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TIFF 2012: It’s kind of a big deal

Will Perkins
Wide Screen
September 15, 2012

Although the Toronto International Film Festival still has a ways to go before it can compete with the movie buyer's market that is the Cannes Film Fest, TIFF was the site of some very big deals and bidding wars this year.

See also: More coverage of the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival

A number of high-profile films that arrived at the fest without major distribution deals in place will leave Toronto with contracts for wide international releases. Here are a few success stories from TIFF 2012.

"Old Boy"
Director Spike Lee ("25th Hour") has a documentary at TIFF this year (the Michael Jackson doc "Bad 25") but it was the director's long-gestating remake of the South Korean revenge thriller "Oldboy" that made the biggest splash at the festival this year -- even though it hasn't even been filmed yet. Indie distributor FilmDistrict, the folks who brought us movies like "Insidious" and "Drive," picked up the distribution rights to Lee's movie.

See also: TIFF 2012 hits and misses (Part 1)

The twisted source material feels like a perfect fit for the edgy film company. "Old Boy" stars Josh Brolin as Joe Douchett, a man who is kidnapped and imprisoned for 15 years without knowing why he is being held. Released and slightly insane due to his long captivity, the unstable Joe is given three days to discover the identity of his mysterious captor (Sharlto Copely). Elizabeth Olsen is rumoured to be attached as a woman who aides Joe in his quest for vengeance. "Old Boy" is set to begin filming next month.

"The Place Beyond the Pines"
"Blue Valentine" director Derek Cianfrance re-teamed with Canadian golden boy Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper for the three-act crime saga "The Place Beyond the Pines." Gosling once again plays a criminal with a need for speed, this time as Luke, a stunt motorcycle-riding bank robber. Cooper, on the other hand, plays an eager rookie cop looking to prove himself by bringing Luke in.

Though bolstered by its visuals and strong lead performances, "The Place Beyond the Pines" premiered at TIFF last Friday to mixed reviews. Most reviewers cited the film's problematic third act as their only real qualm with the film. Regardless of what the critics thought, though, the involvement of Gosling and Cooper made this one a very hot property at TIFF. A bidding war for the distribution rights was reportedly fought late into the weekend, with Focus Features eventually coming out on top after forking out over $3 million for the film. The distributor has lined up a 2013 release for the movie.

"Stories We Tell"
Sarah Polley's deeply personal doc "Stories We Tell' seems to have made a real impression on both festival audiences and prospective buyers. After wowing critics at the Venice and Telluride film festivals, "Stories We Tell" played for receptive Toronto crowds last week and was snapped up by a U.S. distributor after just a few days.

Produced by Canada's National Film Board, the documentary follows the Academy Award-nominated filmmaker as she delves into her storied family history. It's an irreverent, raw, and moving portrait of a family and its secrets, one that artfully avoids becoming the self-indulgent affair that it very easily could have been. American film distributor Roadside Attractions picked up Polley's doc and will release it in the U.S. early next year.

See also: Why isn't TIFF's People's Choice Award a bigger deal?

Roadside, along with sister company Lionsgate, had a big year at TIFF, going on a buying spree that saw them pick up a number of films, including Joss Whedon's adaptation of Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing," the Kristen Wiig comedy "Imogene," the post-Second World War epic "Emperor," and the Gwyneth Paltrow/Mark Ruffalo sex-addiction pic "Thanks For Sharing." The "Hunger Games" distributor was by far one of the most active movie buyers at TIFF this year.

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