TIFF 2019 day 1 round-up: The Band documentary, Armando Iannucci's David Copperfield kick off festival, India Pavilion inaugurated

The 44th Toronto International Film Festival kicked off on 5 September with a documentary celebration of Canada's own The Band and the premiere of Armando Iannucci's adaptation of David Copperfield.

FP Staff September 07, 2019 09:46:28 IST
TIFF 2019 day 1 round-up: The Band documentary, Armando Iannucci's David Copperfield kick off festival, India Pavilion inaugurated

Toronto: The 44th Toronto International Film Festival kicked off on 5 September with a documentary celebration of Canada's own The Band and the premiere of Armando Iannucci's adaptation of David Copperfield.

The start of North America's largest film festival heralds the beginning of the fall movie season and the coming Oscar race. It's a condensed awards season this year due to an earlier Academy Awards ceremony, adding a little more pressure on films to make a strong impression right out of the gate at Toronto.

TIFF 2019 day 1 roundup The Band documentary Armando Iannuccis David Copperfield kick off festival India Pavilion inaugurated

Stills from (left) Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band and The Personal History of David Copperfield. Images from Twitter

India Pavilion, which aims to provide a platform to showcase Indian Cinema in the overseas market, was formally launched by Vikas Swarup, the Indian High Commissioner to Canada, at the 44th Toronto International Film Festival. The Pavilion also unveiled the poster and brochure of International Film Festival of India (IFFI), which celebrates its Golden Jubilee edition in Goa later this year.

"Indian movies have created new benchmark in film making globally. Every film festival today acknowledges the enormous potential of India's soft power. TIFF provides the ideal platform for the global outreach of the 50th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) 2019," Swarup said at the inauguration.

"Filmmakers of the global film fraternity have got an opportunity to understand the key elements of the festival and the impact of the Indian cinema on filmmaking globally," he added.

The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting in collaboration with Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) is participating at TIFF, which runs from 5 to 15 September.

The Indian delegation includes Chaitanya Prasad, Additional Director General, Directorate of Film Festivals and Dhanpreet Kaur, Deputy Secretary (Films), Ministry of Information & Broadcasting.

Indian content has a huge potential in the Canadian film market due to a strong presence of the Indian diaspora, a press release said, adding that the Pavilion will explore the opportunities to co-produce films with Canada with which India has a co-production treaty.

Eminent personalities present at the India Pavilion inauguration included Geoff Macnaughton, Director of Industry, TIFF; Hannah Fisher, Senior International Programme Consultant, Heartland Film Festival, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Roger Nair, CEO, Lionheart Production House; Jana Wolff, Head Marketing, European Film Market and Brittany Allan, Senior Coordinator - Industry, TIFF.

Among the films on tap at this year's TIFF are the Mr Rogers drama A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, with Tom Hanks, the Jennifer Lopez stripper revenge tale Hustlers, Eddie Murphy's Netflix film Dolemite Is My Name, the Christian Bale-Matt Damon auto-racing tale Ford v Ferrari, the legal drama Just Mercy, with Michael B Jordan, and Judy, with Renée Zellweger as Judy Garland.

Officially opening the festival Thursday night was Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band, a documentary based on Robertson's 2016 memoir Testify. Playing later in the evening, too, was Martin Scorsese's 1978 classic concert film on The Band's final show, The Last Waltz.

Scorsese, old friends with Robertson, attended the premiere of Once Were Brothers. Robertson has frequently composed music for Scorsese's films, including his latest, The Irishman. (That film will debut at the New York Film Festival later this month.)

Also debuting on Thursday was Iannucci's Dickens adaptation The Personal History of David Copperfield, starring Dev Patel. It's the latest film from the Veep creator and writer-director the 2017 satire The Death of Stalin.

Heading into the festival, both films had been up for sale. But before the curtain went up, both had been sold. That's a potentially promising start to what is one of the most frenetic movie markets. Late last month, Fox Searchlight acquired The Personal History of David Copperfield, with plans to release it next year. Magnolia Pictures picked up Once Were Brothers on Thursday.

The acquisitions continued on Thursday with IFC Films taking North American distribution rights to True History of the Kelly Gang by director Justin Kurzel (Macbeth, Assassin's Creed). The film is adapted from Peter Carey's Booker Prize-winning novel and stars Russell Crowe, Nicholas Hoult, Charlie Hunnam, Essie Davis and George MacKay.

It's not uncommon for a high-profile film to draw a bidding war in Toronto and then be quickly inserted into awards season. That's what happened with the Tonya Harding tale I, Tonya two years ago, when Neon bought it after heated bidding. It went on to land three Academy Awards nominations, with Allison Janney winning the best supporting actress statuette.

Whether the films available this year hold such potential remains to be seen. Among the hotly anticipated titles are one also starring Janney: Bad Education, a based-on-a-true comedy about Long Island school superintendents (Janney, Hugh Jackman).

"Are we going to find another I, Tonya? I don't know. It's lightning in a bottle," said Tom Quinn, founder and chief executive of the two-year-old specialty label Neon.

With a number of media companies looking for content, bidding has been ratcheted up in recent years. Companies like Netflix and Amazon have regularly acquired films for much higher prices than their Hollywood and New York-based film rivals have typically paid.

But "festival fever" can also lead to painful hangovers. Two years ago, Louis C.K.'s I Love You Daddy was acquired at Toronto for some $5 million by The Orchard, only to have their investment get derailed by accusations of sexual misconduct against the comedian. C.K. ultimately bought the movie's distribution rights back and the film remains unreleased.

(With inputs from agencies)

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