The Toronto International Film Festival, adapting to this year’s pandemic by becoming a combination virtual, limited indoor, and drive-in experience, has maintained its annual awards ceremonies. 2020 was also a year in which TIFF, in the words of festival director Cameron Bailey, “heeded the urgent call for representation of under-represented voices,” and that change is also apparent in the 2020 awards.
The annual People’s Choice Award, now in its 43rd year, is presented to films in several categories chosen by the actual audience, who voted online.
The People’s Choice winner in the general category of feature film was Nomadland, directed by Chloe Zhao and starring Frances McDormand. Based on the non-fiction book by Jessica Bruder, the film deals with 21st-Century American migrant workers, particularly those impacted by the recession of 2007-09.
The first runner-up in this category is Regina King’s directorial debut, One Night in Miami; the second runner-up is Beans, directed by Tracey Deer.
In the documentary category, the People’s Choice winner is Inconvenient Indian director Michelle Latimer. It is a clever reworking of Thomas King’s fascinating book of the same name, examining the colonisation of Indigenous North Americans, and how their public image conflicts with reality.
The third People’s Choice category, Midnight Madness, goes to the favourite horror or thriller film. This year’s winner was WWII-era fantasy/horror tale Shadow In The Cloud, a first feature by director Roseanne Liang.
The newly initiated Shawn Mendes Foundation Changemaker Award is intended for a film which deals with significant social issues and comes with a $10,000 (Can) cash prize. The 2020 winner, chosen by a jury representing the foundation, was Black Bodies, a short film by director/screenwriter Kelly Fyffe-Marshall. The committee spoke highly of the director’s work, calling Fyffe-Marshall “a talented and important emerging filmmaker,” and her short film “activism against police brutality in moving colour.”
An additional category known as the Amplify Voices Award, which also included a cash prize of $10,000, goes to three feature films by under-represented filmmakers.
This year’s jury selections were The Disciple, director Chaitanya Tamhane, which follows the career of a devotee of Indian classical music; Inconvenient Indian, director Michelle Latimer; and Night of the Kings, a fantasy/drama set in an imaginary Ivory Coast prison, written and directed by Philippe Lacote.