Awards luncheon: Filmmaker Nilesh Maniyar, winner of the NETPAC Award for "Margarita, with a Straw" (L) and TIFF Artistic Director Cameron Bailey.
Toasts were raised to Shonali Bose’s “Margarita” at the traditional Sunday luncheon held exclusively for the media on the day after the festival closes. This is when the festival’s many sponsored awards in different film genres are announced, most of them carrying sizeable cash prizes and the attention of major sales agents and exhibitors.
“Margarita” won the NETPAC Award for Best First or Second Asian Film in a year what was rich and weighty with films from the Pan Pacific rim. The NETPAC Jury comprising Lekha Shankar (Bangkok), Hannah Fisher (Canada) and Anderson Le (Hawaii) remarked, “Margarita, with a Straw is both universal and groundbreaking. Director Shonali Bose and actress Kalki Koechlin have jointly created a character and a world that embody a love letter to life, with all its highs and lows, in spite of overwhelming physical limitations.”
Shonali had already left for her Los Angeles home. The award was collected by the film’s charged and elated co-director and producer, Nilesh Maniyar. He bounded on stage and in his speech made no bones about the leap in status and recognition the award brings to a fledgling film made on a daunting and daring subject.
“Margarita” is on the coming of age of a spunky young girl, resigned to a wheel chair with cerebral palsy, who sets out to discover and establish her identity. Shonali sent a message that was read out by Nilesh in which she said she had dedicated the film to her young son she lost four years ago and that he was there with her always and now to accept the award. The film, now highlighted with a Toronto glow, heads for more glory at the Busan and BFI London film festivals. Kudos are also to the production company, Viacom 18, for taking on a film that excels in content and creativity.
This award has gained in esteem and anticipation because in recent years it has increasingly served as a precursor for an Oscar winner (“Slumdog Millionaire”, “The King’s Speech” and “12 Years a Slave”).”
This year’s People's Choice Award went to the US/UK film, “The Imitation Game” by Norwegian director Morten Tyldum. The bio-pic is set in the darkest days of the Second World War when Alan Turing was a brilliant Cambridge mathematician hired by the British military to break Nazi codes. His work leading a group of misfit genius did not only shorten the war, it pushed technology to the point where computers could be imagined. But Turner was prosecuted for homosexuality in 1952 and died two years later. Keira Knightley portrays his close friend, Joan Clarke. Tyldum’s earlier film “Headhunters” which played in 2011 Toronto, also created a stir for its gripping pace and suspense.
It was a different Toronto this year. For one, the weather went from high to low, hot at the outset turning to windy cold, then sudden downpours , adding to the task of accessing the best of Toronto’s avalanche of films.
Encompassing the gamut of genres in cinema today, the films were satisfying and well attended. But the spark that ignites a festival on an unexpected discovery, which has characterised Toronto over the years, lay dormant. There was a quieter, more reflective mood, caused perhaps by the gauntlet thrown at the thronging delegates (1200 media and 5,000 registered delegates) of close to 400 films with umpteen daily talks, meetings and master classes to be imbibed within just ten days. There was also an all-day Asian Film Summit which this year highlighted South Korea.
The Toronto film festival is highly valued by the city’s people and also the State government. This year for the first time the space around the main theatre, TIFF Bell Lightbox, became a street festival for the festival’s first four days. No traffic was permitted and the street was turned into a kind of carnival where entertainment plus food counters attracted hundreds of people in celebration of TIFF.