Although the pandemic problems were strictly in force, the Toronto International Film Festival 2021 had brought in an exceptional selection of films that excited audiences around the world in a hybrid format of in-person as well as digital screening. The line-up showcased, as usual, the beloved auteurs along with a good number of fresh filmmakers including a greater women representation. The different range in storytelling from around the world is a testament to the uniqueness of the films that are being made. ”We’re so grateful and proud of this year’s festival with its variety and worldwide representation”, said Joana Vicente and Cameron Bailey, the TIFF Co-Heads, in a closing function.

TIFF’s industry platform welcomed almost 4000 press and industry professionals from around the world through digital as well as in-person screenings. This was the only occasion for them to remain in a place wherever they were, to watch the movies and converse with their audiences if they had opted so. It facilitated the sales of a great number of movies like France, Silent Night, A Banquet, Huda’s Salon and The Pink Cloud. 37 digital interactive sessions had been conducted for Press and Industry delegates, besides their exclusive screenings.

Also, this year’s Festival raised funds for TIFF’s diversity and inclusion projects. Jessica Chastain, the renowned actor and two-time Academy Award nominee, is this year’s winner of the TIFF Tribute Actor Award. She had two films at this year’s Festival – The Eyes of Tammy Faye and The Forgiven. The same award has been shared by Benedict Cumberbatch who also had two films this year – The Electrical Life of Louis Wain and The Power of the Dog, all well received by the audience. The TIFF Ebert Director Award went to Denis Villeneuve, the French-Canadian filmmaker.

This year’s highly acclaimed names of the winners of the TIFF People’s Choice Award and Platform Jury Prizes had been announced by actor Riz Ahmed, head of the jury for 2021.

Here are the details of the winners:

Platform Prize – Named after the feature film, Platform by Jia Zhangke, this award in its sixth year for championing bold directorial visions went to Yuni, directed by Kamila Andini. The jury members for 2021 were Riz Ahmed (Chairman), Clio Barnard, Anthony Chen, Kazik Radwanski and Valeris Complex. An honourable mention went to Mlungu Wam (Good Madam) directed by Jenna Cato Bass.

Belfast
Scene from Belfast – Picture Courtesy : TIFF

People’s Choice Award went to Belfast, directed by Kenneth Branagh who is not an unfamiliar face to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and Royal Shakespeare Company, London. The film depicts the coming-of-age tale set amid the tumult of late 1960’s Northern Ireland. The first runner-up is Scarborough directed by Shasha Nakhai and Rich Williamson. It also bagged the Shawn Mendes Foundation’s Changemaker Award of $10000 cash prize. The second runner-up is The Power of the Dog, by Jane Campion where Benedict Cumberbatch plays the lead role. The 2021 People’s Choice Documentary Award went to The Rescue by E Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin. The first runner-up in this category is Dionne Warwick: Don’t Make Me Over, by Dave Wooley and David Heilbroner. The second runner-up is Flee by director Jonas Poher Rasmussen.

Power of the Dog
Benedict Cumberbatch in The Power of the Dog (Courtesy : TIFF)

The 2021 People’s Choice Midnight Madness Award went to Titane by Julia Ducournau and the next two in line were You Are Not My Mother by Kate Dolan and Dashcam by Rob Savage.

Another cash prize of $10,000 each has been given to the winners of Amplify Voices Award. They were (1) Rhayne Vermette for Ste. Anne, (2) Khadar Ayderus Ahmed for his The Gravedigger’s Wife, a deeply romantic and visually textured tale, and (3) Payal Kapadia for A Night of Knowing Nothing. Kapadia’s unique documentary balances the personal and political with a beautiful snapshot of her home country. It’s the first movie of the director that exhibits her strong voice as a filmmaker.

In short, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF 2021) has ended with a host of novel surprises for the old and new faces in the world film industry and the global audiences.

Suresh Nellikode is a film critic


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