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Toronto 2011. What they're saying about the award-winners

Action from Indonesia, musical comedy from Lebanon, global warming in the Maldives and more.
The Daily


"A largely non-competitive festival, Toronto gives out very few awards," notes Twitch editor Todd Brown, "the most prominent of which are the People's Choice picks, three awards given based on audience ratings of the films with one each awarded to the Midnight Madness section, the Real to Reel documentary section and the overall festival at large." And as an executive producer on The Raid, his congratulations to the film's team for winning the People's Choice Award for Midnight Madness are particularly jubilant. The runners-up are Adam Wingard's You're Next and Bobcat Goldthwait's God Bless America, and roundups on both are on the way, but first:

"Audiences will be scrambling to find enough compound adjectives to describe Gareth Huw Evans hard-driving, butt-kicking, pulse-pounding, bone-crunching, skull-smashing, blood-curdling martial arts siege movie, The Raid," writes David Rooney in the Hollywood Reporter. "Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions grabbed US rights prior to Toronto and it was announced during the festival that Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park will compose an entirely new score for the film. While the addition of some nu-metal grit certainly won't hurt, the movie is already plenty propulsive. Welsh-born Evans turned heads with his 2009 feature, Merantau. He teams again here with the same breakout action star, Iko Uwais, marrying Western genre conventions with the traditional Indonesian kickboxing discipline of silat."

Silat is "an Indonesian martial-arts form that's a more brawling kind of fighting than more widely known styles," notes Robert Koehler in Variety. "Think of it as the NFL taking over kung fu, but a whole lot nastier… As efficient as its title indicates, The Raid offers a continuous sequence of action with a clear and effective premise: If police can get to the top floor [of a 15-story building], they have a chance to bring down major drug kingpin Tama (Ray Sahetapy). Complicating matters is the fact that many cops in the unit are inexperienced in the brand of intense urban combat demanded here, and that their corrupt boss, Lt Wahyu (Pierre Gruno), may compromise the entire operation. That's about as much plot as the movie is concerned with, or needs."

The Raid sports "some of the most brutal, teeth-gritting and sustained fight scenes I've ever seen," writes Bob Turnbull. "It's bloody, bloody violent and bloody good fun." For HitFix's Drew McWeeney, this is "a near perfect action movie." A score of 9 out of 10 from FirstShowing's Alex Billington. And the Twitch guys? You know they love it. Andrew Mack notes that "this is a darker, leaner and meaner Evans and he means to take no prisoners," while Ryland Aldrich writes: "Not since Tony Jaa has an action star exploded onto the world stage with such fireworks. And as he demonstrates in The Raid, Iko Uwais has the potential to be twice the star."

As for that "overall" People's Choice Award, Nathaniel R notes that it "often signifies Oscar attention in either Best Picture or Foreign Language Film categories." And this year's winner, Where Do We Go Now?, from Caramel director Nadine Labaki, is Lebanon's horse in that race. I haven't seen any reviews coming out of Toronto, but I did round up a few when the film screened in Un Certain Regard in Cannes in May. Runners-up: Asghar Farhadi's A Separation and Ken Scott's Starbuck.

Variety's Peter Debruge on the winner of the People's Choice Award for Documentary: "In the face of rising sea levels, the Maldive Islands are the Alamo, and environmental crusader Mohamed Nasheed is their Davy Crockett. Boasting astonishing access, director Jon Shenk's The Island President documents a brave battle against overwhelming odds. If the endangered archipelago can just keep its head above water long enough to be heard, the charismatic leader hopes to save the lowest country on earth. Should he fail, this inspiring big-issue docu virtually ensures 'Remember the Maldives!' will become a rallying cry in the fight against global warming."

Unfortunately, Screen's already blocked access to David D'Arcy's review. At any rate, the runners-up here are Bess Kargman's First Position and Cameron Crowe's Pearl Jam Twenty — and again, more on these soon.

There are two prizes for Best Canadian Feature Film, and here's Jason Anderson in Cinema Scope on the winner of the City of Toronto and Astral Media's Movie Network Award: "The value of compassion is of fundamental concern in Monsieur Lazhar, formerly known as Bachir Lazhar when it won the Piazza Grande audience prize at Locarno in August. The thoughtful and precisely rendered fourth feature by Philippe Falardeau, it is also the story of people bearing witness to death, and the fact that the first of these witnesses are children is a shock that reverberates through the rest of the film." Nathan Morlando's Edwin Boyd, winner of the SKYY Vodka Award, is set in the Toronto of the late 40s and 50s and features Scott Speedman in the title role as the real-life bank robber and Canadian folk hero. 4 out of 5 stars from Andrew Parker at Criticize This! and more from Paolo at the Film Experience. The Award for Best Canadian Short Film goes to Ian Harnarine's Doubles with Slight Pepper.

FIPRESCI presents two prizes. Here's the Boston Globe's Ty Burr on the one for the Special Presentations section, "probably the most satisfying moviegoing experience I've had at this year's festival: Gianni Amelio's serenely assured The First Man, based on an unfinished novel that Albert Camus was working on at the time of his 1960 death in a car accident. It's a clearly autobiographical work dealing with the writer's childhood in Algeria, and Amelio expands it into a graceful work that contrasts Camus's poor beginnings in the 1920s with his homecoming in 1957, at the height of the Algerian War…. The film deals with violent historical change, yet its heart is steady and quiet — the film glows with North African light, familial love, and the knowledge that in the eternal struggle between Rome and the barbarians, you sometimes have to side with the barbarians." For Robert Koehler, writing in Variety, "the whole is less than the sum of its select, often beautiful passages."

FIPRESCI's award for the Discovery Section goes to Avalon, "which can best be described as young filmmaker Axel Petersén's revenge on his parent's generation, 1980s club kids who have made it into their 50s without the bother of growing up," writes Ty Burr. "In the lead role, Johannes Brost has a magnificent face that's ravaged with age but untouched by life lessons, and those he gets as the story progresses — including the accidental death of an innocent — render him thoroughly undone. A diffuse film and only partially satisfying, but when it hits (such as the scene in which Brost drunkenly weaves on an empty disco floor as Roxy Music's 'Avalon' plays), it hits hard."

In Variety, John Anderson finds Brost's character, Janne, to be "a fascinating void, a moral bankrupt and broken beauty: Although damaged from years of drugs and alcohol, he retains a certain charisma — the wrinkles and occasionally vacant stares unable to completely disguise the handsome man beneath. Brost, who makes Janne wonderfully debauched and corrupt, also moves like a man who's retained his youth. That image is contagious — and makes it doubly terrible when Janne's world starts to spins out of control, and one watches him collapsing from within."

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