RogerEbert.com publisher Chaz Ebert's video dispatch from the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival features footage of TIFF Tribute Awards Gala, including the presentation of the TIFF Ebert Director Award to "Do the Right Thing" filmmaker Spike Lee by Ebert, "Moonlight" director Barry Jenkins and TIFF CEO Cameron Bailey. The video also includes talk about the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, a few of the festival's enticing selections and footage of Ebert's interview with "American Fiction" star Jeffery Wright at Cannes 2023. The written transcript of the video follows...
The Toronto International Film Festival 2023 had a very strong lineup. We are all mindful and supportive of the ongoing actor and writer strikes. Still, there was plenty to see and talk about. However, as you can see, I’m still in my Barbenheimer mode. Congratulations to Greta Gerwig for being the first woman director to bring in over a billion dollars at the box office.
This year, I was extremely pleased to be joined by Barry Jenkins to present the TIFF/Ebert Director Award to Spike Lee. As I was getting ready that evening, however, I realized that in over 30 years of attending film festivals all over the world, I had never seen a Black male director receive an award from a Black woman at a film festival headed by a Black male with another Black male director on stage at the same time. It was an historic night.
And Spike often reminds people of the time that my late husband Roger backed him up at the Cannes film festival against those who thought “Do the Right Thing” should not be screened in America.
Other awardees at the TIFF Tribute Awards included director Pedro Almodóvar, actor/director Patricia Arquette, cinematographer Łukasz Żal, actress Vicky Krieps, Brazilian filmmaker Carolina Markowicz, Canadian producer/director Shawn Levy and actor Colman Domingo.
Domingo starred in two films at TIFF, including “Rustin,” one of my favorites of the festival. Directed by George C. Wolfe, the film chronicles intellectual civil rights leader Bayard Rustin, whose opponents didn’t want him to participate in the 1963 March on Washington because he was gay, even though he organized it. Domingo’s performance is getting some early Oscar buzz. The Netflix film was produced by former President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle’s production company, Higher Ground Productions. It will start streaming on Friday, November 17th.
Another film I connected with was “Lee”, directed by cinematographer-turned-director, Ellen Kuras. Kate Winslet stars as Lee Miller, the former Vogue model who became one of the few women correspondents covering World War II. Making the film even more personal for me, just a few weeks earlier, I had visited Lee Miller’s actual home in Sussex, England, and had a tour from her son Antony Penrose, who wrote the book upon which the film is based. Lee Miller led a fascinating life and her work in documenting Nazi atrocities has been invaluable to history.
A few other films receiving excellent buzz out of Toronto include Andrew Payne’s “The Holdovers”, Azazel Jacobs “His Three Daughters”, starring Natasha Lyonne, Elizabeth Olsen, and Carrie Coon, and Cord Jefferson’s “American Fiction” starring Jeffrey Wright, whom I interviewed at Cannes. The closing night film this year was the documentary “Sly”, profiling the life and legacy of Sylvester Stallone. Accompanying the film was an art exhibit featuring numerous works by Stallone as well as his original script for “Rocky”.
TIFF is always a warm, inviting festival and this year was no exception. For that, we can thank our Canadian neighbors to the north and festival CEO Cameron Bailey. Thank you so much. We look forward to returning next year.