion Sono (Japan) for its poetic, moving and brave attempt to express a grief that is inexpressible, combining all too real elements with lo-fi sci-fi. Set in a science fiction future, (but employing real life elements), a robot delivery-woman learns about human nature and scope of emotions as she journeys to desolate places (Fukushima and the like) to deliver packages to a variety of persons (real towns people of evacuated areas). Reacting to the news of the award, Sion Sono stated: “The reaction of Toronto audience was amazing and I felt like people really understood my film. This is a film I believe in and I am happy that The Whispering Star received a good evaluation in the biggest film festival in Canada.” Megumi Kagurazaka, lead actor and crew said: “I could feel that the audience had a great comprehension of the film and that made me cry. I was not only the actress in the film but also one of the staff members so I am so happy to hear that The Whispering Star won the NETPAC award.”
Ten nominated Asian films with world premieres were considered by the NETPAC jury which comprised Anne Misawa, Heather Keung, and Nashen Moodley. The selection included notable first features such as Baba Joon and 3000 Nights by documentary filmmakers presenting first dramatic features. Jury member Nashen Moodley said: 3000 Nights, directed by Mai Masri (Palestine/France/Jordan/Lebanon/United Arab Emirates/Qatar), is a “powerful and moving depiction of resilience in the face of oppression and injustice. In the powerful film Baba Joon, directed by Yuval Delshad (Israel), Asher Avrahami delivers a complex and fierce performance on the conflict between ambition and obligation. Paths of the Soul directed by Zhang Yang (China) was “a beautifully shot observational film documenting a spiritual journey filled with tribulations and moments of triumph. The other NETPAC award nominated films were The Kind Words by Shemi Zarhin (Israel/Canada), Honor the Father by Erik Matti (Philippines), Hong Kong Trilogy; Preschooled, Preoccupied, Preposterous by Christopher Doyle (Hong Kong), Imbisibol by Lawrence Farjardo (Philippines/Japan), Stranger by Yermek Tursunov (Kazakhstan) and In the Room by Erik Khoo (Hong Kong/ Singpaore).
Other awards given at TIFF 2015 include-
The Grolsch People’s Choice Awards, $15,000, to Lenny Abrahamson for Room.
The Grolsch People’s Choice Documentary Award to Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s F€ by Evgeny Afineevsky.
The Shorts Cuts Award for Best Canadian Short Film to Overpass by Patrice Laliberté.
The Short Cuts Award for Best Short Film to Maman(s) by Maïmouna Doucouré.
The City of Toronto Award for Best Canadian First Feature Film to Sleeping Giant by Andrew Cividino.
The Canada Goose Award for Best Canadian Feature Film to Closet Monster by Stephen Dunn.
The Prize of the International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) for the Discovery programme to Eva Nova by Marko Škop.
THE Prize of the International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) for Special Presentations to Desierto by Jonás Cuarón.
The Dropbox Discovery Programme Filmmakers Award to Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah for the film, Black which was part of the Discovery section.
-by Anne Misawa