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DAILY NEWS: Piers Handling on Toronto 2002; Midnight Horror Films Hit it Big, and Newport Fest News

Indiewire By Indiewire | Indiewire September 16, 2002 at 2:0AM

DAILY NEWS: Piers Handling on Toronto 2002; Midnight Horror Films Hit it Big, and Newport Fest Newsby Eugene Hernandez and Brian Brooks/indieWIRE
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DAILY NEWS: Piers Handling on Toronto 2002; Midnight Horror Films Hit it Big, and Newport Fest News



by Eugene Hernandez and Brian Brooks/indieWIRE


>> ON THE SCENE TORONTO 2002: As An Unlikely Film Wins the Top Prize, Handling Reflects on Toronto's 27th Fest


(indieWIRE: 09.16.02) -- And the winner is... "Whale Rider," directed by Niki
Caro
. Cheers of pleasant surprise were heard as Toronto International Film
Festival
Director Piers Handling announced the winner of the 2002 AGF People's Choice Award yesterday at the event's awards brunch. The choice was a surprise to many because most audience favorites here in Toronto tend to come from the
high profile gala or special presentations sections -- this year's came from
the Discovery program, the section that showcases work by emerging
directors.


"'Whale Rider,' programmed by Ruby Rich, came out of a cassette pile,
unheralded, with nobody attached to it," a pleased Piers Handling told indieWIRE
yesterday in a conversation after the awards program. "That's a wonderful
surprise when it goes on to win the most popular film award." Continuing he
added, "When those things happen, that is really, finally what film festivals
are about."


It was that overall sense of discovery and enthusiasm that persisted at this
year's Toronto International Film Festival. The sense of discovery was
accompanied by a sense of concern as the Festival paused, at its midpoint, to
remember the events that derailed last year's event. Speaking to guests from
the podium at yesterday's Four Season's brunch, Handling expressed relief that
this year's had festival reached its final day without interruption.


"I think that after last year's event people really wanted to get out and just
enjoy the festival," Handling told indieWIRE yesterday, "I think that the
festival took on extra meaning because of what happened last year for many,
many people in the city." It was a feeling also felt by those who again traveled
to the festival from New York City and throughout the United States. "They just
wanted to get back to their festival, which was interrupted last year, and
really enjoy it." Indeed once the festival and attendees marked the 9/11
anniversary on Wednesday morning, the business activity picked up considerably.


The growing business side of the festival is an area that organizers will be
examining, Piers Handling told indieWIRE yesterday. While only making passing
reference to public grousing by critic Roger Ebert and Variety's Todd McCarthy, Handling explained that he will work to solve any problems involving over-crowded press and industry screenings.


"With more and more business people that want to come here, we're going to
have to deal with that," Handling said, "That was a bit of a problem this year,
for the press and industry screenings." Yet he explained that the industry side
of the event is a key component.


"A lot of things happen as a result of that (industry presence)," Handling told
indieWIRE, "We get new films, new work, it is good for the festival."
Continuing he added, "We will always keep a handle on the number, we never want
one part of the festival to dominate the other parts."


"I think there is a growing awareness of Toronto as a marketplace," Piers
Handling said, "As a place that you can actually come and buy and sell films."


"It's always been known as a great platform to launch films into the marketplace
(and) as a gathering for key North American media and some of the key
international media as well." Handling added, "I think that increasingly people
are looking to Toronto now as the fall festival to launch their films, to file
stories and to buy and sell." [Eugene Hernandez in Toronto]


>> ON THE SCENE TORONTO 2002: Lions Gates Gets "Cabin Fever," Palm Nabs "The Eye" as Toronto Closes

(indieWIRE: 09.16.02) -- Horror films from the festival's Midnight Madness
section caught the attention of buyers in the final days of the Toronto
International Film Festival
. Eli Roth's "Cabin Fever," the final feature to go on the market here, was acquired by Lions Gate, while Palm Pictures nabbed "The Eye," the latest film by twin brothers Oxide Pang and Danny Pang.


Lions Gate beat out the other companies that were aggressively pursuing "Cabin
Fever" after an over-crowded press and industry screening on Friday afternoon.
In announcing the deal on Saturday, Lions Gate said that it plans to release
the film wide on 2,000 screens next summer. Lions Gate negotiated the deal
with executive producer Susan Jackson of Turtles Crossing and the William Morris Agency's Cassian Elwes.


Palm acquired "The Eye" from Fortissimo Film Sales, with exec David Koh
negotiating the pact with Fortissimo's Michael Werner, Winnie Lau, and
Wouter Barendrecht.


Eli Roth, an NYU film school graduate, received acclaim for his 1995 thesis
short, "Restaurant Dogs." He has since worked with director David Lynch,
shooting short films for the director's website. "Fever" is the story of a
group of recent college graduates who venture on a trip to the mountains. All
is good until one of them contracts a flesh-eating disease. Things deteriorate
when, in the words of the announcement, "the group dynamic devolves into
survival of the fittest, as the rest slowly turn on one another in their
desperate attempts to avoid getting the virus."


"Cabin Fever," Roth's first feature, was written by Roth Pearlstein and Randy Pearlstein. It stars Jordan Ladd ("Never Been Kissed"), Rider Strong ("Boy Meets World"), James DeBello ("Scary Movie 2"), Cerina Vincent ("Not Another Teen Movie"), Joey Kern ("Super Troopers") and Arie Verveen ("The Thin Red Line"). It was produced by Lauren Moews, Sam Froelich, Evan Astrowsky, and Eli Roth.


Oxide and Danny Pang are known for their 2000 Toronto International Film
Festival entry, "Bangkok Dangerous," their first joint effort. Oxide directed
the 1997 film "Who is Running?" and the 2001 film, "One Take Only."
[Eugene Hernandez in Toronto]


>> Janson Named New Programming Director at Newport Fest


(indieWIRE: 09.16.02) -- The Newport International Film Festival announced
yesterday it has appointed Beth Janson as its new programming director,
replacing Maude Chilton who has programmed the event since its start in
1998. Janson previously worked in the documentary division of original
programming at HBO and in the managing director's office of the Public
Theater/New York Shakespeare Festival
, as well as serving as a personal
assistant to actor Liev Schreiber. She was also a screening committee
member of the 2002 Newport fest. Chilton will leave the festival to pursue
other film projects.


"I know many filmmakers regard the Newport festival as somewhat of a
retreat, because it not only brings interesting and powerful films to a big
screen, but it also encourages dialogue about the art of film in one of the
most beautiful settings on the East Coast," said Janson in a festival
release. "I like that the Newport Festival is less hype and more
substance." Janson is currently attending the Toronto International Film
Festival with Newport festival director Nancy Donahoe to search for films
for the 2003 event (scheduled for June 10 to 15). The event programs more
than 75 films including features, docs, shorts, retrospectives, and
a music sidebar. [Brian Brooks in Toronto]