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“Shame,” “The Raid” and “Pariah” build TIFF 2011 buzz

By Sean O’Connell The big story at TIFF this year – or the buzziest buzz film, at the very least – has been “The Raid,” a Midnight Madness film that wasn’t on very many radars heading into the fest but now has become the hot ticket and the topic of conversation in most lines.

The problem, for most of us, is that if you didn’t make the P&I screening (which was up against such titles as Cronenberg’s “A Dangerous Method” or Almodovar’s “The Skin I Live In,” you didn’t see the film. TIFF could use a system where titles that are scoring solid buzz can be reprogrammed later in the fest, but with so many options in the festival’s various venues, it’s hard to find much to complain about here.

The other major story is Fox Searchlight picking up the controversial Steve McQueen drama “Shame,” NC-17 rating and all. I asked a studio rep if the film, indeed, would be released this year – as Michael Fassbender is receiving crazy buzz thanks to his Venice Best Actor win – but they couldn’t confirm.

The P&I screening for “Shame” is Monday morning. Expect a zoo.

I did manage to catch up with Dee Rees’ personal coming-out drama “Pariah,” and I understand why it has been winning over audiences since its bow in Sundance (where it earned a Grand Jury Prize nomination).

Claims that “Pariah” (acquired by Focus) is this year’s “Precious” are shortsighted and misguided. Rees’ hand-held docu-drama approach helps lend truth to the story of Alike (Adepero Oduye), a 17-year-old lesbian struggling with her sexuality. There are naturalistic performances by the entire cast, with Kim Wayans eventually distancing herself from the pack with a ferocious turn as Alike’s concerned mother. And though the film narratively stalls near the end of Act Two, Rees retains a swift kick to the gut – delivered by Wayans’ cold character – which elevates “Pariah” to the next level.

This has been the fest of fantastic performances. I’ve already raved about Glenn Close in “Albert Nobbs,” George Clooney in “The Descendants,” Brad Pitt in “Moneyball,” Jean Dujardine in the spectacular “The Artist” and Ezra Miller and Tilda Swinton in “We Need to Talk About Kevin.” Christopher Plummer has been receiving raves for his Shakespearean turn in “Barrymore,” as is Vanessa Redgrave for Ralph Fiennes’ “Coriolanus.”

Tomorrow, it’s the new Sarah Polley, potentially “Machine Gun Preacher,” and more interviews to post on the site.

At TIFF, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day.

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