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Michelle Latimer wins twice at TIFF awards, ‘Nomadland’ grabs people’s choice

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TORONTO — Chloe Zhao’s poetic drama “Nomadland” is riding high after being voted the People’s Choice Award winner at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sunday, while Canadian filmmaker Michelle Latimer picked up two prizes for her documentary “Inconvenient Indian.”

The TIFF awards closed the curtain on 10 days of cinematic celebration that unfolded in historic times as the pandemic left the winning filmmakers largely isolated at home to mark the occasion.

But the distance didn’t sour the moment for Latimer, who said she openly wept after learning her powerful reflection on the colonization of Indigenous peoples in North America won the People’s Choice Documentary Award and the Amplify Voices Award for best Canadian feature film.

One of the first people Latimer contacted was Mohawk filmmaker Tracey Deer, whose Oka Crisis-set drama “Beans” was also applauded by the festival. She said they shared the joy of their mutual recognition together, and reflected on the hope it could present for future Indigenous filmmakers.

“Would you ever think this would’ve happened in our lifetime?” she recalled asking Deer in a text message.

Latimer paused to wipe away more tears as she remembered the conversation.

“I’m just in shock,” she added. “The idea that, maybe, going forward other stories like this can be told, or other people could come up behind us, that’s an amazing thing.”

The Metis/Algonquin director, who also premiered her upcoming CBC series “Trickster” at the festival, said she plans to split the $10,000 cash prize for the Amplify Voices award evenly between five emerging Indigenous artists in the fall.

A number of other female filmmakers were chosen for the festival’s prizes as well.

Zhao’s “Nomadland,” a recession-era road trip drama, pulled in the People’s Choice prize, which is often a harbinger of golden statuettes at the Oscars. The film centres on Frances McDormand who plays a lone woman travelling the American West in her van, as she faces the fallout from the economic crisis and the loss of her husband.

A quiet and pensive film, Zhao blends a small number of familiar actors, including McDormand and David Strathairn, with a handful of non-professionals to create a sense of realism that blurs the lines between fiction and documentary.

“Nomadland” beat out Regina King’s directorial debut “One Night in Miami,” which reimagines a real-life 1964 meeting between Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Sam Cooke, and Jim Brown. Her film was the first runner-up.

Deer’s coming-of-age drama “Beans” was the second runner-up.

“Nomadland” is already a favourite with critics, and picked up the Golden Lion for best film at the Venice Film Festival earlier this month.

In the past decade, every People’s Choice winner has secured a best picture nomination and a handful have gone on to win, including “Green Book,” “12 Years a Slave” and “The King’s Speech.” Last year, “Jojo Rabbit” won the TIFF prize before scoring six Academy Awards nominations.

“Nomadland” will have a much longer road to Oscar than usual. The 2021 awards ceremony has been pushed from next February into late April as the film industry grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The film could prove as resilient as its main character, though, and TIFF co-head Cameron Bailey praised Zhao’s work for portraying “who we are and where we are right now” at this point in history.

“It’s a part of the U.S. that we don’t see that often — people who are living without homes, travelling up and down the country, taking work where they can,” Bailey said.

McDormand is already a darling of the TIFF festival crowd, having starred in the 2017 People’s Choice winner “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” which won her a best actress Oscar.

The TIFF People’s Choice honour usually carries a $15,000 award, but there is no cash prize attached this year after its previous sponsor Grolsch decided not to participate in the festival.

Latimer’s “Inconvenient Indian” was joined by two other winners for the Amplify Voices awards, which recognize feature films by under-represented filmmakers. Chaitanya Tamhane’s “The Disciple” and Philippe Lacote’s “Night of the Kings” also received $10,000 each.

“Shadow in the Cloud,” an unhinged thriller directed by Roseanne Liang, picked up the People’s Choice Midnight Madness Award. The film centres on Chloe Grace Moretz as a Second World War pilot transporting a top-secret package while being haunted by a monstrous vision.

