The Toronto International Film Festival is so big — with a roster of nearly 350 movies — that multiple films are in the spotlight on opening night. While the fest officially opened with a gala screening and a pair of parties for Jeremy Podeswa‘s “Fugitive Pieces,” across town Martin Gero‘s “Young People Fucking” was one of the many films also showcased on the first day of TIFF. It was subsequently celebrated with a fitting late-night bash at a new Toronto swingers club. And, fresh from considerable buzz in Telluride over the weekend, Baltasar Kormakur‘s “Jar City” debuted in Toronto hours before IFC Entertainment confirmed a North American acquisition deal for the popular Icelandic film.
Icelandic Hit “Jar City” Headed for North America
IFC Entertainment confirmed a deal today for Baltasar Kormakur’s “Jar City,” jumpstarting dealmaking here in Toronto. The company nabbed the film, which won the top prize at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival back in July, prior to “Jar City”‘s popular U.S. debut at last weekend’s Telluride Film Festival. An unconventional detective story, it follows an aging police detective’s search for a loner’s murderer and covers events spanning thirty years.
“Jar City” explores issues of genetics, family, parental loss, and also offers humorous takes on the idiosyncrancies of Icelandic culture, in particular some of the weird Icelandic food choices, such as sheep’s head. Produced by Agnes Johansen, Lilja Palmadottir and Kormakur, it is based on the novel by Arnaldur Indridason and has already been a major hit in its home country, winning five of the Icelandic industry’s Edda Awards, including best picture and director. In Kormakur film, Beautiful camerawork glides over the gorgeous Icelandic landscape as the story follows the detective’s attempt to unravel a complex mystery.
Acclaimed for his 2000 feature “101 Reykjavik,” Kormakur shared the Discovery Award here in Toronto for the movie and later directed “The Sea” (2002) and “A Little Trip to Heaven” (2005). Trust Films and ICM co-repped North American rights to the movie and it was acquired by IFC’s VP of acquisitions and production Arianna Bocco with director of the department Lizzie Nastro.
Kormakur arrived in Toronto after a buzz-filled trip to Colorado for the Telluride Film Festival. “It was fantastic, I wouldn’t miss it,” Kormakur told indieWIRE on Friday, when asked him about his trip to the mountatins. The director is currently producing and starring in what he described as a “smuggler comedy,” currently shooting in his native Iceland. The film is tentatively titled “Reykjavik-Rotterdam.” [Eugene Hernandez, with a contribution by James Israel]
Opening Night Homecoming for Podweswa, Lantos
TIFF kicked off on Thursday night at the historic Elgin Theatre featuring a pair of faces familiar to local festival-goers. “Fugitive Pieces” director Jeremy Podewsa and producer Robert Lantos have a long history with the Toronto International Film Festival. Introducing the director, TIFF co-director Noah Cowan recalled that Podeswa, originally from Toronto, even worked as “shadow” to co-director Piers Handling back in the mid-1990s. The filmmaker proudly owned up to the trivia, adding that everything he’d ever made has shown at the festival. On the honor of opening TIFF, he noted that it was “quite overwhelming for so many reasons I can’t even begin to tell you.” Citing Toronto as one of the most “well-run and organized festivals in the world,” Podewsa still calls the city home. He gave a heartfelt thanks to Lantos and the inspiration that Michaels gave him – at one point turning to her and announcing “I love you” before enthusiastically giving her a long hug.
With 349 films from 55 countries this year, the festival — generally seen as the “kick-off” to awards season — has a resounding amount of international clout and rivals top events like Cannes and the concurrent Venice fest. At the Elgin, organization CEO Handling promised an “absolutely spectacular” lineup that gives “a very stimulating look into the niches of world cinema.” After discussing the recently announced plans for the Bell Lightbox, the festival’s new homebase that is expected to open in a few years, Handling was later joined by Cowan who praised Podeswa’s film as a “triumph for us Canadians,” saying that the film “speaks to a specific kind of shared humanity that this country evokes at its best.”
“Pieces,” which spans nearly fifty years, poetically looks at the effect of the Holocaust on a young boy who immigrates to Canada after watching the brutal murder of his family. The film’s producer, Robert Lantos, was introduced before he announced with pride that “Pieces” is his tenth production to open the Toronto festival. “I have one thing to say about being on this stage,” Lantos said. “I like it!” The producer joked that he violated a “sacred law” in makin the film, that “thou must never invest thy own money in thy own film.” Uncertain that the movie, adapted from Anne Michaels‘ award-winning novel, could ever be made, Lantos praised Podewsa’s approach and spoke emotionally about the Holocaust and the importance of the film being made.
The film garnered a loud applause from the audience before screening again down the street and around the corner at Gala venue Roy Thompson Hall. The night ended with the annual lavish opening night celebration at the Liberty Grand and then a private bash for the film at The Gardiner Museum in Queen’s Park. [Peter Knegt]
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