The sense of place and uniformly superb performances make it worth seeing, and maybe ultimately singing along with.
TORONTO, Ont. - Although the Toronto Film Festival lacks an official competition, lots of awards are handed out on closing day. As they were announced Saturday, I felt like I was standing on the pier waving sadly as the ship sailed. Although I saw 43 of this year's films, either here or at Telluride, Cannes or Sundance, I managed for the first time to get through the entire festival without having seen a single film that won a prize.
This report is therefore based on descriptions in the official program. The festival's most coveted honor, the People's Choice Award, is voted on by the moviegoers themselves, as they mark ballots on the way out of the theater.
This year's winner was "Tsotsi," by Gavin Hood, a South African/British coproduction. Inspired by a novel by Nobel winner Athol Fugard, it stars Presley Chweneyagae as a carjacker who steals a BMW and unexpectedly finds a baby in the back seat. Stirred by the infant's helplessness, he forces a young mother, at gunpoint, to care for the child.
The $30,000 Toronto City Award, given to the best Canadian feature, was won by 'C.R.A.Z.Y.," a film by Jean-Marc Vallee about a Montreal teenager who may be gay and is certainly a misfit in the middle of four rowdy brothers. It takes place in the 1970s, with a sound track inspired by his taste in music - the Stones, Pink Floyd, and of course Patsy Cline.
The $15,000 Discovery Award, voted on by members of the international press who are covering the festival, went to "Look Both Ways," by Sarah Watts of Australia. The characters all meet at the site of a train wreck, the lines of their tangled lives crossing in unexpected ways.
The City TV Award for best Canadian first feature was a tie between "Familia," by Louise Achambault and "The Life and Times of Guy Terrifico," directed by Michael Mabbott. The first film is about a mother addicted to gambling and a daughter who barely survives her first rave; they decide to drive (or escape) to California. The second is a mockumentary about a self-destructive singer-songwriter who destruction outran his talent.
The Bravo!FACT Short Cuts Canada Award (yes, that's its official title) went to "Big Girl," 14-minute short by Renuka Jeyapalan about a daughter who disapproves of her mother's new boyfriend. Honorable mention went to "There's A Flower In My Pedal," directed by Andrea Dorfman, a 4-minute short about a lost bicycle.
The FIPRESCI Award is given at most major festivals by members of the official international film critics' association. This year's Toronto winner was "Sa-Kwa", by Kang Yi-Kwan of South Korea, a film about a woman who is jilted by the man she loves, and unwisely, on the rebound, marries a man who is besotted by her.
The festival closes Saturday night, having in its 30th year established itself as the equal of Cannes in importance, and in terms of audiences and numbers of films shown, the largest festival in the world. Curiously, its influence is reduced because it does not have an official juried competition, and therefore cannot give a film the kind of worldwide boost the Palme d'Or and other prizes provide at Cannes.