Lion, set partly in India and starring Dev Patel, and Queen of Katwe by Indian-origin director Mira Nair have emerged the first and second runner-up, respectively, in the coveted Grolsch People’s Choice Award of the Toronto International Film Festival.
The winner was La La Land, a musical written and directed by Damien Chazelle, literally a Hollywood film, as it has Los Angeles as its backdrop. The film captures the story of Mia, an aspiring actress, and Sebastian, a dedicated jazz musician, who are struggling to make ends meet in a city known for destroying hopes and breaking hearts, TIFF said in a statement.
“Set in modern-day Los Angeles, this original musical about everyday life explores the joy and pain of pursuing your dreams,” it said. The film stars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling.
The People’s Choice Award is often a predictor for the Oscar season. Among the films to have won in recent years are Room, 12 Years A Slave, and The King’s Speech.
In 2008, this award went to Slumdog Millionaire, the breakout film for Patel.
During a media interaction in Toronto, the now-bearded Patel said, “In terms of Toronto, it’s really been special. I keep saying, I walked up here with Slumdog in my school shoes and a borrowed suit. It’s so nice to be back here, with a bit of facial hair.”
Lion is an uplifting, sweeping movie based on the real-life story of Saroo Brierley, who was adopted into an Australian family at a young age and 25 years later, using Google Earth, found his way home to his birth mother in Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh.
Uplifting is also the apt term for Nair’s latest venture, the Disney film, Queen of Katwe.
TIFF described the film as a “rousing tale of a brilliant Ugandan girl whose humble life is transformed after she realizes her gift for chess.”
This is also drawn from reality and stars Madina Nalwanga as 10-year-old Phiona Mutesi, who lives in a Kampala slum.
This deeply moving film also stars David Oyelowo and Academy Award-winner Lupita Nyong'o.
The TIFF awards were also special for Bhutan, as Khyentse Norbu’s Hema Hema: Sing Me a Song While I Wait, won a special mention from at the Platform section of the festival.
The jury said that the selection was “for a film that is a metaphor for our time. In an age of technology, this film uses masks to reconnect its characters with human instinct and emotion.”
The Platform Prize was awarded to Pablo Larraín for Jackie, a film about the former American First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, played by Natalie Portman.