Toronto & San Sebastian Winners + L.A. Irish Film Festival Features Gabriel Byrne

by Alt Film Guide
Gabourey 'Gabby' Sidibe Precious Based Novel Push by Sapphire
Gabourey 'Gabby' Sidibe in Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire.

Toronto Film Festival Winners: 'Precious' Tops

The curiously titled Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire, formerly known as Push: Based on a Novel by Sapphire, was the Audience Award winner at the 2009 Toronto Film Festival. The Toronto win, which follows widespread critical acclaim and a couple of Sundance awards earlier in the year, has pushed Precious to the forefront of likely Oscar contenders come February 2010. (Last year's Toronto winner and critics' favorite, Slumdog Millionaire, eventually turned out to be the best picture Oscar winner.)

Directed by Lee Daniels, Precious tells the story of an overweight, illiterate, pregnant teenager (Gabourey 'Gabby' Sidibe) who is abused by her mother (Mo'Nique), but finds emotional support from her teacher (Paula Patton), who happens to be a lesbian.

There were two runners-up in the best narrative film category: Bruce Beresford's Mao's Last Dancer (above), based on the real-life story of China's ballet dancer Li Cunxin (Chi Cao), who refused to return to China after getting a taste of real freedom in – you guessed it – Texas; and Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Micmacs, a fantasy tale featuring Dany Boon as a man bent on avenging his father's death at the hands of evil arms manufacturers.

Toronto fest filmgoers also picked Leanne Pooley's The Topp Twins (above, top photo), about two lesbian country-singing sisters from New Zealand, as best documentary, and Sean Byrne's Australian-made The Loved Ones (above, lower photo), in which a young man (Xavier Samuel) becomes the “prom king at a macabre, sadistic event where he is the entertainment,” as best film in the Midnight Madness sidebar.

Michael Moore's Capitalism: A Love Story, an attack on Wall Street greed, was the runner-up in the documentary category, while the runner-up among the Midnight Madness films was Michael and Peter Spierig's Daybreakers, about human beings trying to recover their former dominant position on a planet now (2019) dominated by mutant vampires (who, minus the blood diet, sound quite a bit like 2009 human beings).

Other winners were Ruba Nadda's Cairo Time, voted the best Canadian film, in which Patricia Clarkson plays a married woman who develops an intimate relationship with an Egyptian man (Alexander Siddig) while waiting for her husband to arrive in Cairo; Bruno Dumont's Hadewijch, the International Film Critics' choice, which revolves around a devout Catholic and former theology student (Julie Sokolowski) and an equally devout Muslim fundamentalist (Karl Sarafidis) who discover that despite their different holy books they share a strong bond in their mad religious fervor; and International Film Critics' Discovery award winner The Man Beyond the Bridge, Laxmikant Shetgaonkar's romantic drama about the budding relationship between an Indian forest ranger and a “madwoman” he finds hiding near his house.

Alexandre Franchi's The Wild Hunt (above), about a reenacted Medieval “fantasy” battle run amok, was chosen the best Canadian first feature, while Pedro Pires' Danse Macabre, featuring the motions of a corpse, won top honors among the festival's short films. The runner-up in that category was Jamie Travis' The Armoire, the chronicle of a boy who starts living inside his armoire after his best friend goes missing in their idyllic suburban neighborhood.

Photos: Toronto Film Festival

Toronto Film Festival Awards

2009 Toronto Film Festival: Sept. 10-19

Cadillac People's Choice Awards:



Runner up:

Midnight Madness

Runner up:

FIPRESCI Special Presentation Prize: HADEWIJCH


Best Canadian Feature: CAIRO TIME

Skyy Vodka Best Canadian First Feature: THE WILD HUNT

Best Canadian Short: DANSE MACABRE

Honorable Mention: THE ARMOIRE

Toronto: IndieWIRE's Critics' Poll

An indieWIRE poll of “more than 25” film critics and bloggers (blogging film critics?) shows that the overwhelmingly favorite film screened at the 2009 Toronto Film Festival was Joel and Ethan Coen's A Serious Man (not to be confused with Tom Ford's A Single Man or the Michael Douglas vehicle Solitary Man), a black comedy about a suburbanite (Michael Stuhlbarg) whose life suddenly unravels after his wife asks for a divorce. A Serious Man hits US theaters on Oct. 2.

