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People’s Choice Kenneth Branagh’s Oscar hopes take leap forward as 'Belfast' wins prestigious festival award

The partly autobiographical story, set in the Northern Ireland capital in the 1960s, has been receiving rave reviews since its premiere earlier this month

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Kenneth Brannagh (l) and Jude Hill (Buddy) on set

Kenneth Brannagh (l) and Jude Hill (Buddy) on set

Kenneth Brannagh (l) and Jude Hill (Buddy) on set

Kenneth Branagh’s Oscar hopes took a leap when his new film Belfast won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival.

The partly autobiographical story, set in the Northern Ireland capital in the 1960s, has been receiving rave reviews since its premiere earlier this month.

The story follows a young boy whose life is turned upside down by the start of the Troubles.

The youngster is played by newcomer Jude Hill while Jamie Dornan and Caitriona Balfe take the roles of his parents and Judy Dench and Ciaran Hinds his grandparents.

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Jamie Dornan (r) plays 'Pa' in the film with Jude Hill (l) who plays 'Buddy'

Jamie Dornan (r) plays 'Pa' in the film with Jude Hill (l) who plays 'Buddy'

Jamie Dornan (r) plays 'Pa' in the film with Jude Hill (l) who plays 'Buddy'

 

The People’s Choice Award – voted by festivalgoers - is often an indicator of a film’s Academy Awards chances.

The previous nine winners have all gone on to secure a best-picture Oscar nomination, as have 13 of the last 14 People’s Choice prize winners.

Those include best-picture winners 12 Years a Slave, Green Book and last year’s pick, Nomadland.

Branagh, who wrote and directed the film, was thrilled by the response to his film.

“Our first showing of Belfast at TIFF was one of the most memorable experiences of my entire career,” Branagh said in his acceptance speech.

“That so many Canadian film lovers connected with Belfast so profoundly was absolutely overwhelming to myself and Jamie Dornan, and we talked about it long into a memorable night of laughter and tears in your great city.

“Thanks to Focus Features and Universal for making it happen, they’ve been incredible partners.

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“Thank you to Cameron Bailey, an Irish name if ever there was one, for hosting us with such kindness and sensitivity that went from projectionists to volunteers right through the whole team in that amazing city.”

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Director Kenneth Branagh (Niall Carson/PA)

Director Kenneth Branagh (Niall Carson/PA)

Director Kenneth Branagh (Niall Carson/PA)

 

Branagh, 60, director of Murder on the Orient Express and Thor, said the black and white coming of age film was his “most personal film” yet.

He has been nominated for five Academy Awards and five Golden Globes.

He has won three BAFTAs and two Emmy Awards and was knighted by the Queen in 2012.

Usually one of the world’s largest movie showcases, this year’s TIFF was a scaled-down version, taking place in both socially distanced screenings and virtually online.

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