As usual, the Toronto International Film Festival’s first Saturday culminated with what has become a tradition. The annual HFPA/InStyle bash took over the Windsor Arms off Bloor street, as a veritable who’s who of filmdom descended on the hotel to celebrate film, the beginning of the Fall awards season, and generally catch up with one another at North America’s largest festival. And, oh yeah, did we mention- also have a hell of a good time?
But before the festivities really got under way the HFPA tended to some important business with the announcement of the first annual HFPA Award for Best Short at the Toronto Film Festival. Two prizes were awarded to the best and first runner-up short film in TIFF’s Canada’s Top Ten Film Festival, Short Film Selection. HFPA voters awarded Lee Filipovsky with the Best Film prize for Fluffy, a funny and poignant chronicle of a Serbian family’s last hours at home as it prepares to move to Canada, a hectic day marked by laughter tears and the startling appearance of an oversized teddy bear. Runner-up honors went to Theodore Ushev’s Blind Vaysha, an animated fable of accomplished painterly technique harkening to the folk storytelling tradition of Eastern Europe.
HFPA president Meher Tatna explained that, in accordance with the HFPA’s mission to foster greater international understanding through film and support young and emerging film makers, the award includes cash prizes of $15000 and $5000 respectively, and mentoring of the filmmakers by the HFPA. "Over the past five years (the HFPA) have granted over $100,000 for key TIFF projects, including most recently, Reel Heritage - a three year commitment to protecting and projecting the history of cinema," said Michelle Maheux, Executive director and TIFF COO, who accepted the prizes on behalf of the film makers. "TIFF was honoured to be approached by HFPA to partner and launch this significant project - involving the first ever awards to be created and presented outside the Golden Globes."
With that bit of business taken care of everyone turned to the pressing matter at hand: partying into the wee Toronto hours, celebrating that other hallmark of HFPA events celebrating the best of film while enjoying the best of company in an informal setting.