Ruba Nadda

Opening Weekend: Mirages of romance

Looking for love abroad in ‘An Education,’ ‘Cairo Time’ and ‘Couples Retreat’

‘Precious’ wins Oscar’s Toronto primary

It was wrap yesterday for the Toronto International Film Festival, as it staged its awards ceremony at a hotel brunch. This is always a low-key affair. Unlike the othe major festivals—Cannes, Berlin, Venice and Sundance—Toronto prides itself on being a non-competitive event. Which is why a lot of filmmakers feel comfortable unveiling their work here. There are no losers. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t winners. Although there’s no formal competition, awards are given out, and this year there were more than ever. Juries honoured three categories of Canadian films with cash prizes—Ruba Nadda’s lush and delicate romance, Cairo Time, won $30,000 for best Canadian feature, Alexandre Franchi’s The Wild Hunt, about role-playing games, won $15,000 for best Canadian first feature, and Pedro Pires’s Dance Macabre, a dark ballet conceived by Robert Lepage, won $10,000 for best Canadian short. But the prize that has taken on more and more significance over the years is the People’s Choice Award, which is voted by audiences—and has come to serve as a bell-weather for Oscar success. Past winners have included Chariots of Fire, American Beauty, Crash and Slumdog Millionaire. To no one’s surprise, at least not mine, the 2009 winner was Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire. By turns harrowing and inspirational, this tale of an abused, obese, illiterate Harlem teen is this year’s Slumdog.Unlike Slumdog, it wasn’t discovered at TIFF but at Sundance, and that’s when fairy godmother Oprah Winfrey jumped on board as executive producer. But Toronto was where Oprah launched the Oscar campaign for Precious.