Kenneth Branagh’s semi-autobiographical story Belfast has been chosen by TIFF audiences as the People’s Choice Award winner of the 46th Toronto International Film Festival.
Branagh’s film, which had its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival earlier this month, wowed TIFF audiences with its striking black and white cinematography and thoroughbred cast featuring Jamie Dornan, Caitriona Balfe, Judi Dench, Ciarán Hinds and newcomer Jude Hill. The film, which takes place during The Troubles in 1969 Ireland, is a page from Branagh’s own life and his most personal film to date. Focus Features will release Belfast only in theaters on November 12.
Since 2008, all but one winner of the TIFF People’s Choice Award has gone on to a Best Picture Oscar nomination and in five of those years (Slumdog Millionaire, 2008 The King’s Speech, 2010; 12 Years a Slave, 2013; Green Book, 2018; Nomadland, 2020) that film has won the Academy Award.
This year, TIFF did something a little different with its People’s Choice Awards ceremony by revealing the top three contenders that would end up vying for the top prize. The first runner-up was Scarborough by Shasha Nakhai and Rich Williamson. The second runner-up was The Power of the Dog by Jane Campion.
In 2009, the festival introduced separate People’s Choice Awards for Documentaries and Midnight Madness. Prior to the creation of the separate People’s Choice Award for Documentaries, the main award was won by two documentary films, Best Boy in 1979 and Roger & Me in 1989.
“2021 brought an exceptional selection of films that excited Festival audiences around the world,” said Joana Vicente and Cameron Bailey, TIFF Co-Heads. “Our lineup showcased beloved auteurs alongside fresh voices in filmmaking, including numerous women powerhouses. TIFF welcomed guest 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.”
The TIFF 2021 People’s Choice Documentary Award winner was The Rescue, dirs. E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin. The first runner-up was Dionne Warwick: Don’t Make Me Over, dirs. Dave Wooley and David Heilbroner. The second runner-up was Flee, dir. Jonas Poher Rasmussen.
The TIFF 2021 People’s Choice Midnight Madness Award winner was Titane, dir. Julia Ducournau. The first runner-up was You Are Not My Mother, dir. Kate Dolan. The second runner-up was DASHCAM, dir. Rob Savage.
At each film screening, attendees are invited to “vote” for the film by rating the film on their ticket stub and depositing it in a box outside the theatre after the show. However, to ensure that the voting process does not bias the award toward films that screened in larger theaters and that a film’s own cast and crew cannot stuff the ballot box, the overall number of votes received is also weighted against the size of the screening audience. For example, a film which screened in a smaller theatre, but had a highly passionate fan base, can have an advantage over a film that had a larger number of raw votes but a more mixed or uneven reception. Because each film is screened multiple times over the course of the entire festival, the process also enables the organizers to evaluate which films are generating more audience buzz, by virtue of a significant increase in attendance and/or People’s Choice votes at the follow-up screenings.
For the 2020 festival, which was conducted primarily on an online streaming platform due to the COVID-19 pandemic, People’s Choice Award voting was also conducted online where voters’ e-mail addresses were cross-referenced against online ticket registrations to ensure that the vote could not be manipulated by people who had not actually seen the films. For 2021, as a fuller hybrid festival than last year, both in-person and online voting was tabulated for the results. All feature films in Official Selection must have screened both in-person and on digital TIFF Bell Lightbox to be eligible.
The 2021 Shawn Mendes Changemaker Award was presented to Scarborough, dirs. Shasha Nakhai and Rich Williamson. Shasha Nakhai developed Scarborough at TIFF Industry in 2019 as an inaugural TIFF Talent Accelerator filmmaker.
The Platform Prize went to Yuni by Kamila Andini. This year’s Platform, made of up eight films, was led by jury president Riz Ahmed. His jury members included Clio Barnard, Valerie Complex, Kazik Radwanski, and Anthony Chen.
Special Tribute awards were also handed out for acting, directing, artisan achievements and more. Jessica Chastain (The Eyes of Tammy Faye) and Benedict Cumberbatch (The Power of the Dog, The Electrical Life of Louis Wain) received the TIFF Tribute Actor Award. The TIFF Ebert Director Award went to Denis Villeneuve (Dune). The Jeff Skoll Award in Impact Media Award went to Alanis Obomsawin, Ari Wegner received the TIFF Variety Artisan Award went to cinematographer Ari Wegner (The Power of the Dog) and the TIFF Lifetime Achievement Award went to legendary singer Dionne Warwick, whose documentary based on her life, Dionne Warkwick: Don’t Make Me Over, world premiered at TIFF this year.
