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Oscar-winner Spike Lee to Receive the 2023 TIFF Ebert Director Award on Sunday, September 10th

Header photo caption: CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 14: Director Spike Lee wears knuckle rings with love and hate on them as he attends the screening of "Blackkklansman" during the 71st annual Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festivals on May 14, 2018 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Stephane Cardinale - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)

At this year's Toronto International Film Festival ("TIFF"), RogerEbert.com publisher Chaz Ebert, Oscar-winner Barry Jenkins and TIFF Director Cameron Bailey will be presenting the TIFF Ebert Director Award to Academy Award-winning director Spike Lee during the in-person TIFF Tribute Awards gala on Sunday, September 10th, at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto. Named after legendary film critic Roger Ebert, the accolade recognizes filmmakers who have exemplified greatness in their careers (read Roger's 1991 interview with Lee here). Lee will join the company of celebrated visionaries who previously received the TIFF Ebert Director Award at the Toronto International Film Festival: Martin ScorseseClaire DenisAva DuVernayWim WendersAgnès VardaDenis VilleneuveChloé ZhaoTaika Waititi and Sam Mendes

“Spike Lee is not only only one of the best filmmakers in America, but one of the most crucially important, because his films address the the central subject of race,” Roger Ebert wrote in his four-star review of "Malcolm X." “Every Lee film is an exercise in empathy.” Lee attended Ebertfest in 2014 for a special 25th anniversary screening of "Do the Right Thing," and honored Roger's support of the film during the Cannes press conference for his 2018 film, "BlacKkKlansman." (For more of Roger's thoughts on the films of Spike Lee, click here.)

Of the latter film, which told the true story of Ron Stallworth, a Black police officer who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan, Chaz Ebert wrote, "Although "BlacKkKlansman" is a period piece, Spike doesn't leave the situation in the past. He paves a path right to the present...and he calls his film a wake-up call against hatred and alt-right groups not just in the U.S. but spreading globally. Chaz Ebert continues, "Spike remains one of our preeminent filmmakers presenting outstanding works of truths that will stand the test of time for generations to come. I look forward to granting him the TIFF Ebert Director Award at one of the film festivals Roger loved so much." 

“The TIFF Ebert Director Award recognizes filmmakers who have exemplified greatness in their career,” stated Bailey. “A foremost storyteller of our era, Spike’s body of work from 'She's Gotta Have It' to 'Do the Right Thing' to 'Mo' Better Blues,' to his most recent film at TIFF 2021, 'American Utopia,' Spike has inspired audiences and made a lasting impact on the art of filmmaking.” 

Another of this year's honorees at this year's TIFF Tribute Awards is Pedro Almodóvar, who will receive the Jeff Skoll Award in Impact Media presented by Participant. Now in its fifth year, the TIFF Tribute Awards have served as an awards-season bellwether, with past honorees Michelle Yeoh, Brendan Fraser, Jessica Chastain, Roger Deakins, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Joaquin Phoenix, Taika Waititi, and Chloé Zhao going on to win awards on the international stage. 

The TIFF Tribute Awards honor the film industry’s outstanding contributors and their achievements, recognizing leading industry members, acting talent, directorial expertise, new talent, and a below-the-line artist and creator. The Awards night serves as TIFF’s largest annual fundraiser, having raised $1.3 million in 2022.This year, the Tribute Awards gala will support the Viola Desmond Cinema campaign, which was launched through the Every Story Fund in 2022.

To purchase tickets to the TIFF Tribute Awards, click here.

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