Steve McQueen’s acclaimed drama joins films by Alan Zweig, Sion Sono, and Jehane Noujaim as this year’s award winners.
British filmmaker and visual artist Steve McQueen joined the ranks of Danny Boyle and Tom Hooper early this afternoon, as 12 Years a Slave picked up the coveted BlackBerry People’s Choice Award at the TIFF awards reception held at the Intercontinental Hotel. The award, voted on by audience members throughout the festival, is considered one of the major barometers for the upcoming award season, with recent winners like Slumdog Millionaire and The King’s Speech having gone on to Oscar glory after their TIFF bows.
Festival director and CEO Piers Handling and artistic director Cameron Bailey were on hand to announce the winners, which went beyond the top prize to lauds for specific categories. The other winners voted on by audience members rather than juries included the loopy, tremendously fun Midnight Madness champion Why Don’t You Play in Hell? Director Sion Sono graciously accepted via a charming written statement about how his film was surely jumping around and expressing its happiness. In the Documentary category, audiences selected The Square. Director Jehane Noujaim accepted the award in tribute to those “still in the streets fighting for freedom” in Egypt, making special mention of imprisoned Canadian filmmaker John Greyson and his colleague Tarek Loubani.
The top juried prize, the City of Toronto and Canada Goose award for Best Canadian Feature Film, went to Toronto documentarian Alan Zweig for When Jews Were Funny. Referencing Bruce McDonald’s infamous declaration when he won for 1989′s Roadkill that he’d invest his winnings in “a big chunk of hash,” Zweig promised his wife he’d spend his own prize money, valued at a nifty $30,000, more modestly—on a new kitchen.
Best Canadian First Feature Film went to Shayne Ehman and Seth Scriver’s Asphalt Watches, which jury member Jacob Tierney described as a “ferociously audacious and excitingly original animated road trip across Western Canada.” Ehman and Scriver’s award carries a value of $15,000.
Representing the international film critics at the festival, the FIPRESCI jury awarded prizes to the top titles in the Special Presentations and Discovery programmes. The former went to Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida for its exploration of religious and personal identity, while the latter was awarded to Claudia Sainte-Luce for The Amazing Catfish, which the jury called a poignant and vibrant debut.
Finally, a jury representing the Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema selected Anup Singh’s Qissa as the recipient of the NETPAC Award for World or International Asian Film Premiere. The film stars global superstar Irrfan Khan, who was also at the festival with crowd-pleaser The Lunchbox.