Steven Spielberg’s autobiographical coming-of-age story “The Fabelmans” took home the Toronto International Film Festival’s people’s choice award, providing a major boost to its awards season chances.
TIFF’s people’s choice award is one of the most reliable predictors of eventual Oscar success. In past years, winners such as “Green Book” and “Nomadland” went on to capture the best picture prize at the Academy Awards. Other recent recipients, including “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” “La La Land” and “Jojo Rabbit,” were best picture nominees and major forces during awards season.
Since the people’s choice category was created in 1978, seven recipients went on to win best picture at the Oscars — five of which were in the past 20 years.
“As I said on stage the other night, ‘Above all, I’m glad I brought this film to Toronto!’ This is the most personal film I’ve ever made, and the warm reception from everyone in Toronto made my first visit to TIFF so intimate and personal for me and my entire Fabelman family,” Spielberg said in a statement. “Thank you to Cameron Bailey and the incredible staff at TIFF; thank you to Universal Pictures; and a very special thank you to all the movie fans in Toronto who have made this past weekend one I’ll never forget.”
“The Fabelmans,” which stars Michelle Williams, Paul Dano, Seth Rogen and Gabriel LaBelle as Sam Fabelman, Spielberg’s screen surrogate, was enthusiastically embraced at its world premiere, where the film earned a roaring standing ovation.
In Variety’s review, chief film critic Peter Debruge praised “The Fabelmans,” writing “the master of escapist entertainment gets personal in this 150-minute self-portrait, crafting a loving homage to the complicated relationship with his parents that has informed so much of his work.”
At this year’s festival, the first runner-up for the audience award was Sarah Polley’s drama “Women Talking,” while the second-runner up was Rian Johnson’s whodunnit “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.”
The audience prize for the festival’s Midnight Madness series went to “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story” and the documentary award went to “Black Ice.” All films in TIFF’s official selection are eligible for the people’s choice award, which is voted on by the viewing public.
After two years of virtual premieres or limited capacity screenings, the Toronto Film Festival — running from Sept. 8 through the 18 — returned in force. The 47th annual gathering of cinema lovers concluded on Saturday evening with Mary Harron’s “Daliland,” a biopic about the late surrealist artist Salvador Dali.
Other high-profile films that premiered at TIFF include Viola Davis and director Gina Prince-Bythewood’s historical epic “The Woman King,” the Harry Styles-led romantic drama “My Policeman” and Billy Eichner’s romantic comedy “Bros.”
“2022 brought an exceptional selection of films that excited festival audiences around the world,” said TIFF’s executive director Cameron Bailey. “Our lineup showcased beloved auteurs alongside fresh voices in filmmaking, including numerous women powerhouses. TIFF welcomed guests, press, industry, international stars, and directors back to the city and into cinemas. The sweeping range in cinematic storytelling from around the world is a testament to the uniqueness of the films that are being made. We’re so grateful and proud of this year’s festival.”
Though the people’s choice award may be the most high-profile honor, it’s not the only one handed out to movies that premiered at TIFF. The Amplify Voices Awards for best Canadian feature film, which recognizes underrepresented filmmakers, was given to “To Kill A Tiger,” a documentary from filmmaker Nisha Pahuja. Two other films, Martika Ramirez Escobar’s “Leonor Will Never Die” and Vinay Shukla’s “While We Watched,” were also honored in the category. Feature films for emerging directors who are Black or Indigenous or persons of color and Canadian were eligible for the Amplify Voices Awards.
The Changemaker award went to “Something You Said Last Night,” a drama about an Italian Canadian
family on a summer vacation by Luis De Filippis.
“Created with queer and trans creators in front and behind the camera, ‘Something You Said Last Night’ finds its power in the complex, imperfect truth of humans and our relationships with family,” TIFF’s Next Wave Committee, which votes on the Changemaker Award, said in a statement. “With her film, Luis De Filippis is changing the game — giving a voice to trans people along the way, and creating a future where queer representation exists beyond the one-dimensional stories and characters we’ve seen over and over again. We hope the visibility and recognition of this award will help more young people see and be inspired by the film like we were, and support De Filippis in her development and journey as a filmmaker.”
Also at this year’s festival, director Anthony Shim’s “Riceboy Sleeps” took home the Platform Prize, which is a “competitive programme championing bold directorial visions.”
“The 2022 TIFF Platform Jury announces the unanimous choice for the Platform Prize — ‘Riceboy Sleeps,’ written and directed by Anthony Shim for its deeply moving story and precisely-observed characters as they navigate racism, dislocation, family, and love. It balances social realism with pure poetry. Plus, it’s very funny,” The Platform jury said in a statement. “The leads Choi Seung-yoon, Ethan Hwang, and Dohyun Noel Hwang deserve top honours. ‘Riceboy Sleeps’ touches on, in a most accessible way, some of humanity’s biggest challenges — how to merge cultures without erasing individuals, how to grow up whole in fragmented families, and how to defend ourselves from internalizing the subtle and not so subtle discriminations of the privileged.”