Pedro Almodovar, Spike Lee to Receive Awards at Toronto Film Festival

Directors Pedro Almodovar and Spike Lee will receive special awards at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival, TIFF CEO Cameron Bailey announced on Thursday.

Almodovar will receive the Jeff Skoll Award in Impact Media, which is sponsored by Participant, while Lee will receive the TIFF Ebert Director Award, named for the late film critic Roger Ebert. The honors will be presented during the TIFF Tribute Awards on Sunday, Sept. 10 at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel, on the fourth night of the 11-day festival.

“Pedro has been coming to TIFF for years and each time is better than the time before,” Bailey said in a statement. “His artistic vision, bold storytelling, and unwavering commitment to pushing the boundaries of cinema have had a profound impact on cinema. He challenges societal norms, champions diversity, and illuminates the human experience with sensitivity and grace.”

Almodovar, whose films include “Talk to Her,” “All About My Mother,” “Pain and Glory” and “Parallel Mothers,” has been at film festivals this year not with a new feature but with the short film “Strange Way of Life,” a gay-themed Western starring Ethan Hawke and Pedro Pascal.

Spike Lee’s work most recently appeared at the Toronto Film Festival when his David Byrne concert film, “American Utopia,” was the opening-night screening at the downsized 2020 event, which took place in largely virtual screenings because of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“A foremost storyteller of our era, Spike’s body of work from ‘She’s Gotta Have It’ to ‘Do the Right Thing’ to ‘Mo’ Better Blues’ to his most recent film at TIFF, ‘American Utopia,’ … has inspired audiences and made a lasting impact on the art of filmmaking,” Bailey said in the TIFF statement.

Since 2019, the TIFF Tribute Awards have been presented at a fundraising gala during the festival. In addition to the Jeff Skoll Impact Media Award and the Ebert Director Award, the event typically presents a Share Her Journey Groundbreaker Award presented by Bulgari, and two Actor Awards, which usually go to performers who have films in the festival.

The acting awards are a question mark this year if the SAG-AFTRA strike is still going on in early September. The guild’s regulations prohibit actors from going to film festivals to promote their work, while the festival states, “TIFF will respect SAG-AFTRA protocols regarding the participation of its members at the festival.”

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