The Toronto Film Festival wrapped up its 48th edition Sunday by announcing its People’s Choice Award, often characterized as TIFF’s version of the Palme d’Or. That comparison applies not just to its selection process (a democratic vote) but also its use as an indicator for Academy Awards inclusion, as for over a decade, every People’s Choice winner has also been a best picture nominee at the Oscars (which, strike resolution willing, will be held on March 10, 2024).
This year, TIFF’s People’s Choice winner was American Fiction, the debut feature from writer and journalist Cord Jefferson that stars Jeffrey Wright, Tracee Ellis Ross, Sterling K. Brown, and Leslie Uggams. The literary satire (an adaptation of Percival Everett’s 2001 novel Erasure) is about the oft-problematic expectations for Black writers in contemporary publishing.
At the awards presentation, TIFF CEO Cameron Bailey read Jefferson’s written acceptance speech, in which he noted how new he is to the film game. “This is my first ever feature film and my first ever Toronto debut,” Jefferson wrote.
“When I made the film, I wasn’t yet thinking about how it would feel when it went out into the world. My gratitude towards everyone who watched American Fiction, discussed it after amongst friends and colleagues, is endless. The film is now in your hands, and I’m so grateful that it was embraced in this way.” The film is expected in U.S. theaters on November 3.
People’s Choice first runner-up is The Holdovers, director Alexander Payne’s eighth film. The Paul Giamatti-starring period piece set at a 1970s-era boys’ school will be released in theaters on October 27. Second runner-up is 82-year-old anime legend Hayao Miyazaki’s final film, The Boy and the Heron, which made its international premiere at TIFF. The Japanese animated fantasy will make its way to U.S. theaters on December 8.
Other People’s Choice Award winners include Larry Charles’s queer comedy Dicks: The Musical, which scored its Midnight Madness Award (first runner-up is Nikhil Nagesh Bhat’s Kill, second runner-up is Finn Wolfhard and Billy Bryk’s Hell of a Summer.) Director Robert McCallum took home the doc award for Mr. Dressup: The Magic of Make Believe, a depiction of children’s entertainer Ernie Coombs, whose show, Mr. Dressup, aired in Canada from 1967 to 1996.