Streaming Spotlight - Toronto winners

This week we're looking at films that took home People's Choice accolades

by Amber Wilkinson

One of Jean-Claude Carrière’s most celebrated adaptations - Cyrano de Bergerac, directed by Jean-Paul Rappeneau and starring Gérard Depardieu.
One of Jean-Claude Carrière’s most celebrated adaptations - Cyrano de Bergerac, directed by Jean-Paul Rappeneau and starring Gérard Depardieu. Photo: UniFrance

This year's edition of the Toronto Film Festival began yesterday and is celebrating its 46th edition this year. Unlike many festivals, like Cannes and Venice, where the top accolade is decided by a star-studded jury, in the Canadian city it's the general viewing public who vote for its coveted People's Choice Award - which since 2009, has consisted of three prizes, one for main features, one for documentaries and a third for its Midnight Madness section. The awards of recent years have also proved a good predictor of Oscar success, with every winner since 2012 going on to make the Academy Awards shortlist. Here we look at seven you can stream at home.

Cyrano De Bergerac, 1990 winner, Curzon Home Cinema, Amazon and other platforms

Edmond Rostand's evergreen story - currently enjoying a new incarnation courtesy of Joe Wright's Cyrano, which just had its premiere in Telluride - has, arguably, never been realised with more poetry than this French adaption from Jean-Paul Rappeneau, which saw the English subtitles written by Anthony Burgess so that the rhyming alexandrines were preserved in the translation. Gerard Depardieu, whose hooter was already calling out for the role, is perfectly cast as the central character whose looks don't live up to his inner beauty and Rappeneau's film delivers both in terms of battles involving swords and more complicated wars of the heart.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, 2000 winner, Netflix, Chili and other platforms

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
A stolen sword is the plot driver for Ang Lee's martial arts extravaganza that sees incredible wire work and fight scenes wrapped silkily around two love stories - one between Michelle Yeoh's Yu Shu Lien and Chow Yun Fat's warrior Li Mu Bai and the other a forbidden romance between Jen (Zhang Ziyi) and outlaw Lo (Chang Chen). The action scenes are married perfectly to the environment by cinematographer Peter Pau, while the story moves along at pace. As with Cyrano De Bergerac, this film's romantic battles elements dovetail with its more physical fight scenes to beautiful effect.

Tsotsi, 2005 winner, Amazon

Jennie Kermode writes: An early entry in the series of crime thrillers that have transformed South African cinema this century, Gavin Hood's Oscar-winning adaptation of the classic novel by Athol Fugard features a stunning performance from the then 20-year-old Presley Chweneyagae in his debut role. He plays the title character, a young man from a difficult background who seems to have no conscience at all and thinks nothing of shooting people to get what he wants - until one day he steals a car and finds a baby in the back. The bond that develops between Tsotsi and the baby changes everything, but this is no straightforward tale of redemption, and there's no easy way out for somebody already in as deep as he is. The deceptively simple story packs a powerful emotional punch and  the film proved highly influential in challenging the ghetto film template in which characters only ever become more corrupt.

Faces, Places, 2017 Documentary winner, Curzon Home Cinema, Amazon

Faces, Places
Faces, Places
Director Agnès Varda had an eye for a strong image, a common touch when it came to documentary and a playfulness and curiosity that lasted all the way from the French New Wave until her final films, shot during her eighties. This delightful documentary collaboration with photographer and artist JR, which, many might say, unfairly lost out in the Oscar race to Icarus is one of her finest. It sees the duo travel around France, creating artwork with local communities as they go. Not just a consideration of roads less travelled, this is also a celebration of Varda herself as we're encouraged to view the world as she sees it. As she put it when she spoke to us: "It was a bit like a sociological work but made with joy rather than seriousness." - and who doesn't need more joy in their life?

Free Solo, 2018 Documentary winner, Disney+, Microsoft and other platforms

Free Solo
Free Solo
If you're the sort of person who gets vertigo then Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi's documentary about Alex Honnold's attempts to be the first to climb a 3000ft cliff in Yosemite Park solo and without the aid of safety ropes should be approached with caution. Even if you're not scared of heights some of the footage of the sheer cliff face with Honnold clinging on is likely to have you holding your breath. Although the climbing footage here is incredible - and a testimony to directors who know their way around a rock face and where to put a camera so as not to distract Honnold - the film also offers an interesting psychological profile of the climber himself, his motivations and the impact on his choice of career on those around him.

Jojo Rabbit, 2019 winner, Now TV, GooglePlay, Chili and other platforms

JoJo Rabbit
JoJo Rabbit Photo: Kimberley French/Courtesy London Film Festival
Jennie Kermode writes: In Nazi Germany, ten-year-old Jojo (Roman Griffin) dreams of serving the Reich. His father is gone and he needs to be the man of the house, even if he (and half of Berlin) is scared of his mother (Scarlett Johansson). But when he finds a Jew (Thomasin McKenzie) hiding in the walls of his house, he is at a loss - even his invisible friend, Adolf Hitler (Taika Waititi) can't help. Of course, nothing is quite as it seems to the kid and he has some hard lessons to learn in a film whose playful satire enhances, rather than undermines, its serious message. Waititi, who directs, is half Jewish himself and there is no apologism here, rather a sympathy for children only just becoming aware of the horrors around them, and for adults in all sorts of contexts who found ways to resist. Young Griffin has amazing comic timing and the film is full of heart.

Nomadland, Disney+, 2020 winner Chili and other platforms

Nomadland Photo: Courtesy of Venice Film Festival
If you're looking for a film that you can relax into the rhythms of then Chloé Zhao's consideration of the new generation of US nomads who, hit by financial constraints, call campervans their home as they move from place to place, picking up work and friendship along the way. Zhao's film has an almost zen sense of calm about it even as we watch Frances McDormand's Fern struggling with both grief and the challenges of her new life. Featuring non-professionals, the film moves at an unhurried pace celebrating those small moments of connection, with nature and with other people that, the those involved here would no doubt argue, are far more valuable than possessions. Read what Zhao told us about the music in the film.

In addition to its feature film awards, Toronto also has a clutch of short film prizes, including an accolade for Best Canadian short. The winner in 2018 was Meryam Joobeur's Brotherhood, which went on to be Oscar nominated. The film that came second in that section that year, Fauve, is also available to watch online, so why not catch up with both of them, below.


Film from Midi La Nuit on Vimeo.

FAUVE from Jeremy Comte on Vimeo.

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