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‘American Fiction’ wins People’s Choice award at Toronto Film Festival

by Ryan Lee
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Film Festival Winner

‘American Fiction’ Secures People’s Choice Award at Toronto Film Festival

Cord Jefferson’s “American Fiction,” a satirical masterpiece featuring Jeffrey Wright as a disenchanted academic, has clinched the prestigious People’s Choice Award at the renowned Toronto International Film Festival, a highly-regarded barometer for success in the upcoming Oscars.

This marks Cord Jefferson’s directorial debut, a celebrated television writer recognized for his work on “Watchmen” and “Succession.” “American Fiction” serves as an adaptation of Percival Everett’s 2001 novel “Erasure.” The film delves into the narrative of an author who harbors resentment towards the literary industry’s inclination to spotlight “Black books” conforming to white audience stereotypes. At TIFF, it emerged as a breakout sensation.

Historically, Toronto’s audience award winner, determined by festival attendees, has consistently signaled a strong contender for the Best Picture category at the Academy Awards. Since 2012, every recipient of the People’s Choice accolade at TIFF has proceeded to secure a nomination for Best Picture. Notably, in 2018, when “Green Book” claimed this honor, it unexpectedly thrust itself into the awards season spotlight, ultimately winning the coveted Best Picture Oscar. Last year, Steven Spielberg’s “The Fabelmans” clinched Toronto’s top prize.

The first runner-up title was awarded to Alexander Payne’s “The Holdovers,” starring Paul Giamatti as a cantankerous boarding school instructor entrusted with the care of a group of students during the 1970s Christmas break. The second runner-up spot was bestowed upon Hayao Miyazaki’s “The Boy and the Heron,” a highly anticipated addition to the Studio Ghibli collection, crafted by the revered Japanese anime maestro.

Scheduled for theatrical release by MGM on November 3, “American Fiction” boasts a stellar ensemble cast featuring Sterling K. Brown, Issa Rae, and Tracee Ellis Ross. In a recent interview, Cord Jefferson expressed his immediate connection to Everett’s literary work.

“I found myself in the midst of identical conversations with Black colleagues in both fields: Why are our narratives consistently centered around misery, trauma, violence, and pain inflicted upon Black individuals?” Jefferson remarked. “Why is this the prevailing expectation from us? Is this the sole contribution we can offer to our cultural tapestry?”

This year’s Toronto International Film Festival, concluding on Sunday, experienced a subdued atmosphere due to ongoing strikes within the acting and writing industries. Red-carpet premieres often lacked the presence of prominent movie stars, diminishing some of the usual buzz generated by North America’s largest film festival. This followed a similar trend seen at the Venice Film Festival, also affected by strikes, where Yorgos Lanthimos’ “Poor Things” secured the prestigious Golden Lion award but was notably absent from TIFF.

Additionally, the People’s Choice award for documentary went to Robert McCallum’s “Mr. Dressup: The Magic of Make-Believe,” while the midnight madness accolade was bestowed upon Larry Charles’ “Dicks: The Musical.” The festival’s juried competition recognized Tarsem Singh Dhandwar’s “Dear Jassi” as the winner in the Platform section, and Meredith Hama-Brown’s “Seagrass,” which earned the FIPRESCI award from international critics.


Correction: This story corrects the spelling of Jeffrey Wright’s first name.

Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Film Festival Winner

What is “American Fiction,” and why is it receiving attention at the Toronto Film Festival?

“Cord Jefferson’s ‘American Fiction’ is a satirical film starring Jeffrey Wright as a disillusioned academic. It’s gaining attention at the Toronto Film Festival for its biting commentary on the literary industry’s preference for ‘Black books’ catering to white audience stereotypes.”

Who is Cord Jefferson, and what is his background in filmmaking?

“Cord Jefferson is a veteran TV writer known for his work on ‘Watchmen’ and ‘Succession.’ ‘American Fiction’ marks his directorial debut, showcasing his talents in both writing and directing.”

Is “American Fiction” based on a book, and if so, which one?

“Yes, the film is an adaptation of Percival Everett’s 2001 novel, ‘Erasure.’ It explores themes of race, identity, and the literary world’s expectations of Black authors.”

What is the significance of winning the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival?

“Winning the People’s Choice Award at TIFF is historically significant as it often predicts success at the Oscars. Since 2012, every film receiving this honor at TIFF has gone on to secure a Best Picture nomination at the Academy Awards.”

Can you tell more about the cast of “American Fiction”?

“The film features a star-studded ensemble cast, including Jeffrey Wright, Sterling K. Brown, Issa Rae, and Tracee Ellis Ross. This lineup adds to the film’s appeal and showcases the talents of these renowned actors.”

How has the ongoing actors and writers strike affected the Toronto International Film Festival?

“This year’s Toronto International Film Festival experienced a subdued atmosphere due to ongoing strikes in the acting and writing industries. Red-carpet premieres lacked the presence of prominent movie stars, impacting the festival’s usual buzz.”

What other notable films received recognition at the festival?

“Notable films at the festival included Alexander Payne’s ‘The Holdovers’ and Hayao Miyazaki’s ‘The Boy and the Heron,’ both recognized as first and second runners-up, respectively, in the People’s Choice Award category.”

Are there any awards for documentaries and other categories at the Toronto Film Festival?

“Yes, the festival also honored documentaries with the People’s Choice award going to Robert McCallum’s ‘Mr. Dressup: The Magic of Make-Believe,’ and the midnight madness award being presented to Larry Charles’ ‘Dicks: The Musical.’ Juried competition awards were given to films such as Tarsem Singh Dhandwar’s ‘Dear Jassi’ and Meredith Hama-Brown’s ‘Seagrass.'”

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