TIFF 2017: And The Winners Are …

The Toronto International Film Festival wraps up with a surprising slate of awards, including a dark-horse People's Choice winner


The 42nd edition of the Toronto International Film Festival wrapped up today with an awards ceremony filled with genuine surprises, up to and including the winner of the Grolsch People’s Choice Award: Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

To the shock of the few dozen press assembled at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, neither Greta Gerwig’s coming-of-age charmer Lady Bird nor Guillermo Del Toro swooning Toronto-shot monster romance The Shape Of Water – the two films discussed throughout the festival as sure contenders – even placed in the top three.

Luca Guadagnino’s delicate love story Call Me By Your Name placed third, with Craig Gillespie’s dark-horse I, Tonya coming in second, but festival audiences went with McDonagh’s all-star drama about a mother (Frances McDormand) who takes extreme measures to shame the local police (Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell) who’ve failed to find her daughters murderer.

Three Billboards will be in theatres later this fall but TIFF is holding a free screening today at 6 pm at Roy Thomson Hall.

The People’s Choice Award for best documentary went to Agnès Varda and JR’s Faces Places, with Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier’s Tragically Hip tour film Long Time Running placing second and Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken! coming in third.

And the People’s Choice winner in the Midnight Madness program was Joseph Kahn’s Bodied (written by Toronto’s Alex Larsen, who accepted the award by reading a cheerfully profane statement from Kahn), with James Franco’s The Disaster Artist named first runner-up and Craig Zahler’s Brawl In Cell Block 99 the second runner-up.

Warwick Thornton’s Australian Western Sweet Country took this year’s $25,000 Platform prize it’s also screening for free tonight at 8:30 pm at the TIFF Bell Lightbox 3. (Seats are available on a first-come first-served basis.)

Jurors Chen Kaige, Malgorzata Szumowska and Wim Wenders also awarded an honourable mention to Clio Barnard’s Yorkshire drama Dark River, but there was no mention of Armando Iannucci’s The Death Of Stalin or Xavier Legrand’s Custody, which had generated considerable awards buzz at press and industry screenings.

TIFF-watchers were similarly blindsided by this year’s Canadian prizes. The Canada Goose award for best Canadian feature film went to Robin Aubert’s zombie thriller Les Affamés, with an honourable mention to Simon Lavoie’s The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond Of Matches) while the City of Toronto award for best Canadian first feature went to Wayne Wapeemukwa’s Luk’Luk’I, with an honourable mention to Sadaf Foroughi’s Ava.

In a surprisingly strong and contentious year for Canadian cinema – with films as challenging as All You Can Eat Buddha and Black Cop banging up against strong character pieces like Mary Goes Round, Meditation Park, Porcupine Lake and Public Schooled, and Long Time Running turning the tour documentary into something moving and powerful – this was a surprising slate of winners.

(In his acceptance speech, Luk’Luk’I writer/director Wapeemukwa even acknowledged how divisive his film was, promising to continue making divisive films going forward – and to divide the $15,000 cash prize between development for his next project, and his lead actors.)

Foroughi’s Ava may not have won a Canadian award, but it did take the FIPRESCI prize for the Discovery program the international critics’ jury gave its other prize, for a film in the Special Presentations category, to Manuel Martin Cuenca’s The Motive.

The NETPAC award for world or international Asian film premiere went to Taiwanese filmmaker Huang Hsin-yao’s The Great Buddha+, and the IWC Short Cuts prizes were awarded to Marc-Antoine Lemire’s intimate two-hander Pre-Drink for best Canadian short film – with an honourable mention to Matthew Rankin’s The Tesla World Light – and to Niki Lindroth von Bahr’s stop-motion musical The Burden for best international short, with an honourable mention to Qiu Yang’s A Gentle Night.

And that’s a wrap on this year’s festival. If you’re reading this on Sunday afternoon, you might still have a chance to get into the free People’s Choice screening of Three Billboards … at 6 pm at Roy Thomson Hall it’s a pretty big room. Or get in line now at the Lightbox 3 for the free Platform screening of Sweet Country at 8:30 pm. Director Warwick Thornton’s still in town, so he’ll probably drop by.

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