Fabelmans, The: Spielberg’s Memoir Film Wins People Choice Award, en Route to Oscar Glory

Spielberg ‘The Fabelmans’ Wins Audience Award at Toronto

The top People’s Choice honor was Spielberg’s childhood memoir, now a sure contender for the Oscars.

Spielberg’s The Fabelmans picked up the top People’s Choice honor Sunday at the Toronto Film Festival, which wrapped up its 47th edition.

Spielberg’s latest film grabbed TIFF’s top audience award, which is often a barometer of future Academy Award nominations.

“This is my most personal film I’ve made and the reception from everyone in Toronto made my first visit to TIFF so intimate and personal for me and my entire Fabelman family,” the director said after learning of his win.

The Fabelmans marks the first time the Oscar winner debuted a movie at the Toronto Film Festival.

The childhood memoir will be released Nov. 11 via Universal. Another autobiographical family film about a director’s childhood, Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast, was named the top audience prize winner in Toronto in 2021.

The People’s Choice award for best documentary went to Hubert Davis’ Black Ice, a film about systemic racism in Canadian ice hockey, while the top audience prize for best Midnight Madness sidebar title went to Eric Appel’s Weird: The Al Yankovic Story.  

Previous TIFF audience award winners–including Room, La La Land, 12 Years a Slave, Nomadland–received major boost from the Canadian festival on their way to Oscar Award wins.

The People’s Choice Awards are voted on by TIFF attendees. Participants could not vote more than once online using their email address, as TIFF measured the origin of each vote and matched them to the festival’s ticket buyer information and database.

In juried prize-giving, Vancouver-based director Anthony Shim won the Platform prize for Riceboy Sleeps, a family drama about reconciliation and love. “I am thrilled to have Riceboy Sleeps recognized by the programmers, the Platform jury and by audiences at this year’s TIFF. It was amazing to see the reaction to the film our team worked so hard on and that is such a deeply personal project,” Shim, who directed, wrote, edited, produced and starred in the film, said in a statement.

The NETPAC award was picked up by Jub Clerc for her own debut feature, Sweet As, a coming-of-age story about a 15-year-old Indigenous girl.

The Short Cuts prize went to Snow in September, by director Purev-Ochir, and the best Canadian short prize went to Simo, by Aziz Zoromba. The Share Her Journey prize went to director Carol Nguyen for Nanitic, a short film made during the pandemic; the director was diagnosed with COVID-19 while participating in Toronto’s 47th edition.

In other prize-giving, the Amplify Voice Award went to Martika Ramirez Escobar’s Leonore Will Never Die after the film also earned a Sundance Special Jury Prize. Nisha Pahuja’s To Kill a Tiger, about an Indian family’s quest for justice after a teenage girl is brutally assaulted, earned the Amplify Voices Award for best Canadian feature, while the best feature by a BIPOC filmmaker went to While We Watched by Vinay Shukla.

TIFF juries also gave the Changemaker Award to Luis De Filippis for her latest film, Something You Said Last Night.

On the film sales front, dealmaking took a back seat to major buyers truffling through the festival’s lineup for a hidden gem over the past 10 days. Industry attendees report a dearth of acquisition titles and a host of fest titles with U.S. distribution already in place. The festival had the Hollywood studios and streamers and other film buyers on the ground in Toronto, but hardly bringing out their wallet as part of TIFF’s informal film market.

Toronto market: The biggest deal — Alexander Payne’s The Holdovers landing at Focus Features for around $30 million — was no splashy premiere and was shopped instead at TIFF as part of an informal market and outside the main festival lineup.

Delphine Perrier, COO of Highland Film Group, said her indie banner nabbed territorial sales for films going into production like Land of Bad, starring Russell Crowe and Liam Hemsworth that starts shooting in Australia next week, and Blood For Dust, starring Kit Harington, Josh Lucas and Scoot McNairy, set to shoot this fall.

“Toronto worked well and it was a strong market for us. We had a great response from buyers to Sleeping Dogs and Blood For Dust — there was a lot of competition in the key territories which is surprising, given that Toronto is a film festival and doesn’t have an official market component,” Perrier said.

“We present the list of projects to their development executives and if they’re interested in talking to producers, they show up for the event,” Creasey said of IFF, with earlier editions at TIFF spawning titles like the Anna Kendrick-starrer Alice, Darling and Lindsay MacKay’s The Swearing Jar, both of which screened in Toronto this year