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Toronto film festival gets political with ‘Jackie,’ ‘LBJ’ and ‘Barry’

Films depicting US political figures Jackie Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Barack Obama are focus at the festival in Toronto

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With global attention trained on the looming US election, the Toronto film festival looked back this week at American political figures Jacqueline Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and a young Barack Obama.

Based on Theodore White's Life magazine interview with the former first lady at the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts a week after US president John F. Kennedy's 1963 death in Dallas, Texas, the film retells JFK's assassination through the eyes of a grieving widow who maintained her poise. “We couldn't just tell the story of Camelot,” Larrain said at the festival.

The film stars Natalie Portman as Jacqueline Kennedy and Peter Sarsgaard -- who also appeared at the festival in “The Magnificent Seven” -- as Jackie's brother-in-law Robert, Greta Gerwig as Jackie's aide, Billy Crudup as journalist White and John Hurt as a Catholic priest who counselled her. Picking up from there, Rob Reiner's “LBJ” stars Woody Harrelson -- who also appeared at the festival in “The Edge of Seventeen” -- playing Kennedy's successor Lyndon Johnson.

Skipping ahead two decades, Australian Devon Terrell's dead-ringer portrayal of America's current president in Vikram Gandhi's “Barry” received more rousing applause in Toronto.

The film, which premiered Saturday, takes viewers back to the fall of 1981, when a young Barack Obama arrives at New York's Columbia University as a transfer student. His relationships with his Kansas-born mother (played by Ashley Judd), estranged Kenyan father and classmates (Anya Taylor-Joy, Ellar Coltrane and Jason Mitchell) become strained as glaring social inequalities force him to confront questions about his identity.

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