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Dispatches from TIFF 2006

13 Sep 2006

News from the red carpet and events at the film festival

The red carpet action has kept sizzling over the past few days at the Toronto International Film festival. Just last night, for the world premiere of director Leon Ichaso’s film El Cantante, starring Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony, fans of J-Lo packed the sidewalks outside the Elgin Theatre to catch a glimpse of the Latin diva. So is she really pregnant some wondered? Well AfroToronto.com had a chance to take a close look with an exclusive spot inside the theatre, at the end of the long red carpet, and no belly bulge was noticeable to me as she made her entrance in a stunning Dolce & Gabbana dress. Both Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony, as well as the film’s director, Leon Ichaso stopped to answer a couple questions from AfroToronto.com.

To my question of why he chose to cast the star couple in his movie chronicling the life of 1970s Salsa legend Hector Lavoe (played by Marc Anthony), director Leon Ichaso tells AfroToronto that there was never any other choice. He felt that Jennifer and Marc, both Puerto Ricans who grew up with Lavoe’s music, were the perfect fit. There are a lot of intense scenes of quarrels and tribulations in the movie between Hector Lavoe and his wife Puchi (played by Jennifer Lopez). And a real-life couple brings authenticity to the screen. Also, Ichaso explains that the project was originally spearheaded by Jennifer Lopez herself.

When stopping to talk to AfroToronto.com, Lopez explains that she had been contacted by the real-life Puchi who encouraged her to take on the project. The Salsa epic has been a project very near and dear to her heart. She also told me that she has been working on a Spanish album set to be released soon. Although Marc Anthony did not seem too enthusiastic about my question of “how was it like working with your wife.” I had a feeling he may have been asked that question one too many times. He is the lead character in this movie and was certainly understandably looking to share some of the spotlight.

As far as other star action happening since my last report. Wyclef Jean was on hand at Manulife Centre’s Varsity theatre last Saturday night for Danish director Asger Leth’s film Ghosts of Cité Soleil. The film chronicles the real-life footage of two Haitian brothers leading armed gangs in the impoverished slums of Haiti’s Cité Soleil. Wyclef makes a cameo appearance in the film. Coming out of the theatre. Wyclef took some heat from some Haitians who felt that the film took too much of a right-wing overtone and showed too much a biased negative image of former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Wyclef took the time to listen and address some of the concerns. Check back AfroToronto.com this week for a more detailed write-up about the controversy surrouneding Wyclef’s flick and profiles/interviews of other African Diaspora films at the festival.

Speaking of African diaspora films, Forest Whithaker’ film The Last King of Scotland was a huge hit at the festival. Set for theatrical release on September 27th 2006 (see trailer), the political drama follows a Scottish doctor who becomes the personal personal physician of Idi Amin (Forest Whitaker), the then-new president of Uganda. Actress Kerry Washington, who plays one of Idi Amin’s wifes in the movie, looked stunning at the press conference in downtown Toronto.

Last Monday night was also the yearly much-anticipated Planet Africa party celebrating the African diaspora films at the festival. This year, it was held at the Drake Hotel on Queen Street West. The event attracted hundreds of guests who fill all three levels of the venue. With free alcohol flowing all night, the atmosphere was a very festive one, especially in the basement where some wicked music was pumping and life performers were doing their thing.

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