Dramas face tough time at Toronto festival

Fri Sep 11, 2009 12:40pm EDT
 
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By Jennifer Kwan

TORONTO (Reuters) - If there is anything Oscar voters love, it is a good drama. But as a key festival stop on the road to Hollywood awards got down to business on Friday, dramas were less on movie screens and more behind the scenes where the film genre is troubled.

The Toronto International Film Festival, which has long been considered a starting point for movie awards -- Oscar winner "Slumdog Millionaire" got a big boost here last year -- opened on Thursday night with Charles Darwin drama "Creation," which came into the event seeking a U.S. distributor.

The festival boasts more than 330 films screening over 10 days, and ahead of opening week about a third of them lacked key distribution, including titles such as Atom Egoyan's "Chloe" and Oliver Parker's "Dorian Gray."

Facing the recession at home, audiences have flocked to escapist fantasies and comedies, causing distributors of the dramas that vie for Oscars to snap up rights for those genres, leaving serious-minded fare in the dust.

Industry players say lovers of good dramas are not gone, nor is the genre dead. They see the issue as cyclical and more a marketing and cost problem than one of creative content.

Still, if you are making movies like 2007's "No Country for Old Men," which earned a best film Oscar, times are tough.

Director Jon Amiel, whose "Creation" tells of Charles Darwin struggling with his theories of evolution in the 1850s, called "drama" the new "five-letter word" in Hollywood.

"If you're making a movie about a dead, bald Englishman, you're not making a movie that even the indie distributors are flocking to buy these days," Amiel said. "There are just many, many movies that American audiences are not going to see."   Continued...

 
<p>U.S. actress Jennifer Connelly and her husband British actor Paul Bettany (R) arrive for the gala presentation for the film 'Creation" at the Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto September 10, 2009. REUTERS/ Mike Cassese</p>