Toronto's arrived, and the British are coming

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Kaleem Aftab on an amazing 10 days at the world's buzziest film festival

It has taken 35 years, but Toronto has finally hit the big time. Once a minor distraction on the film festival circuit, it has become the event that all of Hollywood wants to be seen at. This year, Toronto has stunned its rivals with its host of big-name films. It has boasted world premieres directed by such luminaries as Clint Eastwood, Danny Boyle and John Carpenter and seems to have replaced Venice as the unofficial launchpad for films with Oscar potential. But that's not the only exciting news. This year, all the talk at Toronto was about the Brits.

The fact that the British contingent did so brilliantly was all the more impressive given that Toronto can now claim to be the biggest film festival on the planet after Cannes. It is even arguable that the festival has more to offer than its French counterpart, in terms of stars and popular movies.

The opening of a new festival building housing several state-of-the-art cinema screens was also a poke in the eye for Venice, which recently announced that their own new cinema complex would not be ready before 2012. The Toronto festival has several other advantages over Venice: a convenient city centre location, the capacity to show more than 300 films and, because of its proximity to Hollywood and New York, the big American stars are happy to turn up. The downside is that the festival takes place over too many buildings across the city, but it is hoped that next year, when the new building is fully operational, there will be less travelling between cinema screens.

There simply weren't enough hours in the day to see all the films on offer. On one day I was able to watch Boyle's 127 Hours; Eastwood's Hereafter; Mike Mills's Beginners, starring Ewan McGregor and Melanie Laurent; Tell No One director Guillaume Canet's much-anticipated second feature Little White Lies, starring his off-screen partner and Oscar winner Marion Cotillard; and Let Me In, the English language remake of the Swedish film Let The Right One In, made by Cloverfield director Matt Reeves.

Throughout the festival, the Brits hogged the limelight. Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield attended the premiere of Never Let Me Go, Mark Romanek's adaptation of the Kazuo Ishiguro novel. And that film was overshadowed in turn by the buzz title of the festival (and a sure bet for multiple Oscar nominations, including Best Picture): The King's Speech.

The film, directed by The Damned United helmsman Tom Hooper, is loosely based on the true story of King George VI's attempts to overcome a terrible stammer. He employs an unorthodox speech therapist in the shape of Geoffrey Rush's Lionel Logue. Colin Firth was getting all the plaudits for his depiction of the stammering king; playing monarchs always makes the American Academy sit up and vote. Expect Helena Bonham Carter to also be in contention for awards in the Supporting category, for her turn as the concerned Queen Elizabeth. Another person getting Oscar whispers for playing a real-life character was James Franco as mountain climber Aron Ralston in the exhilarating 127 Hours. The most talked-about actress was 28-year-old Newcastle-born Andrea Riseborough, who made her mark in three films at the festival: Never Let Me Go, Made in Dagenham and, most notably, Brighton Rock.

Other Brits winning praise included Richard Ayoade, who made the crowd-pleasing Submarine about a 15-year-old boy (Noah Taylor) who is on a mission to lose his virginity and save his parents' marriage. Peter Mullan's Neds, which is set in Glasgow in 1973 and according to the director is 10 per cent based on his own life, also received a lot of attention.

The picture was not all rosy for the Brits. West is West, the sequel to East is East had a less than successful debut and it is unlikely that this tale, set mostly in Pakistan, will do the business of its predecessor. Similarly, Never Let Me Go lacked the suspense and shock value of the novel upon which it is based. Yet the fact that the Brits, on the whole, did so well is likely to be mentioned a lot in the months before the UK Film Council shuts its doors next year. (Both the supernatural Clint Eastwood film Hereafter and Let Me In were being classed as British films.) After all, it is an amazing achievement in an industry widely being reported to be on its knees.

In these harsh economic times, you might have thought that the festival social scene would suffer. Not in Toronto, where every night seemed to offer several opportunities to party hop. Last Tuesday, for example, Toronto native Keanu Reeves and a heavily pregnant Vera Farmiga attended the celebrations for their new comedy Henry's Crime, while Sam Worthington was on fine form at the Soho House venue celebrating the premiere of yet another British film, The Debt, in which three Mossad agents are sent on a secret mission to capture a Nazi war criminal in the 1960s. Helen Mirren also stars, but it is American Jessica Chastain, playing the younger version of Mirren's character, who steals the show.

One of the big events of the festival saw Edward Norton, who is in the John Curran drama Stone, interview Bruce Springsteen on stage. The Boss was in town to promote a documentary about the making of his classic album Darkness on the Edge of Town. Another intriguing on-stage chat had polemic documentary-maker Michael Moore interviewing Ken Loach and his writer Paul Laverty.

A personal highlight was lunch with Ray Winstone, in town to promote the British and New Zealand co-production Tracker, in which he plays a South African bounty hunter sent to apprehend a Maori accused of killing a British soldier in 1904. And one of the stand-out films from new directors was the wacky French road-trip movie Our Day Will Come, directed by Romain Gavras (son of Costa). Full of energy and confidence, it stars Vincent Cassel and Olivier Barthelemy as redheads angry at hair-colour prejudice.

But the real stars of the show, by common consent, were British cinema generally, and Toronto itself.

The world's top film festivals: The best of the rest, from Cannes to Tribeca

Sundance

Started by Robert Redford in 1978, Sundance, in January, put Utah on the cinematic map. Specialising in independent US films, it made waves in the 1990s, but headline-making deals are rarer now.

Berlin

Since its move to Potsdamer Platz, the Berlin festival, held in February, has been rejuvenated. The last few years have been notable for its contribution to the growth of the market for film sales.

Tribeca

Started in the aftermath of 9/11, New York's spring festival benefits from the involvement of Robert De Niro. Good for star-gazing and parties, but the films can be weak. It now has a twin festival in Qatar.

Cannes

Held in May, Cannes, in the South of France, is the premier film festival in the world. The Palme d'Or, given for the best film, is the most prestigious award on the festival circuit. The parties are usually full of stars.

Venice

The oldest film festival, held in late summer, is in danger of fading away. It has poor facilities and has been living off its glamorous past for too long. A proposed cinema complex has been delayed until 2012.

Abu Dhabi

This 10-day October extravaganza, formerly known as the Middle East International Film Festival, is held in the seven-star Emirates Palace. Cash prizes are given out, but the event still lacks star names.

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
TVDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Arts and Entertainment
Tracy Emin's 1998 piece 'My Bed' on display at Christie's
artOne expert claims she did not
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

art
Arts and Entertainment
Laugh a minute: Steph Parker with Nigel Farage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Comic Ivor Dembina has staged his ‘Traditional Jewish Xmas Eve Show’ for the past 20 years; the JNF UK charity is linked to the Jewish National Fund, set up to fund Jewish people buying land in Palestinian territories
comedy

Arts and Entertainment
Transformers: Age of Extinction was the most searched for movie in the UK in 2014

film
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson has had two UK number two singles but never a number one...yet

music
Arts and Entertainment
Clara Amfo will take over from Jameela Jamil on 25 January

radio
Arts and Entertainment
This is New England: Ken Cheeseman, Ann Dowd, Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins in Olive Kitteridge

The most magnificently miserable show on television in a long timeTV
Arts and Entertainment
Andrea Faustini looks triumphant after hearing he has not made it through to Sunday's live final

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
    Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

    Scarred by the bell

    The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
    Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

    Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

    Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
    The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

    The Locked Room Mysteries

    As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
    Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

    How I made myself Keane

    Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
    Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

    Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

    Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
    A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

    Wear in review

    A look back at fashion in 2014
    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

    Might just one of them happen?
    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?