The best performance was delivered by Colin Firth in A Single Man (not to be confused with either Solitary Man or the Coen brothers' A Serious Man), in which the British actor plays a serious professor – so serious, in fact, he's ready to commit suicide following the death of his lover (Matthew Goode) in a car accident.

The best supporting performances were those of Sundance winner Mo'Nique for Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire and Anna Kendrick for Up in the Air.

Erik Gandini's Videocracy, about Italy in the age of video and Silvio Berlusconi, was voted the best documentary. As Thom Powers explains in his commentary on the Toronto festival's website, “as the owner of the country's television empire, [Berlusconi] wields a powerful tool for shaping public opinion to his benefit. His force of will is reflected by the TV commercial in which throngs of Italians sing, 'Thank God Silvio exists.'”

Sounds scary? It gets scarier if you actually sit to watch the shows instead of just reading about them. I know what I'm talking about, as I subscribe to RAI International. It's a great way to practice my Italian, but if that station's programming is a reflection of Italy's cultural state in the early 21st century then it's a good thing Michelangelo, Dante, et al. have been long dead. Heck, where's Pasolini when you most need him?

Directed by Karyn Kusama and written by Academy Award winner Diablo Cody, Jennifer's Body, about a young woman (Megan Fox) who enjoys feasting on the bodies of young men, was chosen the festival's worst film. Jennifer's Body opened to dismal box office this past weekend in the US – though perhaps it has a bright future on one of Berlusconi's TV channels.

European Film Awards 2009: First Feature Nominees

At the 2009 Zurich Film Festival, the European Film Academy has announced this year's nominations for the European Discovery Award for best first film. The nominees are:

AJAMI, Germany / Israel

Winner of the Israeli Film Academy's best picture award, Ajami is set in the mean streets of the occupied territories.

written & directed by Scandar Copti & Yaron Shani
produced by Mosh Danon, Thanassis Karathanos & Talia Kleinhendler

GAGMA NAPIRI (The Other Bank), Georgia / Kazakhstan

After finding his mother with a lover, a pre-teen boy travels back home to Abkhazia in search of his father.

directed by George Ovashvili
written by Nugzar Shataidze
produced by George Ohashvili & Sain Gabdullin

KATALIN VARGA, Romania / UK / Hungary

A woman and her son are on the run from the police (or from more sinister forces) in rural Romania.

Written & directed by Peter Strickland
produced by Tudor Giurgiu, Oana Giurgiu & Peter Strickland

Anais Demoustier in Be Good

SOIS SAGE (BE GOOD), France / Denmark

A young woman with a mysterious past assumes a new identity in the south of France. Problems arise when she becomes obsessed with a musician.

written & directed by Juliette Garcias
produced by Marianne Slot

Autumn by Ozcan Alper

SONBAHAR (Autumn), Turkey / Germany

In Autumn, a young ex-con returns to his village where he finds only loneliness and a sense of aimlessness – until a fateful meeting with a Georgian prostitute.

written & directed Özcan Alper
produced by F. Serkan Acar & Kadir Sözen

This year's nominations were determined by a committee comprised of Board Members Pawel Pawlikowski (UK), Els Vandevorst (the Netherlands), and Pierre-Henri Deleau (France); in addition to Jacob Neiiendam (Denmark), director of the film festival CPH:PIX, as well as film journalists Dana Linssen (the Netherlands) and Alin Taciyan (Turkey), both of them members of FIPRESCI (International Federation of Film Critics).

The nominated films will now be made available to all 2,000 members of the European Film Academy. The winner will be announced at the 2009 European Film Awards on 12 December in Germany's Ruhr Metropolis (that's in Bochum, not far from Dortmund and Essen).

2009 San Sebastian Film Festival Awards

2009 San Sebastian Film Festival: Sept. 18–26.

Official Selection

City of Life and Death


Isabelle Carre in Le Refuge


La Mujer sin piano


Lola Duenas, Pablo Pineda in Yo tambien







Official Competition Jury: LAURENT CANTET (France) (President), BONG JOON-HO (Korea), DANIEL GIMÉNEZ CACHO (Spain), JOHN MADDEN (United Kingdom), LEONOR SILVEIRA (Portugal), PILAR LÓPEZ DE AYALA (Spain), SAMIRA MAKHMALBAF (Iran)

Los Angeles Irish Film Festival Features Gabriel Byrne

The 2009 Los Angeles Irish Film Festival is currently being held at the American Cinematheque's Aero Theatre in Santa Monica.

