The Toronto International Film Festival, although reduced by quarantine protocols from its former glory as a live event, has not cancelled its annual Tribute Awards ceremony, only made it virtual. Award presenters included Olivia Colman, Regina King, director Ava DuVernay, Colin Farrell, and Jodie Foster.
The Tribute Awards honour the achievements of the film industry’s outstanding contributors in several categories. The Tribute Acting Awards for this year went to Kate Winslet and Sir Anthony Hopkins.
Sir Anthony Hopkins was presented with his acting award by Olivia Colman, who played his daughter in the TIFF premiere drama, The Father. In Sir Anthony’s brief acceptance speech, along with thanking his wife and professional associates, he dedicated his award to front line health workers and first responders.
The second acting award went to Kate Winslett, whose latest film, Ammonite, is being premiered at TIFF. Jodie Foster presented the award, conveying great enthusiasm for Winslett’s talent and her lifetime output, describing her as “the actor’s actor” and “my hero”. Winslett expressed gratitude for the award, but gave much of her speech over to acknowledging the difficult times so many are experiencing, and offering eloquent and heartfelt hopes for a return to “a healthier reality” in terms of tolerance and compassion.
Chloe Zhao received the TIFF Ebert Director Award, named in honour of film writer Roger Ebert. Zhao is a relatively new director whose productions include The Rider, the upcoming Marvel film The Eternals, and Nomadland, which is premiering at TIFF. Colin Farrell presented the award, praising Zhao’s ability to focus on “the lives of men and women struggling with universal themes such as loss, suffering, poverty, the deep need we all share for community. ”We recognise ourselves, our own humanity” in Zhao’s films, Farrell said, describing her work as “searingly honest” and “imbued with hope.” In her acceptance speech, Zhao spoke about the difficulty and isolation of setting out in filmmaking without contacts in the industry and dedicated the award to those who supported her in the early years of her profession.
The TIFF Emerging Talent Award is presented to groundbreaking filmmakers still on the rise. This year’s award went to the writer, director, and producer Tracey Deer. A documentarian exclusively for years, Deer has focused on stories relating to the experience of her fellow Aboriginal North Americans, more recently with feature films such as TIFF premiere Beans and the popular television series Mohawk Girls. The presentation praised her demonstration of the adage that ‘art is activism.’ The recipient credited her success to her mother and dedicated the award to the future of Indigenous children.
TIFF’s Variety Artisan Award for this year went to composer and jazz trumpeter Terence Blanchard. In addition to a long and varied career in music, Blanchard has a longstanding connection with film having composed over forty film scores, including the score for Malcolm X, Chi-Raq, Harriet, and recent series Perry Mason, and performed on still more. Blanchard expressed appreciation for the way moving outside his original career as a musician, and working in film, has “opened my eyes and expanded my creative abilities beyond belief”.
The Jeff Skoll Award in Impact Media is intended to honour those who recognise and use the transformative power of film in creative ways. This year’s award was presented to Mira Nair, director of Monsoon Wedding, Salaam Bombay, The Namesake, Queen of Katwe, and others. Nair not only created brilliant, award-winning films, telling stories of people seldom represented onscreen, but also used the proceeds to set up an annual filmmakers’ laboratory in Kampala, Uganda, providing training for new and prospective directors; and the Salaam Baalak Trust, which works with street children in India. Nair expressed her appreciation to TIFF for granting her an award for doing what she considers fun and mentioned the importance of listening to and valuing largely unheard stories everywhere in the world.
The televised event featured a musical performance by Shawn Mendes, who was also present to announce his partnership with TIFF in the creation of the annual Shawn Mendes Changemaker Award, meant to support filmmakers that produce films with a social message.