Director Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast, a coming-of-age tale set amid the tumult of late 1960’s Northern Ireland, won the coveted People’s Choice Award this evening (9/18) at the 46th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival. First and second runners up for the honor were, respectively, Scarborough directed by Shasha Nakhai and Rich Williamson, and The Power of the Dog directed by Jane Campion.
The People’s Choice Award is often a harbinger of things to come at the Academy Awards. Over the past decade-plus, every People’s Choice Award winner has gone on to earn a Best Picture Oscar nomination. Last year that was Nomadland which wound up winning the Best Picture Oscar, following in the footsteps of such People’s Choice Award-winning features as Green Book, 12 Years a Slave, Slumdog Millionaire and The King’s Speech.
Meanwhile this year’s People’s Choice Documentary Award winner was The Rescue, which topped the documentary category. Directed by E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, The Rescue chronicles the 2018 rescue of the youth soccer team from Thailand’s Tham Luang cave, spearheaded by an international group of elite underwater cave divers.
The first runner-up for the People’s Choice Documentary Award was Dionne Warwick: Don’t Make Me Over directed Dave Wooley and David Heilbroner. The second runner-up was Flee from director Jonas Poher Rasmussen.
The People’s Choice Awards mark the audience’s top title at the Toronto fest as voted by the viewing public. Rounding out these honors was the TIFF 2021 People’s Choice Midnight Madness Award which went to the Julia Ducournau-directed Titane. The first runner-up was You Are Not My Mother from director Kate Dolan. The second runner-up was DASHCAM directed by Rob Savage.
Platform Prize, Changemaker Award
On the juried side, the Toronto festival presented its Platform Prize--which champion’s bold directorial vision--to Yuni from director Kamila Andini. An honorable mention from the Platform Prize jury went to Mlungu Wam (Good Madam) directed by Jenna Cato Bass.
Meanwhile the 2021 Changemaker Award was given to the aforementioned Scarborough from directors Nakhai and Williamson. Nakhai developed Scarborough at TIFF Industry in 2019 as an inaugural TIFF Talent Accelerator filmmaker. Presented by the Shawn Mendes Foundation, the 2021 Changemaker Award is bestowed upon a festival film that tackles issues of social change, and comes with a $10,000 cash prize. The winning film was selected by TIFF’s Next Wave Committee, a group of young film lovers who recognize cinema’s power to transform the world.
TIFF’s Next Wave Committee issuede a statement which read, “This film is etched on my heart. Scarborough is an utterly captivating and earth-shattering story of three intertwined families who are no strangers to hardship. Through the charms of misfits and unlikely heroes, directors Shasha Nakhai and Rich Williamson pose big social questions while framing them in a real and affirming story of resilience, community, and love. Written and directed with power and grace, this film truly feels like home.”
The Amplify Voices Awards were given to the three best feature films by under-represented filmmakers. All feature films in Official Selection by emerging BIPOC filmmakers 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 winners are:
Amplify Voices Award for Best Canadian Feature Film: Ste. Anne, directed by Rhayne Vermette
Jury’s statement: “Rhayne Vermette’s debut feature shows us a unique vision that makes full use of all the tools of filmmaking to lure us into its emotional topography. Deeply personal yet inviting, Ste. Anne is true cinematic art made in a setting that’s often missing from the landscape of Canadian film.”
Amplify Voices Award: The Gravedigger’s Wife, directed by Khadar Ayderus Ahmed
Jury’s statement: “At once specific to Somali culture and universally recognizable, The Gravedigger’s Wife tells a deeply romantic tale that’s both emotionally and visually textured. With Omar Abdi as its magnetic lead, Guled’s journey captivates from the first scene to the final frame.”
Amplify Voices Award: A Night of Knowing Nothing, directed by Payal Kapadia
Jury’s statement: “Payal Kapadia’s unique documentary balances the personal and political with a surprising snapshot of her home country. Shocking at times, but also sweeping in its beauty, A Night of Knowing Nothing is a first feature that already demonstrates her strong voice as a filmmaker.”
Short Cuts Awards
The 2021 IMDbPro Short Cuts Awards are for Best Film, Best Canadian Film, and the Share Her Journey Award for best film by a woman. Each winning film will receive a bursary of $10,000 and a one-year membership to IMDbPro. The winners of the three awards are:
IMDbPro Short Cuts Award for Best Film: Displaced, directed by Samir Karahoda
Jury’s statement: “Standing out in a strong selection of films, Samir Karahoda’s Displaced captivated us with its unique look, locations, and characters that all brought to life the quixotic yet enduring dedication to a sport — and a country — that is hard to articulate, even to one’s self.”
(Honorable Mention: Trumpets in the Sky, directed by Rakan Mayasi)
IMDbPro Short Cuts Award for Best Canadian Film: Angakusajaujuq - The Shaman’s Apprentice, directed by Zacharias Kunuk
Jury’s statement: “Zacharias Kunuk’s Angakusajaujuq - The Shaman’s Apprentice is an enthralling stop-motion that encapsulates an array of textures, sound, and nuanced expressions that collectively invite you into the apprentice’s journey in learning traditional knowledge and caring for community while confronting your own fears. You can’t help but feel the questions asked of the apprentice are for us all to consider: Who are you? What have you learned?”
(Honorable Mention: Nuisance Bear, directors Jack Weisman, Gabriela Osio Vanden)
IMDbPro Short Cuts Share Her Journey Award: ASTEL, directed by Ramata-Toulaye Sy
Jury’s statement: “Ramata-Toulaye Sy’s ASTEL moved us with its powerful storytelling, beautiful shots, and a captivating lead performance that explores the complex nuances of womanhood, patriarchy, and coming of age when you least expect it.”
(Honorable mention: Love, Dad, directed by Diana Cam Van Nguyen)