“American Fiction” has won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, TIFF organizers announced at an awards brunch on Sunday.
The Orion/MGM film by first-time director Cord Jefferson is a barbed satire that stars Jeffrey Wright as a writer who, to his dismay, achieves enormous success after as a joke writing a book filled with what he feels are the worst and most pandering cliches of Black representation. In its review, TheWrap called the film “an outlandishly assured directorial debut, a beautifully modulated film that takes a great actor, Jeffrey Wright, and gives him a spectacular showcase.”
While the film did not come into the festival as one of its highest profile selections, it was an immediate sensation after its Friday night premiere at the Princess of Wales Theatre, drawing some of TIFF’s most positive reviews. It currently stands at 86% positive on Rotten Tomatoes and has a score of 83 on Metacritic.
Unlike festivals like Cannes, Sundance and Venice, Toronto does not give out a jury award to the festival’s top film. Instead, viewers at all public screenings are invited to vote for their favorite films on the TIFF website, with the resulting audience awards announced at the end of the festival.
While only two People’s Choice Award winners went on to win the Oscar for Best Picture in the first 30 years of the TIFF prize, with five others receiving Academy Award nominations in the category, the award has become an increasingly reliable indicator of Oscar success. For the last 11 years in a row, and for 14 of the last 15 years, the winner of the TIFF People’s Choice Award has gone on to receive a Best Picture nomination, and the TIFF winner has won the Oscar five times: “Slumdog Millionaire” in 2008, “The King’s Speech” in 2010, “12 Years a Slave” in 2013, “Green Book” in 2018 and “Nomadland” in 2020. (Only “Green Book” was not already an Oscar favorite before winning TIFF.)
Alexander Payne’s “The Holdovers” was the runner-up for the People’s Choice Award, while legendary Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki’s “The Boy and the Heron” finished third.
Over the last decade, four of Toronto’s second-place winners have received Oscar nominations, including 2012 Oscar winner “Argo,” and five of TIFF’s third-place winners have been nominated, including winners “Spotlight” and “Parasite.”
In the documentary category, Robert McCallum’s “Mr. Dressup: The Magic of Make-Believe” was the audience favorite, followed by Jen Markowitz’s “Summer Qamp” and Lucy Walker’s “Mountain Queen: The Summits of Lhakpa Sherpa.”
In the Midnight Madness section, Larry Charles’ “Dicks: The Musical” won and “Kill” and “Hell of a Summer” were runners-up.
A jury consisting of directors Barry Jenkins, Nadine Labaki and Anthony Shim gave a $20,000 CAD prize to Tarsem Singh Dhandwar’s “Dear Jassi” as the best film in the Platform program at the festival. Platform consisted of 10 films from 12 different countries, with other contenders including Kristoffer Borgli’s “Dream Scenario,” Kei Chika-ura’s “Great Absence,” Jaione Camborda’s “The Rye Horn” and Axel Peterson’s “Shame on Dry Land.”
Sophie Dupuis’ “Solo” won the award for best Canadian feature.
Additional prizes, including NETPAC, FIPRESCI and short-film awards, were also announced at the brunch. The full list of winners is below.
People’s Choice Award: “American Fiction,” Cord Jefferson
First Runner-up: “The Holdovers,” Alexander Payne
Second Runner-up: “The Boy and the Heron,” Hayao Miyazaki
People’s Choice Documentary Award: “Mr. Dressup: The Magic of Make-Believe,” Robert McCallum
First Runner-up: “Summer Qamp,” Jen Markowitz | Canada
Second Runner-up: “Mountain Queen: The Summits of Lhakpa Sherpa,” Lucy Walker
Midnight Madness People’s Choice Award: “Dicks: The Musical,” Larry Charles
First Runner-up: “KILL,” Nikhil Nagesh Bhat
Second Runner-up: “Hell of a Summer,” Finn Wolfhard, Billy Bryk
Platform Jury Prize: “Dear Jassi,” Tarsem Singh Dhandwar
Best Canadian Feature Film: “Solo,” Sophie Dupuis
Best Canadian Feature Honorable mention: “Kanaval,” Henri Pardo
Changemaker Award: “We Grow Now,” Minhal Baig
Amplify Voices Award for Best BIPOC Canadian Feature Film: “Kanaval,” Henri Pardo
Amplify Voices Award for BIPOC Canadian First Feature Film: “Tautuktavuk” (“What We See”), Carol Kunnuk, Lucy Tulugarjuk
Amplify Voices Producers Award for Canadian BIPOC Trailblazer: Damon D’Oliveira
IMDbPro Short Cuts Award for Best Film: “Electra,” Daria Kascheeva
IMDbPro Short Cuts Award for Best Canadian Film: “Motherland,” Jasmin Mozaffari
Short Cuts Share Her Journey Award: “She (Snake),” Renee Zhan
NETPAC Award: “A Match,” Jayant Digambar Somalkar
NETPAC Award Honorable Mention: “Mimang,” Ken Taeyang
FIPRESCI Prize: “Seagrass,” Meredith Hama-Brown