How Halle Berry and Regina King’s debut turned heads at TIFF


One night in Miami begins with told stories from the past of each of its four iconic main characters. Small moments in the life of Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Cassius Clay (Eli Goree, a Canadian, representing Clay only slightly before he took the name Muhammad Ali), Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) and Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) are each shown before the men meet on the night in question.Brown’s memory is one that screenwriter Kemp Powers says was played as “more comedic” in the play it was adapted from – which he also wrote. The NFL legend visits a neighbor (Beau Bridges) who greets Brown, offers him lemonade and says he’s proud to be from the same town. The two appear to be close and the reunion friendly, until Brown offers to help Mr. Carlton move furniture inside.

“Oh no,” Mr. Carlton replies, smiling warmly. “You know we don’t allow nos in the house. ”

The flippant way Regina King chose to portray “how banal hatred and racism can be” shocked the Powers, as she described how “they can fade over generations to the point where one has faded. ‘impression that it’s in our DNA’.

This is also part of the reason why two of the most discussed films at the Toronto International Film Festival were the debut feature films of Women of Color, both better known for being in front of the camera rather than behind.

“I was a little taken aback,” Powers said in a TIFF virtual press conference on Friday, “because I didn’t know how much more I would feel that moment, seeing him play. ”

This discussion animates the entirety of King’s film, her first turn as a feature film director after a string of high profile television projects, as well as a 2019 Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in If Beale Street could speak.

The inclusion of One night in Miami at the Venice Film Festival, just a week before her premiere at TIFF, King also won another honor: that of becoming the competition’s first black female director.

While the Vienna Festival also saw director Chloé Zhao, who directed Nomadland, become the fifth woman to win the Golden Lion, and TIFF has broken records for inclusion of women (45% of its films were directed by women compared to 36% last year), for King it’s not a perfect scenario.

“It’s the fact that in 2020 it’s a festival first and it’s been happening for 80 years,” King said, “and I can think of so many films made by black filmmakers that I just thought being in Venice, and I didn’t even know it wasn’t, ”she told TIFF’s press conference.

“So I understand the responsibility. There is disappointment that comes with it. ”

If King won TIFF’s People’s Choice Award – selected by a festival-goer vote – she would also be the first black female director to do so. It would be a good start for the film, acquired by Amazon earlier this year for what Variety called “one of the biggest selling independent films in history.”

But another director is set to compete for the same TIFF honor, a woman also known for her acting work.

Halle Berry’s work in progress

Halle Berry’s Bruised may have had its world premiere at the festival on Saturday night as a “work in progress,” but it has already landed a massive US $ 19 million contract with Netflix. Berry also stars in the film, which originally told the story of a “25-year-old white Irish Catholic girl,” she told TIFF. In conversation with … series Friday, also a virtual event due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In its current form, Bruised follows a “failed MMA fighter fighting for redemption,” a fairly standard talk. As One night in Miami, it does not have a date announced for wide release – the film is still a work in progress primarily due to the COVID-19 shutdowns.

Berry, right, appears in Bruised, a film she has both directed and performed. It doesn’t have a release date but has already been sold to Netflix for over US $ 19 million. (Courtesy of TIFF)

Still, the buzz surrounding the film, both at the festival and in the partnership with Netflix, has been substantial – Berry admitted getting the deal to the excitement created in Toronto. She also indicated that more women of color are writing, producing and directing their own stories as inspiration for her to step into this new role.

But like King, Berry – who in 2002 became the first and only black woman to win an Oscar for Best Actress – considers this achievement bittersweet.

“I think, well, maybe this year, maybe this year, maybe this year. And it became heartbreaking that no one else stayed there, ”Berry said. “And I think, no doubt, that there could have been other women who deserve to be there who didn’t go.” And it was just heartbreaking.


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