News / Americas

Toronto Festival Becomes Center of Film World

Multimedia

Audio
Alan Silverman

Canada steals the spotlight from Hollywood for 10 days every September when stars, filmmakers and audiences gather for the Toronto International Film Festival. This year's  35th annual film showcase concludes on Sunday.

As a major film production center, Toronto is no stranger to top stars; but at the Festival even publicity-shy Oscar-winner DeNiro submits - albeit uncomfortably - to reporters' questions about his role in the new film "Stone."

"Uh, I mean the story …in general, my character and what he goes through is something that I could empathize with a lot, to say the least, and I think a lot of it is a classic situation," he said.

As the tense prison drama "Stone" unspools, in another cinema audiences can chuckle through "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger," the new comedy from Woody Allen, also in town and fending off questions about the film's perplexing ending. "I didn't want the characters to neatly wrap up his or her story with a nice 'MGM' ending or something. I wanted the people to wander around in agonizing limbo …you know, like in real life. Naturally, nobody is going to pay to see this," he said.

But audiences, indeed, do pay to see the films at the TIFF, as the Festival is known locally. It's a terrific experience for directors like Andrew Lau, who arrived from Hong Kong just in time for the North American premiere of his martial arts drama "Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen". "I was very happy. When I jumped out of the car I saw all the people outside the theater and I said "oh, this is wonderful," because a director loves to see that kind of thing: a long queue …we love that kind of things, so I'm so happy about that," he said.

Cameron Bailey, who is co-director of the TIFF, said "We have over 300 films at the Festival. About 260 of those are feature films, 122 of them are world premieres and they are from over 60 countries." Bailey heads a team of 20 programmers who scour the world every year for new films from veteran directors and first-timers. Bailey says they stress the "international" part of the festival title and it is something Canadian audiences welcome:

"I think we pride ourselves on being open-minded and curious about the rest of the world. We are not as inward looking as, maybe, some other countries …partly because, I think, particularly Toronto is such a diverse city. The majority of the population is people who were not born in Toronto, so we are outward looking. We are curious to see what the world is bringing to us and I think we pride ourselves on being engaged with the world, being fair minded, having a kind of ironic sense of humor about things (and) certainly never taking ourselves too seriously. I think you'll find that in the audiences at the movies here at the Festival," he said.

Irish writer-director Juanita Wilson was particularly moved by the audience response to her film "As If I Am Not There," a heartbreaking drama about women forced to be sex slaves during the war in Bosnia.

"There was a Bosnian couple who came up to talk to me. They had left because of the war and the woman was saying that she couldn't even listen to music from home because it was so sad and so upsetting. Yet she felt coming to this film was going to open a new chapter in her life. Things like that matter so much to me; and you make films for this reason, not for the awards and not for the reviews. You actually make it so that you can touch the hearts of real people and when you do it is such a privilege that you can do that when people are open to it. It just reaffirms the power of cinema," she said.

The early autumn dates position the TIFF as a major springboard for the annual awards season. Recent Toronto favorites like "American Beauty," "Juno," "Slumdog Millionaire" and "The Hurt Locker" went on to win Oscars. However, it is also a chance to spotlight new, smaller films. South African-born German director Oliver Schmitz brought his powerful drama of a teenager's struggle to keep her family together, "Life Above All:"

Of course, whenever filmmakers gather, they 'do lunch,' as they say: hold informal business meetings that can lead to a film being picked up for distribution in markets around the world or, as Oliver Schmitz points out, also pave the way for new projects:

"I think the best scenario for any film festival is to have one film that is screening and another one which is ready to shoot and looking for that final financing. It is what happened this year in Cannes on a project that I'm shooting in Germany next year and Paramount is part of that project so that was fantastic. Now I'm concentrating on the movie, but already I've had meetings this morning, which will lead to other things," he said. "So the best thing, actually, is to have something that people can see and take note of and then say 'hey, I also have this other project.'

Festival official Bailey says the crowded theaters and backroom meetings are not his main measures of success for the film showcase.

"We do have quantitative measures we can look at: the number of pictures that are sold, the number of premieres that we have, the number of tickets sold, as well. But I think what I often do is I like to stand in the back of a theater with a filmmaker and just see how he or she reacts to the film. If they are watching the audience and the audience is into it and the filmmaker is pleased by that and this is an experience that they haven't had yet - this is the world premiere of their film and they're loving it and if they'll come back as a result with their next film, then that's success for me," he said.

Cameron Bailey is co-director of the 35th annual Toronto International Film Festival.

You May Like

Bleak China Economic Outlook Rattles Markets

Several key European stock indexes were down up to three percent, while US market indexes were off around 2.5 percent in afternoon trading More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs

More Americas News

UN: El Nino to Be Among Strongest Since '50s

Meteorologist say climate models suggest water temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean are likely to exceed 2 degrees Celsius above average
More

At Halfway Mark, Mexican President's Approval at New Low

Enrique Pena Nieto faces struggling economy, litany of security and conflict of interest scandals that have undercut his support
More

Santos: Colombia Peace Talks Have Advanced Significantly

The government has been holding negotiations with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, since the end of 2012
More

Brazilian Head of UN Peacekeeping Force in Haiti Dies

Lieutenant General Jose Luiz Jaborandy Jr. died of a heart attack on board a plane from Miami to Brazil on Sunday, according to a UN statement
More

Dozens of Venezuelans Shot by Police Amid Crime Crackdown

Rights groups accuse security forces of carrying out summary executions, but some residents in neighborhoods overrun by gangs say government right to take more militarized approach
More

Video Survivor Video Testimonies Recount Horrors of Guatemalan Genocide

During a conflict that spanned more than three decades, tens of thousands of indigenous Mayans were killed
More