Gabriel Byrne will be present tonight for a screening of Gabriel Byrne: Stories from Home, directed by Pat Collins.

Upcoming films include Vittoria Colonna Di Stigliano's Identities, about Ireland's transgender denizens; Tomm Moore and Nora Twomey's animated adventure tale The Secret of Kells; and Lance Daly's Kisses, about two pre-teens who run away from home and end up in the streets of Dublin.

The Aero is located at 1328 Montana Avenue (at 14th Street) in Santa Monica.

The schedule and synopses below are from the American Cinematheque's press release:

Friday, September 25 – 7:30 PM 
Double Feature:

CHERRYBOMB, 2009, Little Film Company, 86 min. Dirs. Lisa Barros D'Sa & Glenn Leyburn. Teenagers Luke, Malachy and Michelle embark on a wild weekend of drinking, drugs, shoplifting and stealing cars. But what starts out as a game turns deadly serious when they discover they can't get off the wild ride they've set in motion. With Rupert Grint (HARRY POTTER's Ron Weasley), Robert Sheehan (“Young Blades,” “Foreign Exchange” ), Kimberley Nixon (EASY VIRTUE), James Nesbitt (“Cold Feet,” “Murphy's Law” ). Plus “Call Me Son” (U.K., 2008, 11 min.) Dir. Louis McCullagh. When you've had more parents than birthdays, the last thing you want are two more.

IDENTITIES, 2008, Underground Films, 84 min. Dir. Vittoria Colonna Di Stigliano. Charting the multicolored, multicultural transgender community in Ireland, five stories give shape to the worlds of transvestism, transsexualism, drag, sexual identity and gender dysphoria. A film that forgoes stereotyping in favor of an empathetic look at the human spirit. Filmmakers in person.
Plus “Out of the Blue” (Ireland, 2008, 9 min.) Dir. Michael Lavelle. A lonely man's life is suddenly transformed when he discovers an old TV floating in the sea.

Saturday, September 26 – 1:00 PM 
Documentary Short Program:

THE BOYS OF ST COLUMB'S (2009, 53 min.), Dir. Tom Collins. This documentary tells the story of some of Ireland's most famous sons, including Seamus Heaney, Eamonn McCann and John Hume. Plus “Raise the Last Glass” (2009, 11 min.) Dirs. Lucy Kennedy, Lauren Kesner. When Waterford Crystal closed its main factory in January, its longtime workers staged a sit-in for almost two months to try to save their jobs. Plus “Guests of Another Nation” (1988, 28 min.), Dirs. Mark Stewart, John Fleming. Recently rediscovered, this 1988 film uses interviews to capture the alienation of young Irish emigrants in London in the late 1980s. Director Tom Collins will appear for discussion following the screening.

Saturday, September 26 – 4:00 PM

THE SECRET OF KELLS, 2009, Buena Vista Films, 75 min. Dirs. Tomm Moore & Nora Twomey. Adventure, action and danger await 12-year-old Brendan, who must fight Vikings and a serpent god to find a crystal and complete the legendary Book of Kells in this acclaimed animated film. Featuring the voices of Brendan Gleeson (IN BRUGES) and Mick Lally (“Ballykissangel” ). Winner of 2009 Audience Award at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival. “…the kind of movie where you want to keep stopping it to admire the many elaborate layers that nearly every frame is loaded with.” – Jeremy W. Kaufman, Destroy All Podcasts DX. Join us at 3:00 PM at Every Picture Tells a Story for an hour of Irish storytelling.

Saturday, September 26 – 7:30 PM 
Double Feature! Spotlight Screening:

KISSES, 2008, Oscilloscope, 72 min. Director Lance Daly's powerful film follows Kylie and Dylan, two 11-year-olds whose innocence is challenged on a daily basis. When both kids find themselves in danger of severe abuse at the hands of their elders, they run away to Dublin. Over the course of a long night in the city, the kids face various dangers and turn to each other for love, friendship and safety. “A modern-day romantic fairytale amidst a pitiless city backdrop, 'Kisses' heralds the coming of the next generation in Irish filmmakers in Daly.” – Gavin Burke, “It's always warm and engaging — and terrifically played by its young leads.” – Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian.

