The Best Films at TIFF 2016

28 Sep 2016


The results are in:

In general this year had a better than average crop of films at both Cannes and the Toronto International Film Festival.  The majority of films screened at Cannes were repeated at TIFF, which is a good thing for many like me, who do not get a chance to travel to the Cote d’Azur.

At this year’s TIFF, I have seen a total of 79 feature films, and I have picked out the best of the 79.

These are listed below in order of my picks.

1. Ma Vie en Courgette

2. Brimstone

3. La La Land

4. Rage

5. Sieranevada

6. L’Avenir (Things to Come)

7. Arrival

8. Death in Sarajevo

9. Divines

10. Zoology

Runner- up:    Aquarius 

Below are the TIFF Awards (and the paragraph preceding describing the jury).

The short film awards below were selected by a jury comprised of American filmmaker Abteen Bagheri (That B.E.A.T.), French filmmaker Eva Husson (Bang Gang), and Canadian filmmaker Jeff Barnaby (Rhymes for Young Ghouls).


The Short Cuts Award for Best Canadian Short Film goes to Alexandre Dostie’s Mutants. The jury remarked, “Mutants takes a summer in Quebec and infuses it with a ribald lyricism. Awkward moments of sexual awakening paired with self cannibalism and self immolation rise it above standard nostalgia. It was a film that took chances with both its subject matter and humour, and framing it through the eyes of children. Congratulations.” The award offers a $10,000 cash prize.


The Short Cuts Award for Best Short Film goes to Raymund Ribay Gutierrez’s Imago. The jury remarked, “Some films are not easy to watch. But it's a beautiful thing to find a filmmaker who has a daring voice. We feel that with this movie we witnessed a bold, cinematic statement, and we cannot wait to see what features this director will give to the world.” The award offers a $10,000 cash prize.

The jury gave honourable mentions to Or Sinai’s Anna, and Orlando von Einsiedel’s The White Helmets.

The Canadian awards below were selected by a jury comprised of producers Luc Déry (Incendies, Monsieur Lazhar) and Anita Lee (Stories We Tell, Invention), filmmaker Mina Shum (Double Happiness, Ninth Floor), and cultural critic and novelist Hal Niedzviecki.


The City of Toronto Award for Best Canadian First Feature Film goes to Johnny Ma’s Old Stone (Lao shi). The jury remarked, “For its remarkably mature, powerfully rendered portrait of an innocent taxi driver caught in a proto-capitalist China, the jury is pleased to select Old Stone.” This award carries a cash prize of $15,000, made possible by the City of Toronto.


The Canada Goose Award for Best Canadian Feature Film goes to Mathieu Denis and Simon Lavoie for Those Who Make Revolution Halfway Only Dig Their Own Graves (Ceux qui font les révolutions à moitié n'ont fait que se creuser un tombeau). The jury remarked, “For its uncompromising, electrifying portrait of youthful idealism and democratic exhaustion in contemporary Canada, and for its capacity to stir both heart and mind, the jury is thrilled to select Those Who Make Revolution Halfway Only Dig Their Own Graves.” This award carries a cash prize of $30,000 and a custom award, sponsored by Canada Goose.


The Festival welcomed an international FIPRESCI jury for the 25th year. The jury members composed of jury president Steffen Moestrup (Denmark), Neta Alexander (Israel), Michael Sicinski (USA), Diego Faraone (Uruguay), Jake Howell (Canada), and Louis-Paul Rioux (Canada).

Prize of the International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) for the Discovery programme is awarded to Mbithi Masya for Kati Kati. The jury remarked, “With a generous and poetic tone, not without a degree of anger at personal and political injustice, FIPRESCI is pleased to present the prize in the Discovery programme to an exciting and unique new voice in cinema, Mbithi Masya for his debut feature Kati Kati.”

