The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), which sets the tone for the Oscar season, picked British actor-director Kenneth Branagh’s family drama ‘Belfast’ for the People’s Choice Award on Saturday.
The road drama ‘Nomadland,’ which won the best-picture Oscar this year, was also the winner of the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto film festival last year.
Other notable films which won the TIFF top award and then went on to win the Oscar are ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, ‘Green Book’, ’12 Years a Slave’ and ‘The King’s Speech’.
Set in the late 1960s’ Northern Ireland wracked by sectarian violence, the black-and-white ‘Belfast’ is Branagh’s “most personal” film as he spent his childhood in the city of Belfast.
This family drama captures the coming-of-age story of Buddy (played by Jude Hill), trying to escape the violence and his working-class life.
Accepting the award, Branagh said he was “deeply grateful” for the honour.
“That so many film lovers connected with ‘Belfast’ so profoundly was absolutely overwhelming to myself and Jamie Dornan, and we talked about it long into a memorable night of laughter and tears in your great city,” he said.
The British filmmaker said, “Our first showing of Belfast at TIFF was one of the most memorable experiences of my entire career.”
The Canadian family drama ‘Scarborough’ and Jane Campion’s western ‘The Power of the Dog,’ with Benedict Cumberbatch in the lead role were the two runners-up.
Nithin Lukose’s Mayalalam film ‘Paka’ (River of Blood), Ritwik Pareek’s ‘Dud Dug’ and Payal Kapadia’s ‘A Night of Knowing Nothing’ also premiered at the 46th Toronto International Film Festival.
The 10-day film festival ends on Sunday.