WAVERIDERS, 2009, Inis Films, 80 min. Dir. Joel Conroy. Detailing the unlikely Irish roots of the worldwide surfing phenomenon, Conroy showcases the world-class surfing destinations off the northwest coast of Ireland. The story unfolds via the inspirational and ultimately tragic history of Irish/Hawaiian legendary waterman George Freeth, who was responsible for the rebirth of this sport of Hawaiian kings in the early 20th century. Winner of the Audience Award at the 2009 Jameson Dublin International Film Festival. “…A documentary of universal appeal…” – Mike Sheridan, Filmmakers In Person.
Plus “Countdown” (Ireland, 2008, 3 min.) Dir. David Tynan. Adapted from Adrian Wistreich's poem “Countdown to Ecstasy,” this short film follows Robbie and Sinead's relationship in the months and the night leading up to Sinead's overdose.

Sunday, September 27 – 5:00 PM 
25th Anniversary of the Dun Laoghaire National Film School:

We celebrate the Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design & Technology's (IADT) 25th anniversary by showcasing the best work of its 25 years of graduates, including Kirsten Sheridan (AUGUST RUSH), Ken Wardrop (CONTAGIOUS), Ciaran Donnelly (“Cold Feet,” “The Tudors” ), Aisling Walsh (LITTLE BIRD), Declan McGrath (REIGN OF FIRE), Donal Nolan (WANTED, ANGELS & DEMONS) and James Mather (“Adam & Paul,” “Prosperity” ).


Sunday, September 27 – 7:30 PM 
Hugh Leonard Tribute:

DA, 1988, FilmDallas Pictures,102 min. Dir. Matt Clark. A New York playwright is summoned to Ireland to bury his father (his “Da” ). While at his boyhood home, he encounters his father's spirit and relives memories both pleasant and not. Barnard Hughes re-creates his stage role in the movie version of Hugh Leonard's popular stage play. With Martin Sheen. Discussion following with Martin Sheen and filmmakers Matt Clarke and Bill Greenblatt (schedule permitting). Reception following. Author Mary Pat Kelly will be signing her latest book, Galway Bay, starting at 6:30 p.m. in the lobby of the theatre.


Los Angeles Irish Film Festival website.

American Cinematheque website.

Gabriel Byrne

Gabriel Byrne will be present at a screening of Gabriel Byrne: Stories from Home at the American Cinematheque's Aero Theatre in Santa Monica. Stories from Home, which screens this evening (Thursday), Sept. 24, at 7:30 pm will be followed by Macdara Vallely's Peacefire. Byrne will take part in an onstage discussion between the two film presentations.

Both films are being screened as part of the Los Angeles Irish Film Festival, which continues until Sunday, Sept. 27.

Schedule and synopses below form the American Cinematheque's press release:

Thursday, September 24 - 7:30 PM
Double Feature:

GABRIEL BYRNE: STORIES FROM HOME, 2008, South Wind Blows/Harvest Films, 76 min., Dir. Pat Collins. A revealing look at the life and creative impulse of Gabriel Byrne (“In Treatment”), one of the most respected actors of his generation. Using intimate interviews and extracts from his journals and diaries, this is an evocative and insightful film with universal appeal.

Plus Atlantic, (Ireland, 2008, 4 min.) Dir. Conor Ferguson. A quietly gripping tale of a lonely farmer and the potentially life-changing letter on its way from the woman who loved and left him many years ago.

PEACEFIRE, 2008, Goldcrest Independent/mayFLY Entertainment, 87 min. Dir. Macdara Vallely. Colin (John Travers, SONG FOR A RAGGY BOY) is a joy-riding hood who couldn't care less about the local political situation. But a chance encounter with a ruthless detective (Gerry Doherty) turns him into an informer for the so-called forces of law and order and a target for retribution for his father's old mates in the Irish Republican Army. “… (M)uch of its dramatic power comes from quiet, visually poetic moments.” - Peter Brunette, The Hollywood Reporter

Plus Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty (Ireland, 2008, 6 min.) Dir. Nicky Phelan. A seemingly sweet old lady loses the plot as she tells her version of Sleeping Beauty to her terrified granddaughter.

The Aero is located at 1328 Montana Avenue (at 14th Street) in Santa Monica.

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