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|September 14, 2001||
Aamir hugs Mira; Matt McConaughey saves a life
Arthur J Pais in Toronto
The Toronto International Film Festival was back in full gear Wednesday after missing half a day on Tuesday in memory of thousands who had died in New York's terrorist attacks.
But the pall over the event was evident everywhere.
Practically every party has been cancelled. And instead of discussing the latest film acquisitions or the films screened for press and industry, you hear animated and agitated chat about how to get back home.
Several film executives and stars are stuck in the city. Two days after the New York attack, flights to New York and many European cities are yet to be resumed.
Among those stranded in Toronto is actor Aamir Khan, who had flown in from New York to join wife Reena and director Ashutosh Gowariker for the second public screening of his Lagaan at the film festival.
But Aamir isn't complaining too much. He was seen enjoying brunch with Reena at Over Easy, a pleasant and inexpensive eatery situated right next to the pricey Park Hyatt where the Lagaan gang is staying.
He also bumped into Mira Nair, one of the big stars of this year's festival whose Monsoon Wedding is one of the few films (out of over 300 seen at the festival), that received a big ovation at the press and industry screening.
The two hugged each other outside Over Easy like long lost friends. And though Nair hasn't announced her next film, don't be surprised to see the two working together soon.
Lagaan has set a record of sorts at the fest.
It is the second longest film shown here; at 224 minutes, it ranks next to La Commune, the 345-minute long French film.
Most of the festival entries are in the 90-110 minute range. Only half a dozen films are over 150 minutes.
Audiences, however, have taken to Lagaan in a big way. Hardly anyone walked out of the two press screenings.
Among those who have fallen for the film's magic is Vikram Jayanti, one of the best known documentary makers in America and the maker of the acclaimed James Ellroy's Feat of Death.
"Is it over three hours?" he asks, laughing. "I felt it was even shorter than many of the Hollywood films."
Star-watchers had their fill with the likes of Denzel Washington and Heather Graham spending several days in Toronto.
But for some of the fans of Mathew McConaughey there was more than star watching. They watched him save a life -- right in the middle of the screening of his new film, Thirteen Conversations.
When an elderly woman had a seizure, several people kept calling for medical help. But no one went near the woman.
McConaughey wasted no time. He jumped across the aisle and gave the woman mouth-to-mouth resuscitation till she recovered.
A few minutes later, she was taken to the hospital, where she was treated for several hours and released. "Not a big deal," the star said, and continued watching the film.
The low-budget film explores the real meanings of hope and destiny.
The festival ends officially Saturday.
But by Thursday evening, it looked as if Asoka will not be screened.
Director Santosh Sivan and Shah Rukh Khan were among those stranded in New York on Wednesday.
Had the print of the film been sent earlier to Toronto, the press and public shows could have gone on.
One of the very few films that got a standing ovation, Fred Schepisi's Last Orders, is based on a Booker Prize-winning bestseller by Graham Swift.
Based on the joys and pangs of friendship and death, this film could boost the career of veteran Michael Caine, who stars in the film.
Standing ovation at Toronto should be taken seriously -- many films which made a mark here and received their North American premiere have gone to win Oscars and big box-office.
The list includes Shakespeare In Love, American Beauty and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
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