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TIFF Launches Awards Season with Denis Villeneuve Tribute

Toronto has always helped to launch Oscar contenders — 2021 is no exception.

Denis Villeneuve

Daniel Bergeron

The fall award season is starting up. Last year, eventual Oscar winners Sir Anthony Hopkins (Sony Pictures Classics’ “The Father”) and Chloé Zhao (Searchlight’s “Nomadland”), as well as nominated composer Terence Blanchard (“Da 5 Bloods”) started their Oscar campaigns at the (hybrid) Toronto International Film Festival’s second annual Tribute Awards fundraiser. The year before, TIFF’s first Awards Gala honored such eventual Oscar winners as Taika Waititi (“Jojo Rabbit”) and Joaquin Phoenix (“The Joker”).

So with the final format of the 46th edition of the Toronto festival still up in the air, Joana Vicente and Cameron Bailey, Co-Heads of TIFF, announced that they will present the TIFF Ebert Director Award to French-Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve, whose long-delayed space epic “Dune” will debut at Venice before screening at TIFF.

“The TIFF Ebert Director Award recognizes filmmakers who have exemplified greatness in their career,” said Bailey, Artistic Director and Co-Head, TIFF in an official statement. “Denis Villeneuve’s many films, including ‘Blade Runner 2049,’ ‘Arrival,’ ‘Sicario,’ ‘Enemy,’ ‘Prisoners,’ and ‘Incendies,’ to name a few, and his upcoming epic adaptation of the seminal novel ‘Dune,’ which he directed, co-wrote, and produced, are a testament to Denis’ boundless ability for authentic, passionate storytelling. There is no question Denis is an accomplished and outstanding filmmaker.”

The festival is also honoring indigenous documentary filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin with The Jeff Skoll Award in Impact Media, which recognizes leadership in creating a union between social impact and cinema, as well as a career retrospective, Celebrating Alanis. “As a gifted documentary filmmaker and impassioned storyteller,” added Vicente, Executive Director and Co-Head, TIFF, “Alanis brings awareness to vital Indigenous issues and is widely recognized as a national treasure because of her extraordinary body of work. What is truly beautiful is that this year, we are celebrating two incredible filmmakers, both of whom have deep personal ties to this country and have contributed to our cinematic landscape in very unique ways.”



Warner Bros.

The 2021 TIFF Tribute Awards will be co-produced by Bell Media Studios and, for the second straight year, will be broadcast nationally by CTV and streamed internationally by Variety.

Villeneuve is an Oscar–nominated French Canadian filmmaker whose attention to detail and striking visuals have established him as one of today’s premier filmmakers. Villeneuve is gearing up for the release of Frank Herbert’s science fiction novel, “Dune,” which he directed, produced, and co-wrote (with Jon Spaihts and Eric Roth). The film stars Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Zendaya, Chang Chen, Charlotte Rampling, Jason Momoa, and Javier Bardem.

Alanis Obomsawin

Scott Stevens

A member of Canada’s Abenaki Nation, Obomsawin has worked as a filmmaker and producer at the National Film Board of Canada since 1967. On December 10, 2020, Obomsawin accepted the Rogers-DOC Luminary Award at the DOC Institute Honours, which is given to an individual who embodies the creative spirit of the Canadian documentary tradition and mentors the next generation of non-fiction makers. In October, she received an international jury’s Glenn Gould Prize. Obomsawin’s 2019 production “Jordan River Anderson, The Messenger” was her 52nd film, completed in the 52nd year of a career chronicling the lives and concerns of First Nations people. On June 27, 2019, Obomsawin was named a Companion of the Order of Canada — its highest honour. In Fall 2021, the retrospective Alanis Obomsawin: Lifework will be presented at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin.

The Federal government announced Monday that the Canadian border will open to fully-vaccinated US citizens and permanent residents on August 9, 2021, and to the rest of the world on September 7, 2021, allowing TIFF to welcome a portion of its usual volume of international press, industry, and talent back to the festival as permitted by the Canadian government. As a result of the opening of the border and cinemas in Ontario, TIFF has added the Scotiabank Theatre Toronto for the first five days of the festival to its list of in-person venues to accommodate a select number of additional public and Press & Industry screenings, which will also remain available online on TIFF Digital Cinema Pro for press and industry. The Industry conference will continue to be a digital event only.

More information on in-person screening capacities for Press & Industry, and how access will operate, will follow in the coming two weeks.

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