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Toronto agog for The Royal Hibiscus Hotel world premiere  

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Cast and crew of the movie: Keneth Okoli, Kemi Lala Akindoju, Zainab Balogun, Rachel Oniga, Mo Abudu (Executive Producer), Ishaya Bako (Director) and Jide Kosoko at the festival

Celebrations And Soirées Greet Festival

This year’s Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) commenced on a bright note on Thursday September 7, but things had already begun heating up the evening before, Wednesday, September 6.

The cast and crew of EbonyLife Films latest movie took Toronto’s iconic festival street by storm on Sunday night for the world premiere of The Royal Hibiscus Hotel. The new romantic comedy made its world debut at this year’s TIFF on Saturday, September 9, with a repeat public screening on Monday September 11. It would be screen again tomorrow, Sunday 17, at the Scotiabank Theatre.

Set in Lagos and London, the movie resonates universal themes of love, family and following one’s passion, which many audience at the festival attested to. Directed by Kaduna-born director Ishaya Bako, The Royal Hibiscus Hotel is the story of Ope – a disillusioned chef working in London, who returns to the family business she’s destined to inherit in Nigeria.

She soon meet and falls in love with Deji, a charming, successful entrepreneur, whose secret plan could jeopardize not just their budding romance but the future of the ‘Royal Hibiscus Hotel’.

Longtime partner of EbonyLife Films, Johnnie Walker sponsored the movie and is covering travel expenses to Toronto for cast and crew. Their commitment to the film embodies the brand’s spirit – ‘Keep Walking’, in the face of life’s challenges.

Mo Abudu commended the brand for their continued support. “It is humbling to have such a world-renowned brand identify with us and reward our hard work. Telling the story of The Royal Hibiscus Hotel and being able to attend the opening at TIFF would have been difficult without their partnership,” she said.

The Royal Hibiscus Hotel is the second EbonyLife film after The Wedding Party to premiere at TIFF, the world’s most publicly attended film festival. The Wedding Party received a standing ovation on opening night at TIFF 2016 and went on to become the highest-grossing Nigerian movie of all time.

The Naija stars includes Mo Abudu, Zainab Balogun, Kenneth Okolie, Kemi ‘Lala’ Akindoju, Jide Kosoko, Rachel Oniga and Toni Tones, all got glammed up for one of the world’s most famous film festivals.

Highlight of this year’s TIFF was a party trip down the festival’s memory lane, which was hosted by Champagne house, Perrier-Jouët at the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto.

A dose of the festival nostalgia was unveiled in the form of red-carpet mainstay George Pimentel’s photos, which for the duration of the festival will not simply dot the hotel’s lobby walls, but are wrapping the southwest side of the uptown hotel’s mod façade for all to see in larger-than-life form.

Downtown at the festival headquarters, the TIFF soirée was held, and Indian actress, producer, philanthropist, and winner of Miss World 2000, Priyanka Chopra was this year’s guest of honour.

She lent her bigger-than-just-Bollywood star power to the annual fundraiser, which this year supported Share Her Journey, a just-launched campaign that supports women’s voices in film and television.

Joining her on stage for a shoptalk was TIFF artistic director, Cameron Bailey, Later in the evening, there was calm cocktails before the festival storm was held on the rooftop by gala guests, which include actors Katie Boland and Jason Isaacs, director Deepa Mehta and outgoing TIFF director Piers Handling.

At the official opening night, Borg/McEnroe, the first of three tennis-focused films premiering at the festival, starring Shia LaBeouf, Sverrir Gudnason and Stellan Skarsgard made its screen debut.

The film later received the party treatment at Mongrel House, which has popped up again on Queen Street West for a week of celebrations to honour Mongrel’s bevy of releases.

Uptown in Yorkville, at the Nordstrom Supper Suite hosted at STK, a party was given for the much talked about Call Me By Your Name. The film’s stars, Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet dropped in with director Luca Guadagnino after their film’s debut at the Ryerson Theatre.

In the same space, earlier in the evening, Papillon was feted, star Charlie Hunnam and director Michael Noer both held court in the space ahead of their big TIFF moment.

Highlight of the first night was the effervescent Grace Jones, who slipped into Saks Fifth Avenue, clad in Issey Miyake, for a pre-premiere toast to Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami, the Sophie Fiennes-directed doc about the gender-bending music and style icon.

Fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier stopped in to support his one-time muse, and later, post-screening, celebrations for the singer continued at a party hosted by fashion label Greta Constantine and Michael Cooper and his wife Krystal at the just softly opened Broadview Hotel in Toronto’s east end.

In a welcome address, signed and issued by the festival directors, Piers Handling Director & Chief Executive Officer TIFF, Michèle Maheux Executive Director & Chief Operating Officer TIFF, and Cameron Bailey Artistic Director TIFF, they noted that as the festival enters its fifth decade, they are challenged to adapt and build on the festival’s strengths

“The world of entertainment is rapidly shifting along with our access to films, stories, and storytellers, and TIFF has never shied away from engaging, connecting, and informing the creative industry we work with and the audiences we serve.

“It’s critical we continue to champion work that is fearless in tackling difficult subjects and relentless in challenging our perceptions about the human experience and our place in the world. This year’s programme offers a rich and robust selection of films that tell authentic stories, introduce new voices, and bring forth new visions from some of our favourite masters,” the statement read in parts.

The Prime of Canada, Justin P.J. Trudeau in his goodwill message said that Toronto is recognized as one of the most dynamic cities in the world, and prides itself on being a beacon of global diversity.

He noted that since the festival was first held in 1976, it has grown to become one of the world’s leading destinations for film lovers, adding that the annual event, featuring film screenings, discussions, and workshops, have continued to inspire and entertain patrons from Canada and around the world.

“I would like to commend the organizers for their commitment to bringing people together through the medium of film, and for their dedication to ensuring that TIFF is a resounding success, year after year. Please accept my best wishes for a most enjoyable experience,” he said.

On his part, the Mayor of Toronto, John Tory noted the festival is one of the world’s most successful film events and one of Toronto’s most highly anticipated events.

He said, “In Toronto, arts and culture are integral components of our cultural and economic fabric. They are platforms that enrich and enhance the lives of many. I am delighted that wonderful events like TIFF are taking place in Toronto.

“Arts and culture can be incredible forces for the development of an individual, group or community, and the promotion of intercultural connections that include tolerance, understanding, friendship and social cohesion. I wish to welcome everyone to our city and encourage you to enjoy Toronto at this time of year and learn about our vibrant neighbourhoods. On behalf of Toronto City Council, I wish you a successful and unforgettable festival,” he added.

Chair of the board, Telefilm Canada, said several decades ago, the country’s filmmakers dreamed of offering Canadians more stories based on Canadian experiences. He noted that in 1967, the development of an original model for funding films in Canada led to the creation of Telefilm Canada. Therefore, 2017 marks the festival 50th anniversary.

“What a great opportunity this gives us to celebrate 50 years of talent — to honour those who helped build this industry, including our partners at the Toronto International Film Festival, their staff and volunteers, as well as the actors, directors, screenwriters, producers and technicians who, due to their incredible talent, show Canada to the world,” he said.



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