This year’s FIPRESCI jury members – Andrew Kendall, Esin Kücüktepepinar, Caspar Salmon, Gilbert Seah, and Teresa Vena – selected Anatolian Leopard directed by Emre Kayiş as the 2021 winner. “In a perfectly controlled comedy of manners, Anatolian Leopard takes the temperature of a country torn between the old ways and modernity – not to say between honour and corruption – while offering up a melancholy portrait of a man at odds with his surroundings. Emre Kayiş shows great formal accomplishment in this measured and thoughtful film, which stood out from the competition for its singular tone and worldview.”
The 2021 NETPAC Jury of Gemma Cubero del Barrio, Isabelle Glachant and Elhum Shakerifar selected Costa Brava, Lebanon directed by Mounia Akl as this year’s NETPAC winner. The jury released this statement, “Costa Brava, Lebanon – an exquisite intergenerational family story – is an ode to sustainable futures by visionary new talent, Mounia Akl from her precious and troubled country.”
AMPLIFY VOICES AWARDS PRESENTED BY CANADA GOOSE
Canada Goose embraces diversity in all its forms and definitions, including technique and passion that transports storytelling to the screen. This year, Canada Goose presents the Amplify Voices Awards 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 presented by Canada Goose winners are:
Amplify Voices Award for Best Canadian Feature Film: Ste. Anne, dir. 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.”
Special Mention: Scarborough, dirs. Shasha Nakhai, Rich Williamson
Jury’s statement: “With a strong sense of place, Scarborough tells a heartfelt story about community that charms with great performances from its actors, both young and old.”
Amplify Voices Award: The Gravedigger’s Wife, dir. 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, dir. 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.”
The 2021 jurors for the Amplify Voices Awards presented by Canada Goose are Yung Chang, Calvin Thomas, Kaniehtiio Horn, Hugh Gibson, and Aisha Jamal.
SHAWN MENDES FOUNDATION CHANGEMAKER AWARD
Presented by the Shawn Mendes Foundation, the 2021 Changemaker Award is awarded to 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. 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: Norah Daudi, Sia Mehta, Saharla Ugas, Julia Yoo, Lina Zhang, Charles Liu, Naiya Forrester, Honora Murphy, Dev Desai, Elli Tripp, Michelle Kofia, and David Rhomberg.
The 2021 Changemaker Award is presented to Scarborough, dirs. Shasha Nakhai and Rich Williamson. Shasha Nakhai developed Scarborough at TIFF Industry in 2019 as an inaugural TIFF Talent Accelerator filmmaker.
TIFF’s Next Wave Committee provided this statement: “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.”
Directors Shasha Nakhai and Rich Williamson offered this statement: “Thank you to TIFF for giving this film a platform. It has been a really long and challenging road to get here, and we are so grateful to the TIFF Next Wave Committee and the Shawn Mendes Foundation for this award. We’re happy folks are coming away from the film feeling moved, seen, and affirmed, with a renewed commitment to community — and what we hope is a renewed commitment to resisting the forces that seek to erase, fracture, and monetize community. We are excited to bring this film to wider audiences after the Festival, and especially looking forward to using it as a tool to support the front-line work already being done on the myriad issues that it tackles.”
IMDbPro 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 CAD and a one-year membership to IMDbPro, the essential resource for entertainment industry professionals, to help them continue achieving success in their careers. These awards build on IMDbPro’s nearly 20-year history of empowering entertainment professionals to discover new talent and projects, and on its ongoing commitment to supporting and collaboratively working with organizations that create greater diversity, equity, and inclusion in the entertainment industry, including TIFF’s Share Her Journey campaign.
The winners of the three awards are:
IMDbPro Short Cuts Award for Best Film: Displaced, dir. 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.”
Honourable Mention: Trumpets in the Sky, dir. Rakan Mayasi
IMDbPro Short Cuts Award for Best Canadian Film: Angakusajaujuq – The Shaman’s Apprentice, dir. 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?”
Honourable Mention: Nuisance Bear, dirs. Jack Weisman, Gabriela Osio Vanden
IMDbPro Short Cuts Share Her Journey Award: ASTEL, dir. 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.”
Honourable mention: Love, Dad, dir. Diana Cam Van Nguyen
The 2021 jurors for the IMDbPro Short Cuts Awards are filmmakers Sudeep Sharma, Tiffany Hsiung, and Nicole Delaney.