The closing brunch of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) goes with good news - for some. That’s when the eagerly awaited festival awards are announced. For India and Anup Singh’s Qissa it was great news, in part because it was unexpected. The film won the NETPAC Award for the Best Asian Film, one of only three feature films crowned in various TIFF sections.
The jury citation spoke of ‘the film’s sensitive portrayal of the issues of identity and displacement that affect people not only in India but in all parts of the world through clever metaphor and brilliance in cinematic craft.’ This was the only film of the Indian package to have a world premiere at TIFF. Others had already played elsewhere. The award paves the way for Qissa to go confidently to the world markets. There are six major TIFF awards, all going with handsome cash prizes and two additional ones for emerging filmmakers.
The coveted Audience Award went to Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave - a hard-hitting film of cruelty and venal greed versus one black man’s heroic fight for his liberty. One set of winners at the brunch dedicated their award to, and demanded the release of, Canadian filmmakers John Greyson and Dr Tarek Loubani from a Cairo prison. They were arrested by the Egyptian police on August 16 when they stopped at a police station to ask for directions.
At this year’s TIFF, identity, displacement, oppression and a universal cry for freedom were running themes in the films. Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is a deeply inspiring account of a heroic patriot seeking to free his country. The right to individual privacy underlines The Fifth Estate as it follows WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and his support of anonymous sources exposing corruption. In Cannes Palme d’Or winner Blue is the Warmest Colour screened here, a vulnerable teenager enforces her right to explore her lesbian tendencies.
From Norway, Iram Haq’s I Am Yours depicts a Pakistani divorcee’s need for sex (powerfully portrayed by actress Amrita Acharia). In Australia’s Tracks, a young girl is obsessed with an impossible journey through deserts. In the The Lunchbox, from India, a neglected wife finds her own place in life. In Labor Day, a fugitive (Josh Brolin) forces a troubled woman (Kate Winslet) to shelter him - they then help each other to free themselves from inner conflicts. The list goes on and on.
Naseer-starrer in Oscar race
Just announced: The Pakistani film which will screen at the upcoming Mumbai Film Festival, Zinda Bhaag starring Naseeruddin Shah, is Pakistan’s nomination for the coming Oscars the first in 50 years.