The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) starts today. This year’s edition has been touted as one of the best line-ups in years.

Much fanfare has been made with the announcement that none other than Oprah Winfrey will be in town to promote the film Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire.

Other high-voltage guests at this year’s festival are: Mariah Carey, George Clooney, Keanu Reeves, Snoop Dogg, Chris Rock, Penelope Cruz, Michael Douglas, Tyler Perry and many more.

Once again, AfroToronto.com will be in the theatres, red carpets and press conference rooms to bring you the best Afro-specific news and reviews from the festival; as well suggestions for the most interesting international films screening at TIFF '09.

The following is a list of editorial picks to check out.


Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire

Director Lee Daniels (the Academy Award winning producer of Monster’s Ball) brings to the sliver screen the story of Precious, from the novel “Push” by New York spoken word artist and writer Sapphire.

Precious is a morbidly obese, HIV-positive, dark-skinned teen who has suffered sexual abuse from her own father (who impregnated her twice) and who must live with the constant emotional abuse from her mother (played by Mo’Nique). Despite all these odds, this functionally illiterate young woman works through her feelings of worthlessness and resignation to seek a better life for herself with the help of a teacher (Ms Rain played by Paula Patton) and a social worker (played by Mariah Carey).

The story draws from author Sapphire’s own experience of having been molested by her father and later teaching at-risk youth in Harlem.

The role of Precious is played by newcomer Gaborey “Gabby” Sidibe. Sidibe had never acted before this film but said she soon felt at home on the set with the all-star cast -- which also includes Lenny Kravitz who plays a nurse. “I think we all know people like precious. There’s a lot of different people within Precious I believe. I think we’ve all at some point been ignored and we’ve all been searching for support where we just won’t find it. And I think that’s in a lot of us” says Sidibe.

The film’s director, Lee Daniels, really encouraged all the actors to shed their own layers and dig deep. Mariah Carey describes this cathartic process when she talks about leaving her glamorous celebrity image far behind and “shedding layers of skin, becoming somebody completely new”. Carey reveals that “Lee wanted me to look as unglamorous as I could … he believed that I could do this role of the social worker.”

The film benefits from the wholehearted endorsement of Oprah Winfrey (Harpo Films) and Tyler Perry (34th Street Films). Oprah will be at the Toronto red-carper screening of the film on Sunday night (Sept. 13th) at Roy Thomson Hall. Mariah Carey and Tyler Perry are also a confirmed celebrity guests for the evening.


Sunday September 13    09:30PM    ROY THOMSON HALL

Monday September 14    12:30PM    WINTER GARDEN THEATRE

YouTube Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Fvx-w8j-wM

Official website: http://www.weareallprecious.com/


The Day God Walked Away

The scene is set in the spring of 1994 in Kigali. At the start of the horrific genocide in Rwanda, a young Tutsi woman named Jacqueline, who worked for a Belgian family, suddenly finds herself abandoned and lost.

After she discovers that her children had been brutally massacred by the Hutus, she seeks refuge in the forest. While in hiding, she finds a wounded man with whom she forms a bond.

Together they try to make sense of a world that has gone mad and cling to their humanity in their quest to survive. As terror constantly lurks, the film projects an intensely personal and unique perspective of large-scale drama that was the Rwandan genocide which claimed the lives of between 800,000 and 1,000,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. 


Friday September 11    09:00PM    JACKMAN HALL - AGO

Saturday September 12    10:00AM    ISABEL BADER THEATRE

Friday September 18    10:45AM    CUMBERLAND 2


Down for Life

Down for Life, based on a New York Times article depicting the real-life events of a Latina gang leader in South Central L.A., will have its world premiere on Saturday (Sept. 12th) at the Toronto International Film Festival.

A cinematic cross between ‘Boyz N the Hood’ and ‘City of God’, Down for Life takes us into the very real world of female Latina gang bangers’ lives.

The story follows a fateful day in the life of Rascal (played by Jessica Romero), a 15-year-old Latina gang leader living in L.A.’s Watts ghetto. Rascal has a talent for writing that an encouraging teacher, Mr. Shannon (Danny Glover), wants to nurture and develop.

The glimmer of hope that the opportunity of joining a writers’ workshop, and the despair of mounting tragedies in her young life, bring her to a crossroad as she contemplates leaving her gang banging life behind.

Shot on location in Watts, the film brings an important sense of reality. The film was also shot in the original Locke High School where the original real-life story featured in the New York Times article took place.

The film’s soundtrack was co-produced by Snoop Dogg. The music is a mix of hip-hop and Latino rhythms.

Both Snoop Dogg and Danny Glover will be in Toronto on Saturday night (Sept. 12th) for the films world premiere at AMC Theatres.


Saturday September 12    09:30PM     AMC 7

Monday September 14    03:30PM    AMC 7

Friday September 18    06:15PM    AMC 7


Moloch Tropical

Shot during five weeks between April and May 2009 in the North of Haiti at La Citadelle Laferriere, the largest fortress in the western hemisphere, Moloch Tropical is a film about the end of power.

An homage to Russian director Aleksandr Sokurov’s film Molokh (1999), which explored the last days of Hitler’s life spent with Eva Braun in Bavaria in 1942, Moloch Tropical transposes the scene to a Caribbean context -- as a Haitian president confronts the end of his power as the streets outside are inflamed in turmoil.

The president is deeply disturbed by the turn of events and he falls into a deep depression.

The cast includes some well-known Haitian celebrities such as Jimmy Jean-Louis ("Heroes" on NBC) and singer Emmeline Michel.

The film received the official support of Haiti’s Ministry of Culture et Communications, the Ministry of Tourism and the country’s National Institute for the Safeguarding of Heritage (ISPAN).

The film''s director Raoul Peck is a national cultural treasure in Haiti. Born in Haiti, raised in Zaire (Congo) and France, he divides his time between America and Europe. He served briefly as Haiti’s Minister of Culture in the 1990s.


Saturday September 12    07:00PM    ISABEL BADER THEATRE

Monday September 14    03:30PM    SCOTIABANK THEATRE 4

Saturday September 19    03:30PM    SCOTIABANK THEATRE 4 

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