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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the first-look Fifty Shades of Grey movie still

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

    Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on