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TIFF '13 Awards: '12 Years a Slave' Is the People's Choice
Other awards go to absurdist animated comedy 'Asphalt Watches' and comedy doc 'When Jews Were Funny'

I couldn’t make it to the Toronto International Film Festival’s awards brunch this year because 10 days of lining up, watching three movies a day, writing about them, and dealing with schizophrenic temperature changes has left me wheezing and my voice sounding vaguely demonic. Nonetheless, the awards brunch went on as planned and I got a handy-dandy press release instead of free food.

TIFF has been the first stop for many an Academy Award contender in the past, and it looks like a similar fate will befall Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave next February (OK, it premiered at Telluride, but Toronto was a close second). Solomon Northup’s powerful tale of American slavery impressed TIFF audiences enough to win the festival’s Blackberry® People’s Choice Award (formerly the Cadillac® People’s Choice Award), which has previously been awarded to Oscar contenders like The King’s Speech, Slumdog Millionaire, and Sliver Lining’s Playbook.

It bodes well for 12 Years‘ Oscar prospects that it can win an award specifically chosen by festival audiences, not critics, despite its violence and brutality. Every film at the festival is eligible for The People’s Choice Award and the winner is determined by ballots cast after every screening. Runners up were Stephen Frears’ Philomena and Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners. 

There were also two other People’s Choice Awards, one specifically for the Midnight Madness programme, which went to Sion Sono’s Why Don’t You Play in Hell, a violent Japanese comedy, and one specifically for documentaries, which went to Jehane Noujaim’s The Square, about the Egyptian revolution that began in Tehrir Square.

Three awards were given specifically to Canadian films. Alan Zweig’s When Jews Were Funny received the City of Toronto + Canada Goose Award for Best Canadian Feature Film, while Shayne Ehman and Seth Scriver (whom I interviewed here) won the Award for Best Canadian First Feature Film with their ridiculous not-a-stoner film Asphalt Watches. Walter Woodman and Patrick Cederberg’s Noah, which has gone slightly viral due to its availability online, was granted the YouTube Award for Best Canadian Short Film.

Two Prizes of the International Critics (FIPRESCI Prizes) were awarded by a jury of international critics. One prize when to Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida, which screened in the Special Presentations programme, and the other went to Claudia Sainte-Luce’s The Amazing Catfish (as opposed to Catfish: The TV Show), which screened in the festival’s Discovery programme.

Gia Milani’s All the Wrong Reasons, which also screened in the Discovery programme, won the Grolsch Film Works Discovery Award. The NEPTAC (Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema) Award, eligible for all Asian films at the festival, went to Anup Singh’s Qissa, while the RBC Emerging Filmmakers Competition was won by Christoph Rainer for Requiem for a Robot.


Alan Jones writes about film for Toronto Standard. You can follow him on Twitter at @alanjonesxxxv.

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