TIFF 2011 Winners Announced, Confound

The 2011 Toronto International Film Festival wrapped up with a final day of screenings on Sunday. I still have some reviews to publish, so I’ll roll those out over the next few days. The festival also announced its winners yesterday, and I have to say that I’m completely perplexed by them. Not only had I not seen any of the winning entries, I hadn’t even heard of most of them.

TIFF is a huge festival, and it’s simply not possible to see every important or notable movie. Nonetheless, I was there for a solid week and thought I’d done a pretty good job of scrutinizing the festival program. Even if I didn’t get to some of the hot tickets, I’d been reading reviews, following coverage, and listening in on other people’s conversations in lines to find out which films were getting the most buzz.

The movies that I’d heard people talk about the most were the political drama ‘The Ides of March‘ (written, directed by, and starring George Clooney), Alexander Payne’s family dramedy ‘The Descendants‘ (also starring Clooney), and the FrenchBelgian Neorealist drama ‘The Kid with a Bike‘ by the Dardenne brothers. (Of the three, I only saw the last one.) However, none of these picked up any awards.

Instead, the festival’s top honor, the People’s Choice Award, went to a Lebanese musical called ‘Where Do We Go Now?‘, which is apparently a “heartwarming” story about a group of women who attempt to protect their small countryside village from the threat of violence. This flew completely under my radar. I never noticed it on the schedule. I never saw any press coverage of it. I never heard anyone talking about it.

The runners-up for this prize were an Iranian drama called ‘A Separation‘ (also never noticed it) and the Canadian comedy ‘Starbuck‘. That one, at least, I’d heard of. It’s about a middle-aged man who learns that the sperm he donated when he was younger has fathered over 500 children. The couple of reviews of it I’d read both said that the film was terrible.

The People’s Choice Documentary Award went to ‘The Island President‘, which chronicles the story of Mohamed Nasheed, President of the Maldives.

The Indonesian martial arts action flick ‘The Raid‘ claimed the People’s Choice Midnight Madness Award. I had an interest in seeing this one, but its only screenings had ended before I even got to the city.

The Skyy Vodka Award for Best Canadian First Feature Film went to ‘Edwin Boyd‘, a historical bio-pic about a notorious Canadian bank robber, played by Scott Speedman (from ‘Felicity’ and ‘Underworld‘, and who also appears in this year’s atrocious ‘The Moth Diaries‘). I find it kind of amusing that Speedman is such a big star in Canada. The Canadian entertainment newsmagazine shows were falling all over themselves to get interviews with him. I didn’t see ‘Edwin Boyd’, but I read a few middling reviews of it.

Meanwhile, the City of Toronto Award for Best Canadian Feature Film was given to ‘Monsieur Lazhar‘. I know nothing about this one other than that it’s a Québécois movie set in a Montreal elementary school.

The strangely-titled ‘Doubles with Slight Pepper‘ was named Best Canadian Short Film.

The International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) jury prize for the Discovery program went to the Swedish dark comedy ‘Avalon‘. The FIPRESCI prize for Special Presentations was given to ‘The First Man‘, which is based on an unfinished novel by Albert Camus. I’ll be damned if I can figure out what the difference is between the “Discovery” and “Special Presentations” awards.

So, apparently I’d been napping the entire week. For all the movies I saw, not a single one of these made the cut.

TIFF is occasionally an indicator of future Oscar glory (or at least recognition). Previous People’s Choice winners include ‘The King’s Speech’, ‘Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire’, ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, and ‘Hotel Rwanda’. I don’t expect that ‘Where Do We Go Now?’ will be big enough to nab a Best Picture nomination come next spring, but it may get a Best Foreign-Language Film nomination.


  1. EM

    “Not only had I not seen any of the winning entries, I hadn’t even heard of most of them.” That’s how a lot of people feel about the Oscars…

    • Josh Zyber

      Precious won the People’s Choice Award, which is the top prize. That went to Where Do We Go Now? this year.

      The Raid won the People’s Choice Midnight Madness Award. That’s a separate category. The Midnight Madness program is generally where cult movies, horror, or violent action flicks play.

      Last year’s Midnight Madness winner was Stake Land.

        • Josh Zyber

          The People’s Choice award is, obviously enough, voted on by the audience, not by a panel of judges. If anything, that would mean that some of the attendees lack credibility, not the festival itself.

          A lot of crappy movies win the audience awards at Sundance too, but the festival still serves a purpose.

          And even though it was a pretty lousy movie, Precious was a big hit that scored six Oscar nominations and two wins.

          • Josh Zyber

            They hand out voting ballots at every screening. I generally don’t vote, because I feel like I don’t see enough movies to make enough of an informed decision.

            My favorite movie of the festival was Extraterrestrial. I think I missed out on too many of the big movies to meaninfully pick a Best Film of the festival.

  2. worth

    Scott Speedman actually isn’t a big star in Canada.

    However, I believe that there’s some kind requirement that Don McKellar must be involved in every Canadian film and television production in order to qualify for government funding.

  3. Josh, sorry for being chauvinistic or patriotic, but I have to point out that The Dardennes are Belgians. As a direct result, “The Kid with a Bike” (original title: “Le Gamin au Vélo”) is a Belgian movie. Not a French one 🙂

    Unless you wanted to talk about the language.

    The Dardennes are one of our most accomplished and cherished directors. And one of our only “brother”-pairs (America has a lot more, Wachowski, Pate, Coen, Hughes, Fratelli err Farelly …)

  4. I think the minds of people in TIFF audience are away from the film. the film subject is Climate Change and sea level rise. But the film is named by “ISLAND PRESIDENT”.It chronicles the political stories of Nasheed rather than the subject. The film Maker is in campaign to promote Nasheed like film by french film maker about ED Amin of Uganda. Then what credibility we talk about?

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