The 2020 Changemaker Award, which is given to a film that addresses issues of social change and carries a $10,000 prize, went to “Black Bodies,” a short film by Kelly Fyffe-Marshall.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 20, 2020.

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David Friend, The Canadian Press


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Fredericton Police say writer RM Vaughan found dead days after going missing

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Police in New Brunswick say missing writer Richard Vaughan has been found dead. He was 55.

The author and video artist, who wrote under the name RM Vaughan, was a revered figure in Canada’s LGBTQ arts scene.

Fredericton Police say his body was found on Friday, 10 days after he was reported missing, and that his death is not being treated as suspicious.

Born in Saint John, N.B, Vaughan recently returned to his home province from Montreal to serve as writer-in-residence at his alma mater, the University of New Brunswick for 2019-2020.

Police say he was last seen near his home in downtown Fredericton on Monday, Oct. 12, and he was reported missing the next day.

The news sparked a flurry of concern in literary circles, with many writers sharing posts urging people to keep an eye out for Vaughan.

Vaughan’s bibliography includes the poetry collections “A Selection of Dazzling Scarves,” “Invisible to Predators,” “Ruined Stars,” “Troubled” and “Ve1Xe”; the novels “Quilted Heart” and “Spells”; and the play “Camera, Woman” and “The Monster Trilogy.”

His works often touched on queer stories of coming-of-age and eroticism. He also had a taste for the supernatural and macabre, and was captivated by the world of the celebrity.

A contributor to a variety of publications and anthologies, Vaughan published the book of essays “Compared to Hitler” in 2013 featuring many of his takes on contemporary culture.

In the 2015 non-fiction book “Bright Eyed,” Vaughan examined the health and historical context of his lifelong battle with insomnia.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 24, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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Trump, Biden fight over the raging virus, climate and race

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NASHVILLE — President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden fought over how to tame the raging coronavirus during the campaign’s closing debate, largely shelving the rancour that overshadowed their previous face-off in favour of a more substantive exchange that highlighted their vastly different approaches to the major domestic and foreign challenges facing the nation.

The Republican president declared the virus, which killed more than 1,000 Americans on Thursday alone, will “go away.” Biden countered that the nation was heading toward “a dark winter.”

“Anyone who is responsible for that many deaths should not remain as president of the United States of America,” Biden said.

With less than two weeks until the election, Trump portrayed himself as the same outsider he first pitched to voters four years ago, repeatedly saying he wasn’t a politician. Biden, meanwhile, argued that Trump was an incompetent leader of a country facing multiple crises and tried to connect what he saw as the president’s failures to the everyday lives of Americans, especially when it comes to the pandemic.

The president, who promised a vaccine within weeks, said the worst problems are in states with Democratic governors, a contention at odds with rising cases in states that voted for Trump in 2016. Biden, meanwhile, vowed that his administration would defer to scientists on battling the pandemic and said that Trump’s divisive approach on suffering states hindered the nation’s response.

“I don’t look at this in terms of the way he does — blue states and red states,” Biden said. “They’re all the United States. And look at all the states that are having such a spike in the coronavirus — they’re the red states.”

After a first debate defined by angry interruptions, the Thursday event featured a mostly milder tone. And in a campaign defined by ugly personal attacks, the night featured a surprising amount of substantive policy debate as the two broke sharply on the environment, foreign policy, immigration and racial justice.

When Trump repeatedly asked Biden if he would “close down the oil industry,” the Democratic standardbearer said he “would transition from the oil industry, yes,” and that he would replace it by renewable energy “over time.” Trump, making a direct appeal to voters in energy producing states like Texas and the vital battleground of Pennsylvania, seized upon the remark as “a big statement.”

Perhaps sensing that the comment could soon appear in Trump campaign ads, Biden did a little clean-up boarding his plane after the debate, declaring, “We’re not going to ban fossil fuels. We’ll get rid of the subsidies of fossil fuels but not going to get rid of fossil fuels for a long time.”

As the debate swept to climate change, Trump explained his decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord negotiated in 2015, declaring it was an unfair pact that would have cost the country trillions of dollars and hurt businesses.

