Quebec dominates TIFF awards

A strong year for Quebecois film paid off Sunday at the Toronto International Film Festival, where the award for best Canadian feature film went to Denis Villeneuve for Incendies and Vincent Biron's Les fleurs de l'age (Little Flowers) grabbed the best Canadian short film award.
Incindies

A strong year for Quebecois film paid off Sunday at the Toronto International Film Festival, where the award for best Canadian feature film went to Denis Villeneuve for Incendies and Vincent Biron’s Les fleurs de l’age (Little Flowers) grabbed the best Canadian short film award.

With the Incendies win and its $30,000 cheque, the odds on Villeneuve’s historical drama dominating the Genies shortened after the picture opened in the Quebec over the weekend.

The festival jury cited the Quebec drama “for its masterful telling of a complex story” as a family story is set against a war tableau in an unspecified Middle East nation.

“This is a huge honor for me. I’d like to thanks TIFF for their strong support of Quebecois cinema over the years,” a beaming Villeneuve told the festival’s awards luncheon audience.

“I don’t work at Starbucks, but the federal Canadian income tax agency (Revenue Canada) kept calling me in 2009, so I thank them because I won’t go in jail next week,” he added, in reference to Deborah Chow, whose Zach Braff-starrer The High Cost of Living took home best Canadian first feature film award, indicating her $15,000 prize meant she wouldn’t have to work at Starbucks any time soon.

Quebec director Biron, whose winning short film portrays a group of kids on a summer day, thanked “all my little actors, who were only little height-wise.”

In the audience awards, the most popular documentary award went to Sturla Gunnarsson’s Force of Nature: The David Suzuki Movie, while the most popular Midnight Madness film was Jim Mickle’s Stake Land.

Toronto audiences voted Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech the most popular of the fest, a win that puts the film about King George VI and starring Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush at the front of the Oscar race going into the awards season.

“The fact that this award is voted on exclusively by audiences makes the award particularly special. I am so grateful to all the people who voted The King’s Speech their favorite film of the festival,” director Tom Hooper said in a statement Sunday after his win.

Festival organizers were equally praise-worthy of Toronto audiences as they wrapped TIFF’s 35th edition.

“The move south (to Bell Lightbox) was absolutely fantastic, and the public received the festival really, really well,” festival director Piers Handling said.

“It was a strong festival, top to bottom. We were proud of the international breadth and depth of the festival. So many films played so well,” he added.

A flurry of film deals at the tail-end of TIFF also helped festival co-director Cameron Bailey single out Toronto for restoring market activity for a crisis-era indie film world.

“The film industry seems to be coming back in terms of buying films presented at the festival,” he said.

Only a few Canadian films got deals during the festival, including Villeneuve’s Incendies and Ingrid Vinenger’s Modra. The rest will need to wait until after TIFF for willing distributors to come forward and open their cheque book.

Film sellers report heat around The Bang Bang Club, The Whistleblower and Score: A Hockey Musical for foreign sales potential.

Now, after the indie film commerce in Toronto, cinema returns to art at Bell Lightbox, Toronto’s new year-round home which will reopen September 23 with a fall schedule that includes the Tim Burton exhibit shifting from New York’s Museum of Modern Art.