09/14/2011 09:09 EDT | Updated 11/14/2011 05:12 EST

Daily TIFF Riff: Madonna did not mistreat volunteers, handlers say

One of the stranger bits of tittle-tattle to emerge at TIFF this year was a rumour that at the end of the press conference for her film W.E. on Monday, pop-singer-cum-director Madonna instructed TIFF volunteers to turn their backs as she passed.

Madonna, as you probably know, has her share of detractors, which is why this story spread so readily. But last night, Madonna’s long-time media handler, Liz Rosenberg, released a statement debunking the series of events.

Here is the statement in full:

“Reports out of Toronto claim that Madonna’s security people instructed the orange shirted volunteers of the Toronto International Film Festival to turn their backs when the Material Girl left her press conference where she was promoting her film W.E.

“According to Madonna’s spokesperson Liz Rosenberg, ‘Neither Madonna nor her security ever gave instructions for the volunteers to turn away from Madonna. In fact she was so impressed with the volunteers that she publicly thanked them from the stage for their hard work before the premiere of her film last night which earned a standing ovation. She had a wonderful time at the festival and was especially delighted that she got to spend so much time with her fans in front of the theatre which is a famous tradition at the Festival.’

“TIFF officials confirmed that they did not instruct their volunteers to turn away from Madonna.

“‘We are still trying to figure out who and why anyone would ask the volunteers to turn away from Madonna She has never and would never ask anyone to do that ever,’ concluded Rosenberg.”

The rumour seemed slightly far-fetched to begin with, since Madonna readily gave an autograph after the Monday presser to a brazen young woman allegedly posing as a volunteer.

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While the festival has reached its halfway point — and the biggest stars have flown home — there is still plenty of interesting film fare. Today’s galas include the Quebecois comedy Starbuck, which features the irrepressible Patrick Huard (Bon Cop, Bad Cop) as a middle-aged schmo whose one redeeming feature is his generosity at the local sperm bank. Hilarity, as well as drama, ensues when he discovers that he’s fathered no less than 533 children.

In a similarly sardonic vein, there’s Jeff, Who Lives at Home, which concerns a pot-smoking layabout (played by Jason Segel) who still lives with mom. Jeff is roused from his torpor when his skittish brother (Ed Helms) conscripts him to spy on his possibly philandering wife.

On the darker side of the emotional spectrum, there’s Joel Schumacher’s Trespass, in which Nicolas Cage and Nicole Kidman play an affluent Louisiana couple who become the victims of a gruesome home invasion.

One of the less-advertised but nonetheless thrilling developments at this year’s festival is the return of Whit Stillman, the writer-director of such biting, loquacious comedies as Barcelona (1994) and The Last Days of Disco (1998). His latest is called Damsels in Distress, and deals with a coterie of female students at an east coast university who take it upon themselves to “improve” those less socially and sartorially savvy than them.