Trump repeatedly claimed Biden’s plan to tackle climate change and invest in green industries was developed by “AOC plus three,” referring to New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Biden chuckled during much of Trump’s answer and said, “I don’t know where he comes from.”

On race, Biden called out Trump’s previous refusals to condemn white supremacists and his attacks on the Black Lives Matter movement, declaring that the president “pours fuel on every single racist fire.”

“You know who I am. You know who he is. You know his character. You know my character,” Biden said. The rivals’ reputations for “honour and for telling to truth” are clear, he said.

Trump countered by pointing out his efforts on criminal justice reform and blasting Biden’s support of a 1990s Crime Bill that many feel disproportionately incarcerated Black men. Staring into the crowd, he declared himself “the least racist person in this room.”

Turning to foreign policy, Biden accused Trump of dealing with a “thug” while holding summits with the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un. And closer to home, the former vice-president laced into the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their parents trying to illegally cross the southern border.

Biden said that America has learned from a New York Times report that Trump paid only $750 a year in federal taxes while holding “a secret bank account” in China. The former vice-president then noted he’s released all of his tax returns going back 22 years and challenged the president to release his returns, saying, “What are you hiding?”

Trump said he closed his former account in China and claimed his accountants told him he “prepaid tens of millions of dollars” in taxes. However, as he has for the past four years after promising to release his taxes, he declined to say when he might do so.

Trump said that when it comes to health care, he would like “to terminate” the Obama-era Affordable Care Act, even amid a pandemic, and come up “with a brand new beautiful health care,” that protects coverage for preexisting conditions. Biden said the president has been talking about making such a move for years but “he’s never come up with a plan.”

He also denounced Trump’s claim that Biden wanted to socialize medicine, creating daylight between himself and the more liberal members of his party whom he defeated in the Democratic primaries.

“He thinks he’s running against somebody else,” the former vice-president said. “He’s running against Joe Biden. I beat all those other people because I disagreed with them.”

It remained to be seen if Trump, who is trailing in the race, managed to change the trajectory of the campaign. More than 47 million votes already have been cast, and there are fewer undecided voters than at this point in previous election years.

The debate, moderated by NBC’s Kristen Welker, was a final chance for each man to make his case to a television audience of tens of millions. And questions swirled beforehand as to how Trump, whose hectoring performance at the first debate was viewed by aides as a mistake that turned off viewers, would perform amid a stretch of the campaign in which he has taken angry aim at the news media and unleashed deeply personal attacks on Biden and his adult son.

When he feels cornered, Trump has often lashed out, going as negative as possible. In one stunning moment during the 2016 campaign, in an effort to deflect from the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape in which he is heard boasting about groping women, Trump held a press conference just before a debate with Hillary Clinton during which he appeared with women who had accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault. He then invited them to watch as audience members.

In a similar move, Trump’s campaign held another surprise pre-debate news conference, this time featuring Tony Bobulinski, a man who said he was Hunter Biden’s former business partner and made unproven allegations that the vice-president’s son consulted with his father on China-related business dealings.

Trump made similar, if vague, accusations from the debate stage, but exchanges about Hunter Biden did not dominate the night as aides on both campaigns thought might happen. Biden declared the discussion about family entanglements “malarkey” and accused Trump of not wanting to talk about the substantive issues.

Turning to the camera and the millions of people watching at home, Biden said, “It’s not about his family and my family. It’s about your family, and your family is hurting badly.”

___

Lemire reported from Washington, Price from Las Vegas. Additional reporting from Steve Peoples in Nashville, Bill Barrow in Atlanta, Alexandra Jaffe, Stephen Braun and Zeke Miller in Washington and Aamer Madhani in Chicago.

___

AP’s Advance Voting guide brings you the facts about voting early, by mail or absentee from each state: https://interactives.ap.org/advance-voting-2020/.

Jonathan Lemire, Michelle L. Price, Darlene Superville And Will Weissert, The Associated Press

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