Peter Farrelly’s Green Book pulled off a major win on the final day of the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival, in a year TIFF took up the theme of championing underrepresented voices.
The road-trip comedy-drama starring Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen snapped up TIFF’s top audience-selected People’s Choice Award on Sunday.
The movie is based on a true story of musician Don Shirley’s 1962 tour of the American South, for which the celebrated black pianist hired a white driver, Tony (Lip) Vallelonga, because he was unable to travel safely alone. Director Farrelly co-wrote the script with Brian Hayes Currie and Nick Vallelonga, Tony’s son.
Now I see why everyone says the audiences in Toronto are the best in the world.
– Green Book director Peter Farrelly
Green Book earned kudos from critics at TIFF for the crowd-pleasing, odd-couple interplay between Ali and Mortensen, beating out two of the most buzzworthy titles of the festival: Barry Jenkins’s If Beale Street Could Talk and Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma.
“I’m still reeling over the response to the film, so this is just incredible. Thanks so much to the festival: I was truly honoured just to be accepted into it, but to actually win is beyond my wildest dreams,” writer-director Farrelly said in a statement read by TIFF artistic director Cameron Bailey.
“Now I see why everyone says the audiences in Toronto are the best in the world.”
Bailey co-hosted the ceremony with outgoing director and CEO Piers Handling.
Green Book, which references the real-life guide that identified safe spaces for African-Americans travelling during the Jim Crow-era, marks Farrelly’s first solo feature film effort. He’s better known for co-directing outrageous comedies like Shallow Hal, There’s Something About Mary and Dumb and Dumber with his brother, Bobby.
TIFF’s People’s Choice Award is considered an early barometer for further kudos and consideration during the upcoming film awards season this winter. Past winners in recent years have included Room, 12 Years a Slave, La La Land and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, which subsequently went on to earn recognition at the Oscars.
Focus on empowering women
An undercurrent running through TIFF this year was the festival’s focus on boosting the number of underrepresented voices, from diversifying its press pool to the organization’s ongoing Share Her Journey campaign to empower women in front and behind the camera.
This year, about 35 per cent of the 342 films screened at TIFF were directed or co-directed by women, organizers said.
At Sunday’s awards ceremony, the trophies were nearly evenly split between male and female filmmakers, with the latter slighting edging out the former. In their acceptance speeches, several female filmmakers spoke of the importance of exploring stories by and about women, and thanked the festival for programming cinema with a variety of voices.
“At the festival, I was at the Share Her Journey rally and I couldn’t have felt more proud to be in the company of these brave visionary women,” said Irish playwright and filmmaker Carmel Winters. She won the FIPRESCI discovery prize for Float Like a Butterfly, which follows an Irish Traveller teen pushing against expectations as she pursues boxing.
“I think our time has come. More than anything our time has come.”
Handling noted that TIFF’s global reputation puts the festival in the perfect position to send a message to the film industry about championing women.
“We can show the industry that women’s films are really well made. Women’s films are popular. Women’s films win awards,” Handling said after the ceremony.
Full list of TIFF 2018 winners:
People’s Choice Award: Green Book, directed by Peter Farrelly.
People’s Choice Midnight Madness Award: The Man Who Feels No Pain, directed by Vasan Bala.
People’s Choice Documentary Award: Free Solo, directed by E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin.
Toronto Platform Prize ($25,000): Cities of Last Things, directed by Wi Ding Ho.
Best Canadian First Feature Film ($15,000): Roads in February, directed by Katherine Jerkovic.
Best Canadian Feature Film ($30,000): The Fireflies are Gone (La disparition des lusicoles), directed by Sébastien Pilote.
Short Cuts Award for Best Canadian Short Film: Brotherhood, directed by Meryam Joobeur.
Short Cuts Award for Best International Short Film:The Field, directed by Sandhya Suri.
International Federation of Film Critics’ (FIPRESCI) Prize – Special Presentations: Skin, directed by Guy Nattiv.
International Federation of Film Critics’ (FIPRESCI) Prize – Discovery: Float Like A Butterfly, directed by Carmel Winters.
Eurimages’ Audentia Award (€30,000): Fig Tree, directed by Aalam-Warqe Davidian.
NETPAC Award for World or International Asian Film Premiere: The Third Wife, directed by Ash Mayfair.