Monday, January 12, 2015

Sturla Gunnarsson's Monsoon crowned Canada's Top Ten Film Festival People's Choice Award winner

For the first time in Canada’s Top Ten Film Festival history, audiences were invited to vote for their favourite feature film. Festivalgoers crowned Sturla Gunnarsson’s Monsoon the People’s Choice Award winner.

The award is announced as TIFF wraps up 10 days of celebrating the nation’s cinema. From January 2 to 11, Toronto audiences were presented with screenings of the top 10 features, shorts and student short films of the year, introductions and Q&A sessions with filmmakers, along with free engagements and special events that included onstage conversations with actor Keanu Reeves, author Naomi Klein and filmmaker Avi Lewis. Now in its 14th year, the festival attracted the highest number of attendees to date.

Canada’s Top Ten Film Festival People’s Choice Award
The People’s Choice Award goes to Sturla Gunnarsson’s Monsoon. Part road movie, part spectacle, part drama, Monsoon is Gunnarsson’s meditation on chaos, creation and faith, set in the land of believers. The subject is the monsoon, the incomparably vast weather system that permeates and unifies the varied culture of India, shaping the conditions of existence for its billion inhabitants.

“I’m thrilled. Monsoon is probably the most personal film I’ve made, and it turns out to be a crowd-pleaser too,” said Gunnarsson. “This can only help our February 27 release.” Since its World Premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2014, the film also played as the opening film at Planet in Focus in November, and most recently at the Palm Springs International Film Festival.

Sturla Gunnarsson is one of Canada’s most prolific and eclectic filmmakers, whose work spans a broad range of genres, platforms and subject matter. His most recent documentary, Force Of Nature, won the 2010 TIFF Documentary Audience Award. Other non-fiction feature films include International Emmy Award-winning Gerrie & Louise and Academy Award nominated After The Axe. Fiction features include Beowulf & Grendel (Gerard Butler, Stellan Skarsgard), Rare Birds (William Hurt, Molly Parker) and Such A Long Journey (Roshan Seth, Om Puri). Gunnarsson’s extensive television directing credits include drama series for all the major North American networks.

Monsoon opens February 27 at TIFF Bell Lightbox.

Student Film Awards
New this year, the festival incorporated Student Shorts, formerly the Student Film Showcase, to spotlight the top student shorts from colleges and universities across the country. In a ceremony held on January 9 at TIFF Bell Lightbox, prizes were awarded to student films in the live action and animation categories. The winners were selected by the Canada’s Top Ten Film Festival shorts panel of filmmakers and industry professionals, including: actor/show creator/host Nobu Adilman, programmer Dave Barber, development executive Sonya Di Rienzo, producer Élaine Hébert and screenwriter Karen Walton.

Best Film (Live Action)
The winner of the Best Live Action Student Film award is Lifers, directed by Joel Salaysay (Simon Fraser University), an entertaining and honest slice of culinary life that follows a young dishwasher as he observes his eclectic co-workers in a busy kitchen. The award comes with: a rental grant worth $6,000 provided by William F. White International Inc.; a DCP output of the film courtesy of Technicolor; $1,000 from the Directors Guild of Canada; a ticket to the Directors Guild of Canada Awards, and a Sales & Industry Pass to the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival.

Runner-up for Best Film (Live Action)
Yassmina Karajah’s (University of British Columbia) Light was awarded Runner-up for Best Live Action Student Film. Devastated by the death of his newborn son, a Lebanese man living in an adoptive country is challenged by his mother’s request that he perform Islamic pre-burial rituals in the hospital. This prize awards a rental grant worth $3,500 provided by William F. White International Inc.

Best Film (Animation)
The prize for Best Animated Student Film goes to Breanna Cheek’s (Emily Carr School of Art and Design) Fallow. The slow-moving life in a pastoral village is exquisitely rendered in these animated tableaux by Cheek, who finds beauty in the ordinary, from local homesteads to a diner, to an isolated laundromat. The award comes with: a DCP output of the film courtesy of Technicolor; $1,000 courtesy of the Directors Guild of Canada; a ticket to the Directors Guild of Canada Awards, and a Sales & Industry Pass to the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival.

The Canada’s Top Ten Film Festival travels across the country with stops in major cities, including Vancouver’s The Cinematheque (on now until January 18), Edmonton’s Metro Cinema (January 22 to February 2), Calgary’s Globe Cinema in association with the Calgary International Film Festival (February 20 to 26), Winnipeg Film Group’s Cinematheque (March 6 to 19), and Montreal’s PHI Centre (dates TBA). Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director of the Toronto International Film Festival, will sit down with actor Sandra Oh at TIFF’s very first In Conversation With… event in Vancouver on January 18.

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About TIFF
TIFF is a charitable cultural organization whose mission is to transform the way people see the world through film. An international leader in film culture, TIFF projects include the annual Toronto International Film Festival in September; TIFF Bell Lightbox, which features five cinemas, major exhibitions, and learning and entertainment facilities; and innovative national distribution program Film Circuit. The organization generates an annual economic impact of $189 million CAD. TIFF Bell Lightbox is generously supported by contributors including Founding Sponsor Bell, the Province of Ontario, the Government of Canada, the City of Toronto, the Reitman family (Ivan Reitman, Agi Mandel and Susan Michaels), The Daniels Corporation and RBC. For more information, visit

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