Prize of the International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) for Special Presentations is awarded to Feng Xiaogang for I Am Not Madame Bovary. The jury remarked, “For its ambitious rendering of a woman’s Kafkaesque struggle as she takes on the Chinese legal system, and sophisticated play of both form and content, FIPRESCI presents the prize in the Special Presentations programme to Feng Xiaogang’s I Am Not Madame Bovary.”


As selected by a jury from the Network for the Promotion of Asian Pacific Cinema for the 5th consecutive year, the NETPAC Award for World or International Asian Film Premiere goes to Maysaloun Hamoud’s In Between (Bar Bahar). Jury members include jury chairperson Jeannette Paulson Hereniko (USA), Bina Paul (India), and Sabrina Baracetti (Italy). The jury remarked, “A confident debut about three contemporary Palestinian women living in Tel Aviv whose strong bond of sisterhood supports an exploration and shift in relationships, careers, and sexuality.”


This is the sophomore year for Platform, the Festival’s juried programme that champions director’s cinema from around the world. The Festival welcomed an international jury comprised of legendary filmmakers Brian De Palma and Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, and acclaimed actor Zhang Ziyi, who awarded the Toronto Platform Prize to Pablo Larraín for Jackie. The jury remarked, "Our decision was unanimous. We found one film that combined an extraordinary script with precise direction and unforgettable acting. For its exploration of the myth of American Camelot and its preeminent performance by Natalie Portman, the 2016 prize goes to Jackie.” The award offers a $25,000 cash prize and a custom award.

The jury awards a special mention to Khyentse Norbu’s Hema Hema: Sing Me a Song While I Wait (he-mà he-mà), “for a film that is a metaphor for our time. In an age of technology, this film uses masks to reconnect its characters with human instinct and emotion.”


This year marked the 39th year that Toronto audiences were able to cast a ballot for their favourite Festival film for the Grolsch People’s Choice Award. This year’s award goes to Damien Chazelle’s La La Land. Writer-director Damien Chazelle captures the story of Mia, an aspiring actress, and Sebastian, a dedicated jazz musician, who are struggling to make ends meet in a city known for destroying hopes and breaking hearts. Set in modern day Los Angeles, this original musical about everyday life explores the joy and pain of pursuing your dreams. The award offers a $15,000 cash prize and custom award, sponsored by Grolsch. The second runner up is Mira Nair’s Queen of Katwe. The first runner up is Garth Davis’s Lion.

The Festival presents a free screening of the award-winning film La La Land tonight at 6 p.m. at Roy Thomson Hall. Tickets will be available on a first-come, first-served basis beginning at 4 p.m. at Roy Thomson Hall.

The Grolsch People’s Choice Midnight Madness Award goes to Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire. Justine has brokered a meeting in a deserted warehouse between two Irishmen and a gang led by Vernon and Ord who are selling them a stash of guns. But when shots are fired in the handover, a heart stopping game of survival ensues. The second runner up is Julia Ducournau’s Raw. The first runner up is André Øvredal’s The Autopsy of Jane Doe.

The Grolsch People’s Choice Documentary Award goes to Raoul Peck for I Am Not Your Negro. With unprecedented access to James Baldwin’s original work, Raoul Peck completes the cinematic version of the book Baldwin never finished — a radical narration about race in America today that tracks the lives and assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Medgar Evers. The second runner up is Fisher Stevens’ Before the Flood. The first runner up is Steve James’ ABACUS: Small Enough to Jail.


The Dropbox Discovery Programme Filmmakers Award goes to Yanillys Perez for Jeffrey. Jury members include Lane Kneedler, Director of Programming at AFI, producer Caroline Benjo of Haut et Court, and Alice Tynan of Dropbox. The jury remarked, “A true collaboration between subject and storyteller, Jeffrey weaves verite and socially conscious observation together with poetic moments of magical realism. With this beautiful combination, director Yanillys Perez not only captures the boundless spirit and imagination of her protagonist, but also offers new possibilities for narrative filmmaking. We believe people will love discovering Jeffrey." The production team is awarded a free Dropbox for Business account.

Back to bed and a normal life now after TIFF>

See you next year!

- Gilbert Seah -

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