Every year in September, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) returns, hoping to present the best Canadian and International cinema. This year it ran from September 8 to 18 and offered film screenings, workshops, and discussions, among other activities for attendees. Unlike other global film festivals, TIFF allows the festival’s attendees to give out the awards and prizes. Though there are several awards, each year the feature films have their eyes on the People’s Choice Award, voted online by TIFF audience members. As an indicator of future award success, People’s Choice winners often go on to lead the Oscar race, with many being nominated for Best Picture. Recent award winners, such as La La Land, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Jojo Rabbit, and Belfast, have been Best Picture nominees and have had major successes during their award seasons. In fact, every winner of the award in the last ten years has been nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, with some films going on to win the category including 12 Years a Slave, Nomadland, and most recently, Green Book in 2019.
Competition for the 2022 People’s Choice Award was tough, but it was Steven Spielberg’s autobiographical film The Fabelmans which championed the category. This memoir was the first of Spielberg’s films to be brought to TIFF. The Fabelmans, co-written with playwright Tony Kushner, stars Michelle Williams, Paul Dano, Judd Hirsch, Seth Rogen, and newcomer Gabriel LaBelle. The film reflects on Spielberg’s childhood in Arizona, and his early filmmaking efforts as a young man. The main character, Sammy Fabelman, played by LaBelle, is Spielberg’s younger self. The film explores the breakdown of familial relationships and the effect this has on the creativity of a young person. Through Sammy’s eyes, we can see how Spielberg became enamoured with film and how the emotional aspects of his younger life influenced his exemplary career.
Spielberg told the audience at TIFF, “seventy-five years of life experience went into this”. Inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic, he recalled thinking “this is something I gotta get out of me now”, noting the film was a way of “bringing [his] mom and dad back”. Spielberg, however, made it clear to the TIFF audience that it was not his farewell movie and provided reassurance that he was not retiring.
At the premiere, the film was met with a roaring standing ovation. “Above all, I am glad I brought this film to Toronto!” Spielberg said in a statement, “this is the most personal film I’ve ever made, and the warm reception from everyone in Toronto made my first visit to TIFF so intimate and personal for me and my entire Fabelman family.”
Sarah Polley’s drama Women Talking, was the first runner-up for the People’s Choice Award. Based on the novel by Miriam Toews, the film looks at women coming to terms with their religion and life while living in an isolated religious community. Other noteworthy films that premiered included The Woman King starring Viola Davis, and My Policeman with Harry Styles as the lead.
The 2022 People’s Choice Documentary Award winner was Black Ice, a crowd favourite, looking at the history of racism within Canadian ice hockey. Weird: The Al Yankovic Story, a mock biopic with Daniel Radcliffe won the People’s Choice Midnight Madness Award. The Amplify Voices Awards recognize under-represented filmmakers. To Kill A Tiger directed by Nisha Pahuja was the award recipient, both Leonor Will Never Die and While We Watched were also honoured in this category.
As TIFF’s CEO, Cameron Bailey, recapped, “our lineup showcased beloved auteurs alongside fresh voices in filmmaking, including numerous women powerhouses. […] The comprehensive range in cinematic storytelling from around the world is a testament to the uniqueness of the films being made. We’re so grateful and proud of this year’s Festival.” After two weeks of cinema, press conferences, red carpets, and “In Conversation With” events, TIFF came to a close with an annual breakfast and award ceremony marking the end of another great year of tremendous filmmaking and cinematic achievement.