TORONTO • Adding to its early status as an Oscar front-runner, the moody musical La La Land, directed by United States director Damien Chazelle and starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, on Sunday received the Toronto International Film Festival's top prize, the audience award for Best Feature Film.
The Toronto festivalgoers' choice has been won in four of the past five years by movies that have gone on to Academy Awards glory in one form or another.
Last year's Toronto winner Room was nominated for four Oscars, winning one for Brie Larson's acting; 12 Years A Slave, the Toronto winner in 2013, went on to collect three Oscar trophies, including one for Best Picture.
In a statement, Chazelle, 31, said "getting to even make this movie was a dream come true" and noted the film's theme, which is that "even the most far-fetched dreams can guide us". He made a splash with his 2014 film Whiplash, an intense study of a jazz drummer's quest for perfection and which won three Oscars.
La La Land, a throwback romance between a gruff jazz pianist and an aspiring actress, has received a sizzling reception on the fall film festival circuit; Lionsgate has set theatrical release for Dec 16. It pays tribute to the Golden Age of American musicals, honouring classics from Top Hat to Singin' In The Rain to Grease.
The first runner-up was Australian film-maker Garth Davis' Lion, which stars Dev Patel in the true-life story of a young Indian on a 25-year journey to find his family after being separated. The second runner-up was Mira Nair's Queen Of Katwe, starring Lupita Nyong'o and chronicling the true story of a Ugandan girl who pursues her dream of becoming an international chess champion.
The Toronto Platform Prize winner was Jackie, directed by Chile's Pablo Larrain and starring Natalie Portman as Jacqueline Kennedy in the aftermath of the assassination of her husband, US President John F. Kennedy. The prize is determined by a jury comprising directors Brian De Palma and Mahamat-Saleh Haroun and actress Zhang Ziyi.
Toronto jury prizes also went to China's Feng Xiaogang for I Am Not Madame Bovary, starring Fan Bingbing; Maysaloun Hamoud's ArabIsraeli film In Between and Kenya's Mbithi Masya for Kati Kati.
Toronto's audience prize for Best Documentary went to Raoul Peck's I Am Not Your Negro, which examines what it means to be black in the US and is based on James Baldwin's unfinished book Remember This House.
NYTIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS