Director-screenwriter Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland, a recession-era road trip drama starring Frances McDormand, has won the coveted People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival. First and second runners up for the honor were, respectively, director Regina King’s One Night in Miami and director Tracey Deer’s Beans.
The People’s Choice Award is often a harbinger of things to come at the Academy Awards. Over the past decade, every People’s Choice Award winner has gone on to earn a Best Picture Oscar nomination. Last year that was Jojo Rabbit. Earlier Green Book won at Toronto and wound up receiving the Best Picture Oscar. Among other People’s Choice Award winners going on to win the Best Picture Oscar were 12 Years a Slave, Slumdog Millionaire and The King’s Speech.
The Toronto win continues the festival momentum for Nomadland, which recently won the Venice Golden Lion. Until now, no film had ever won both top prizes at the Toronto and Venice fests.
This year’s other People’s Choice Award winners were director Michelle Latimer’s Inconvenient Indian in the documentary competition, and director Roseanne Liang’s Shadows in the Cloud which took the Midnight Madness Award honor.
The 45th edition of the Toronto International Film Fest wrapped on Saturday with the closing night presentation of Mira Nair’s A Suitable Boy at the RBC Lakeside Drive-In at Ontario Place.
“TIFF 2020 was a year we won’t soon forget,” said Cameron Bailey, TIFF artistic director and co-head. “Over the last 10 days, we have experienced community in the truest sense. The pandemic hit TIFF hard and we responded by going back to our original inspiration--to bring the very best in film to the broadest possible audience and transform the way people see the world through film. We heeded the urgent calls for greater representation of under-represented voices. And we watched as audiences embraced cinema’s ability to transport them through screens of all sizes by joining us online from all over this country--something that we would never have seen in previous years. TIFF delivered on its promise to provide Festival-goers and the industry with impactful programming. We are very proud of what the TIFF team accomplished.”
Joanna Vicente, TIFF executive director and co-head, added, “The films and talent featured in this year’s Festival have left us inspired and moved. In a time where the very future of our beloved art form was in question due to cinema and production shutdowns and film festival cancellations, we have seen a tenacity of spirit. We’re heartened by the support and generosity from TIFF’s loyal sponsors, donors, members, and public audiences who encouraged us to deliver a reimagined Festival. We’re grateful for the industry delegates and press corps who championed TIFF’s decision to go ahead with the Festival. We are excited by the fact that 46% of the films screened this year were either directed, co-directed or created by women. We are inspired by the generosity of the industry, who gave their time to be present — virtually — in support of the Festival. And, finally, we are genuinely moved by the commitment of all TIFF’s stakeholders who helped us deliver the TIFF Tribute Awards to Canadian and international audiences.”
TIFF’s industry platform welcomed 3,926 international professionals digitally this year, and remains a force for market activity with strong deals continuing to be made. The following films were sold at TIFF 2020: Another Round, Bruised, Good Joe Bell, MLK/FBI, Night of the Kings, One Night in Miami, Pieces of a Woman, Shadow In The Cloud, Shiva Baby and Summer of 85, with many other sales continuing to be negotiated for films in and out of selection.
In order to acknowledge the heroes working to keep people safe during the global health crisis, TIFF presented a special screening of Concrete Cowboy to 500 invited frontline workers on Monday, September 14. The screening was held on TIFF’s online film platform, Bell Digital Cinema, and sponsored by Fasken. TIFF partnered with Toronto area hospitals Sinai Health, Toronto General, St. Michael’s, and St. Joseph’s (Unity); long-term care facilities Baycrest Hospital, Homes First, and South Riverdale Community Health Centre; and mental health care partners CAMH (PHP, ENCORE, Gifts of Light), CMHA, Real Canadian Superstore, and the TTC in order to facilitate outreach to 500 frontline workers in the Greater Toronto Area. Many of these partners work closely with TIFF year-round as part of our Mental Health Outreach program, which supports individuals on their path to wellness by harnessing the unique power of film to unlock imagination and encourage curiosity.
For the first time ever, TIFF’s leading fundraiser, the TIFF Tribute Awards, was broadcast across Canada on CTV and ctv.ca, and streamed internationally to the rest of the world. During the one-hour broadcast, Academy Award–winning actress Kate Winslet and Academy Award–winning actor Sir Anthony Hopkins each received a TIFF Tribute Actor Award; Nomadland director Zhao was awarded the TIFF Ebert Director Award; Academy Award–nominated filmmaker Nair was honored with the Jeff Skoll Award in Impact Media; Grammy Award–winning composer Terence Blanchard, whose work was featured in this year’s films Bruised and One Night in Miami, received the TIFF Variety Artisan Award; and Beans director Deer was awarded the TIFF Emerging Talent Award.
Presented by the Shawn Mendes Foundation, the 2020 Changemaker Award is given to a Festival film that tackles issues of social change, and comes with a $10,000 cash prize. This year’s winner is Black Bodies, a short by Kelly Fyffe-Marshall.
