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TIFF 2020 Report Card: Critics Rank the Best Films and Performances

137 critics and journalists voted in the survey, with results that single out buzzy festival hits and discoveries alike.

“Nomadland”

Every year, the Toronto International Film Festival puts critics to work. While the 45th edition of TIFF had fewer films than usual — 50 instead of 300-plus — the 2020 program still had the usual mix of buzzy titles and hidden gems, giving critics plenty of material to dig through. Most accredited press experienced this year’s lineup at home, through the robust press and industry portal in which most titles were available to stream for limited windows. With hundreds of critics watching and reviewing films in recent weeks, IndieWire was able to maintain its annual critics survey of the best films and performances out of this year’s festival.

With 137 accredited critics and journalists voting, Chloé Zhao’s “Nomadland” topped the categories of Best Movie and Best Director. Kemp Powers’ adaptation of his own play, “One Night in Miami,” scored the most votes for Best Screenplay, while Vanessa Kirby dominated the Best Performance category for her performance as a young mother struggling with the traumatic outcome of her pregnancy in “Pieces of a Woman.” The Wuhan coronavirus portrait “76 Days” won Best Documentary.

Much of the survey results reflect the hype that has come out of the festival circuit in recent weeks. The Searchlight-produced “Nomadland,” which stars Frances McDormand as a woman roaming the midwest in an RV, won both the Golden Lion at Venice and the TIFF audience award in the past two weeks. Those prizes tend to indicate awards season momentum — in 2019, they went to “Joker” and “Jojo Rabbit,” respectively — as does our critics survey, which awarded future Academy Award winner for Best Picture “Parasite” in 2019, and future Best Picture nominee “Roma” the year before that. Searchlight has slated “Nomadland,” which next plays as the centerpiece of NYFF, to open in early December.

“One Night in Miami,” which premiered out of competition in Venice followed by a North American premiere at TIFF, marks the directorial debut of Regina King. Like Kemp’s 2013 play, the movie imagines a fictional hangout session between Cassius Clay — later known as Muhammad Ali — along with Sam Cooke, Malcolm X, and Jim Brown in a Florida hotel room in 1964. Amazon plans to release the film this fall.

Kirby’s win for “Pieces of a Woman” also reflects recent festival buzz, as she won Best Actress at Venice for her dramatic turn in the movie, the first English-language effort from Hungary’s Kornel Mundruczó. Netflix acquired the film ahead of its TIFF premiere and is expected to plan an awards push for Kirby as Best Actress.

Meanwhile, although this year’s TIFF opened with a documentary — Spike Lee’s filmed version of David Byrne’s Broadway hit “American Utopia” — the Best Documentary winner of this year’s survey was something of a surprise. One of the first feature-length projects completed during the coronavirus pandemic, “76 Days” reveals the daily struggles inside four Wuhan hospitals. The documentary, credited to directors Hao Wu and Weixi Chen as well as a third anonymous director, is currently seeking U.S. distribution.

As usual, the winners in each category only provide a starting point for exploring the highlights of this year’s TIFF lineup. Read on for the finalists in each category, with links to more coverage.

BEST MOVIE 
Based on a ranked top three list.

1. “Nomadland” — (15% of overall vote and 31% of first-place votes)
2. “One Night in Miami” — (8% of overall vote and 11% of first-place votes)
3. “Pieces of a Woman” — (7% of overall vote and 7% of first-place votes)
4. “New Order (Nuevo Orden)” — (6% of overall vote and 7% of first-place votes)
5. “Another Round (Druk)” — (5% of overall vote and 5% of first-place votes)

These Top 5 alone account for 41% of all overall votes and 61% of first-place votes with all other narrative films in the lineup accounting for the remainder.

BEST DOCUMENTARY 
A single vote was cast for this section – percentages indicate the amount of the overall total vote each film received.

1. “76 Days” (16%)
2. “The Truffle Hunters” (13%)
3. “MLK/FBI” (13%)
4. “Inconvenient Indian” (9%)
5. “City Hall” (9%)

BEST DIRECTED FILM 
A single vote was cast for this section – percentages indicate the amount of the overall total vote each film received.

1. “Nomadland,” Chloe Zhao (40%)
2. “One Night in Miami,” Regina King (11%)
3. “Pieces of a Woman,” Kornél Mundruczó (8%)
4. “New Order (Nuevo Orden,)” Michel Franco (7%)
5. “Another Round (Druk),” Thomas Vinterberg (6%)

BEST SCREENPLAY

A single vote was cast for this section – percentages indicate the amount of the overall total vote each film received.

1. “One Night in Miami” (22%)
2. “Shiva Baby” (11%)
3. “Nomadland” (9%)
4. TIE: “Pieces of a Woman” (6%)/ “Wolfwalkers” (6%)

BEST PERFORMANCE 
Based on write-in votes.
1. Vanessa Kirby, “Pieces of a Woman”
2. Frances McDormand, “Nomadland”
3. Mads Mikkelsen, “Another Round (Druk)”
4. Kingsley Ben-Adir, “One Night in Miami”

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