The Toronto International Film Festival is non-competitive. There are no juries, and there are no conventional prizes, like best picture, or best actress. It is a festival for the people, by the people, so it is fitting that it is the people who vote.
Every feature film shown at TIFF is eligible, but only the people who saw that film can vote. The winner always generates some Oscar buzz, and many do go on to win best picture at the Academy Awards (Chariots of Fire in 1981, American Beauty in 1999, The King’s Speech in 2010). You can vote as many times as you want; if you see 20 films and love 18, you can vote for all 18. Of course, only the movies that are screening at TIFF are eligible, but since TIFF is now second only to Cannes in terms of influence, and the timing is good, well, it’s a powerful start to the race.
Past winners include The Imitation Game, 12 Years A Slave, Slumdog Millionaire, Amelie, The Princess Bride, and Roger & Me. Gavin Hood, director of Eye in the Sky, which is in competition this year, was thrilled to have his film Tsotsi win in 2005, which helped spark his career and really put him on the map.
A great big congratulations to this year’s People’s Choice winner: Lenny Abrahamson’s Room. You may have heard me whining and complaining about how I didn’t get to see this one, and it was the one I MOST WANTED TO SEE (#firstworldproblems) but then a TIFF miracle occurred and we ended up making a last-minute screening on Friday evening (it was supposed to have been Johnny Depp’s London Fields, but the director sued the producers and the movie got pulled, and Jay & Sean got to see an incredibly good movie that’s already humming with Oscar buzz).
Brie Larson plays a young woman abducted and kept captive by her abuser for many years. While living her miserable existence inside Room (a garden shed, as it turns out), she has a son, and their bond, as you can imagine, is uniquely strong and close and complicated. They eventually manage to escape, and it’s this reintroduction to the world (and in her son’s case, his first meeting of it) that is the biggest challenge of all, and the crux of the film. It’s nuanced, highly emotional, and superbly acted.
Congratulations also to:
Best Canadian Short Film goes to Patrice Laliberté for Overpass. Sol Friendman of Bacon & God’s Wrath got runner-up, and many of you noticed its appeal right here.
Best Canadian First Feature Film goes to for Andrew Cividino’s Sleeping Giant.
Best Canadian Feature Film goes to Stephen Dunn’s Closet Monster. The jury remarked, “For its confidence and invention in tackling the pain and yearning of the first love and coming of age of a young gay man in Newfoundland, the jury recognizes the remarkable artistry and vision of first-time feature director Stephen Dunn for Closet Monster.” This award carries a cash prize of $30,000 and a custom award, sponsored by Canada Goose. The Assholes were big supporters of this film and are so glad it got some well-earned attention.
The prize of the International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) for Special Presentations is awarded to Jonás Cuarón’s Desierto. The jury remarked, “For using pure cinema to create a strong physical sensation of being trapped in a vast space and hunted down by hatred in its most primal form, FIPRESCI presents the prize in the Special Presentations programme to Desierto by Jonás Cuarón.”
We had a super great time at TIFF this year and look forward to actually being in our home next weekend for the first time in 5 weeks. It’s the best kind of tiring to see all of these labours of love appear on the big screen for the first time. Thank you so much to everyone who has taken the time read along – you don’t realize how much that means to us, but it’s a real treasure to hear from you and we hope that to continue the conversation because movies are our passion and some of them really are worth all the words.
Feeling very fortunate we got to see three of these winners, and I think a lot of the ones we saw were also deserving of accolades.
I really like your site, the time and passion you put into reviews. I guessed you three were from Toronto…just outside?
We’re from Ottawa, actually – about 400km away. Sean and I used to live in Toronto and make frequent visits – for the past 3 weekends, for example!
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Cool, I’m from Ontario originally…you guys seem wonderfully Canadian…in a wildly unacceptable way. 🍁
Oh yeah, guilty as charged.
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5 weeks… omg.. that is a long time to be living out of a suitcase. i enjoyed following , since my Husband really isnt a movie goer this was an incredible help to me, as to narrow down what to see(if they come this way) .im glad monster got Best feature Film. i want to see this one!!!! and i realize ROOM probably was a great film.. but theres so much of this going on Nation wide it seems, i just dont know if id want to sit in a theater to watch , how some mental kept some one locked up that way, we’ve had a few in the NYS area in the past few years, and i watch Criminal minds.. thats more than enough for me:)
you all did an awesome job!!i turly enjoyed reading your blog Jay. Enjoy the comforts of your home:)!! and have an awesome week
OH don’t worry, we’ve been home in between.
Room is a terrific film but it IS hard to watch. It has some very dark moments. William H. Macy plays her dad in the film, and he doesn’t realy know how to act around her anymore, and especially around his grandson, who is obviously a product of rape. That’s what he sees every time he looks at them, and I imagine that’s what’ll turn off some viewers too.
I read the book a while ago and really enjoyed it. It was thought to be “unfilmable” so this is considered quite an achievement.
Thanks for following along, KMS!
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I read Room and it was very powerful because of the skillful and devastating use of the child’s naive perspective. I had no idea it had been made into a movie. I’m kind of wondering how that would work. I’d need to see it alone or with a friend, though. Pretty sure my wife would never see it with me. She can’t stand any depiction of children in peril.
That’s right – it’s both better and worse because it’s told through his young eyes. He doesn’t know exactly what’s going on, so it’s a little lighter that way, but because we understand, we can’t help but really worry about him. I’m not sure that Room the movie was going to be a huge release (it’s a Canadian – Irish hybrid) but now it’ll have some awards buzz , so that should help. The performances are very good, but it’s not a super actiony movie, as you know since you read the book. It’s a character study, and a good if quiet one.
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Just saw Room recently and I thought it was amazing.
I already have Room on my TBR list, and now that these movie’s here I really need to get going!
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