Black Bodies was selected by TIFF’s Next Wave Committee, a group of young film lovers who recognize cinema’s power to transform the world. The Shawn Mendes Foundation will also be making an annual contribution in support of TIFF Next Wave, helping TIFF deliver key initiatives to elevate young voices. The jurors for the Changemaker Award are members of TIFF’s Next Wave Committee: Saharla Ugas, Sia Mehta, Emanuel Ntwig, Julia Yoo, Daeja Sutherland, Lina Zhang, Delphine Winton, Joe Ning, Caterina Ferrari, Visaree Bradshaw-Coore, Andrea Landaeta, and Diego Lopez.
The jury said Fyffe-Marshall’s film perfectly fits the Changemaker criteria and aims of the award. Through its striking visuals and sound design, combined with spoken word, the film powerfully captures the emotional and physical trauma Black people experience and the injustice of police brutality against them. These are issues the Committee felt are particularly important and relevant to young people today.
“Kelly Fyffe-Marshall’s Black Bodies powerfully shows what it is like for Black people to live in an unjust society,” read a statement from the Committee. “It is moving because the words are too real, it hurts because of all the lives lost to police brutality, and it reminds us how unjust it is that we live in a world where we as young people need to fight to affirm that Black Lives Matter. It is activism against police brutality in moving color. We’re honored to award this prize to such a talented and important emerging filmmaker and social activist in our community.”
“It is such a blessing to receive this award, to be acknowledged, to be seen and to be heard,” said Fyffe-Marshall. “Thank you to the Shawn Mendes Foundation and to the Toronto International Film Festival. I want to use this special moment to further push for change. This year the world seemed to have paused, and we finally heard the call for equality. What we are being called to do doesn’t take much. We just need each of us to do what we can, where we can, and make ripples where we are.”
Amplify Voices Awards
This year, the Amplify Voices Awards were presented to the three best feature films by under-represented filmmakers. All feature films in Official Selection by BIPOC and Canadian filmmakers were eligible for these awards, and the three winners will receive a cash prize of $10,000 each, made possible by Canada Goose.
The three Amplify Voices Awards are:
Amplify Voices Award for Best Canadian Feature Film: Inconvenient Indian, dir. Michelle Latimer
Jury’s statement: “Michelle Latimer’s documentary is a deeply thought-provoking adaptation of Thomas King’s classic non-fiction book. It is a scorching indictment that interrogates the narratives we tell about ourselves and whose humanity is valued in that exercise. Expansive yet pulsing with energy and life, it ponders big questions and harkens the coming of a new era of truth and reclamation.”
Special Mention: Fauna, dir. Nicolás Pereda (Canadian Film)
Jury’s statement: “Tonally precise, with a cunning sense of humor, and led by brilliant performances, this film unpacks the influence of violent stereotypes in popular culture on the Mexican psyche.”
Amplify Voices Award: The Disciple, dir. Chaitanya Tamhane
Jury’s statement: “Masterful in its restraint, this film about a struggling classical Indian musician explores the tension between traditional discipline and the contemporary impulse to be instantly validated. The Disciple is a visually sumptuous and insightful journey into the life of an artist.”
Amplify Voices Award: Night of the Kings, dir. Philippe Lacôte
Jury’s statement: “A bold distinctive voice that pushes the boundaries of traditional cinematic storytelling, weaving together myth and reality in a beguiling trance of a movie. The film seduces with its captivating performances from newcomer Koné Bakary and a chorus of performers moving in rhythmic harmony.”
Special Mention: Downstream to Kinshasa, dir. Dieudo Hamadi
Jury’s statement: “A visceral gut punch of a documentary that explores the courage and determination of survivors of war crimes in the Democratic Republic of Congo. A harrowing boat journey becomes a visual metaphor of their struggle to be recognized and their resilience in the face of adversity.”
The 2020 jurors for the Amplify Voices Awards are actor Sarah Gadon, filmmaker Danis Goulet, and producer Damon D’Oliveira.
Short Cuts Awards
The 2020 IMDbPro Short Cuts Awards are for Best Film, Best Canadian Film, and, new this year, the Share Her Journey Award for best film by a woman. IMDbPro will provide each of the three winners with a bursary of $10,000 CAD and a one-year membership to IMDbPro.
The winners of the three awards are:
IMDbPro Short Cuts Award for Best Film: Dustin, dir. Naïla Guiguet
Jury’s statement: “Dustin Muchuvitz’s performance pulled us on a journey from night into morning that still lingered with us long after the film ended. Naïla Guiguet has offered us a relatable yet often unseen perspective on growing apart.”
IMDbPro Short Cuts Award for Best Canadian Film: Benjamin, Benny, Ben, dir. Paul Shkordoff
Jury’s statement: “A quiet yet powerful film that told us so much about race and class through simple but focused direction.”
IMDbPro Short Cuts Share Her Journey Award: Sing Me a Lullaby, dir. Tiffany Hsiung
Jury’s statement: “This film offered viewers an emotional look at resolving generational trauma.”
Honorable mention: O Black Hole!, dir. Renee Zhan
The 2020 jurors for the IMDbPro Short Cuts Awards are filmmakers Stella Meghie, Adam Piron, and Chloé Robichaud.