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DISPATCH FROM TORONTO: Winners and Deals Mark Final Weekend At Canadian Fest

DISPATCH FROM TORONTO: Winners and Deals Mark Final Weekend At Canadian Fest

by Eugene Hernandez









Piers Handling (left) and Noah Cowan at Sunday's Toronto International Film Festival awards brunch. Photo by Brian Brooks/indieWIRE

In Canada this weekend, the 29th Toronto International Film Festival wrapped up with Saturday night's closing night festivities and Sunday's annual awards brunch. Along the way, a few deals were signed and more are expected in the coming days.

Deals: "Saving Face," "Three of Hearts" and More

Sony Pictures Classics co-presidents Michael Barker and Tom Bernard dropped in on a small dinner at local hotspot Prego, celebrating Alice Wu's "Saving Face" last week, and quickly closed a deal for the Discovery section film. The duo sat down at the table with Wu, Chen, and the producers and proclaimed their love of the film and their determination to bring it to theaters. They then joined the group in the meal. The movie, produced by Teddy Zee, James Lassiter, and Will Smith, and executive produced by Scott Macaulay and Robin O'Hara, is described as "a sexy, bittersweet, cross-cultural and cross-generational tale set in New York's Mandarin-speaking immigrant Chinese community," starring Joan Chen.

Chatting with indieWIRE on Sunday, producer Zee said that he couldn't be happier; Sony Classics was his ideal home for Wu's film. "If we mapped out a strategy it would be to have the movie made and to get Sony Classics (to distribute it)," Zee said, "(The festival) was the best movie experience I have ever had."

Susan Kaplan's "Three of Hearts: A Postmodern Family" also sealed a deal. The film secured a North American theatrical and DVD pact with THINKFilm. Josh Braun of Submarine Entertainment brokered the deal for the filmmakers with Randy Manis of THINKFilm. The documentary is described as the story of "three Manhattanites (Sam, Samantha and Steven) who are in a committed 'trinogomous' relationship." Filmmaker Kaplan followed the trio for more than 8 years to create the new film, produced by Hibiscus Films in association with Bravo and Cactus Three.

"We are very excited about getting this film out to theaters," said THINKFilm's Mark Urman, in a statement. "'Three of Hearts' is highly entertaining and will have audiences of all genders and persuasions talking and re-examining their own relationships."

Other fest deals are anticipated in the coming days, with Todd Solondz' "Palindromes" and Margaret Brown's "Be Here To Love Me - A Film About Townes Van Zandt" among the movies due to reveal pacts imminently. Mark Wexler's "Tell Them Who Your Are," about the filmmaker's dad Haskell Wexler is understood to be in active play, while a deal for Lawrence Dunmore's "The Libertine," with Johnny Depp, Samantha Morton, and John Malkovich, seems likely according to insiders, although word-of-mouth after the film's Thursday showing was rather negative.

Winners: "Rwanda," "Omagh," and Others

Terry George's "Hotel Rwanda" won the top prize in Toronto this year, nabbing the AGF People's Choice Award, voted by event patrons. Prizes were presented at the event's annual Sunday awards brunch at the Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto. George's film, set for release by United Artists, is described as "the true story of an ordinary man whose love for his family inspired him to an extraordinary act of courage that saved the lives of more than one thousand helpless Rwandans during the 1994 genocide."

Festival head Piers Handling and new event co-director Noah Cowan led Sunday's festivities, awarding the Discovery category prize, for an emerging filmmaker, to Pete Travis' "Omagh." The movie is the story of a tragic IRA bombing of a small Irish market town of Omagh in 1998 and the prize was selected by the event's attending press.

This year's FIPRESCI Critics Prize went to Brad McGann's "In My Father's Den," while the CITYTV Award for Best Canadian First Feature went to Daniel Roby's "La Peau Blanche," and the Toronto -- City Award for Best Canadian Feature Film was awarded to Michael Dowse's "It's All Gone Pete Tong." A special jury citation went to Velcro Rippers for his film, "Scaredsacred."

Summing up this year's Toronto fest, Cowan told the crowded ballroom of attendees that the event remains committed to three key goals: offering a platform for large scale films heading into awards season, being a "festival of international discovery," and showcasing Canadian work.

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