Steven Spielberg's 'The Fabelmans' Wins Toronto International Film Festival's Top Award amid Oscars Buzz

The Fabelmans, which premiered at TIFF earlier this month, is the director's "most personal film"

TORONTO, ONTARIO - SEPTEMBER 10: Steven Spielberg attends "The Fabelmans" Premiere during the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival at Princess of Wales Theatre on September 10, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)
Steven Spielberg. Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty

The praise for Steven Spielberg's latest film continues.

The acclaimed director's semi-autobiographical film, The Fabelmans, took home the Toronto International Film Festival's top prize over the weekend winning the People's Choice award.

"As I said on stage the other night, 'Above all, I'm glad I brought this film to Toronto!,'" Spielberg, 75, said in a statement provided to PEOPLE. "This is the most personal film I've ever made, and the warm reception from everyone in Toronto made my first visit to TIFF so intimate and personal for me and my entire Fabelman family."

He continued, "Thank you to Cameron Bailey and the incredible staff at TIFF; thank you to Universal Pictures; and a very special thank you to all the movie fans in Toronto who have made this past weekend one I'll never forget."

The Fabelmans entered the 2023 Oscars race with its win at TIFF, with many previous winners of the award (including Slumdog Millionaire and 12 Years a Slave) going to become Best Picture winners at the Academy Awards.

The film premiered at TIFF to a standing ovation on Sept. 10, and is a personally significant project for the legendary director. The drama, releasing worldwide Nov. 23, focuses on a boy who uses movie-making to gain a better understanding of his world, and was cowritten alongside Tony Kushner (West Side Story)

The film stars Michelle Williams, Paul Dano, Seth Rogen, Keeley Karsten, Gabriel LaBelle and more.

After the premiere, where the director revealed that "75 years of life experience" went into the movie, the trailer hit the internet Sunday. In it, a young character Sammy Fabelman, played by LaBelle, learns of his love for film while navigating the opinions of his parents, played by Dano, 38, and Williams, 42.

Paul Dano, Steven Spielberg and Michelle Williams attend "The Fabelmans" Premiere during the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival at Princess of Wales Theatre on September 10, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario.
Paul Dano, Steven Spielberg and Michelle Williams. Michael Loccisano/Getty

The Fabelmans is Spielberg's first film since the Academy Award-winning West Side Story.

In the trailer for the movie, a young boy named Sammy Fabelman (LaBelle) discovers the power of movies, with his mother Mitzi (Williams) encouraging his creativity while his practical father Burt (Dano) views it as a hobby.

"In this family it's the scientists versus the artists," Mitzi says in the trailer. "Sammy's on my team, takes after me." Later, she tells Burt, "You dismiss what he does that's playful or imaginative. You could afford to be a little encouraging."

Dano spoke to The Hollywood Reporter in March about the pressure of portraying a version of the Oscar-winning director's father. He explained that "though the relationships are complicated in The Fabelmans, the character is beautiful, and I think his heart is beautiful."

"Somebody like Steven making a film about his life and you're playing a version of his father … the stakes felt really high. ... You're embodying one of the most important, influential, complicated figures in [Spielberg's] life," said Dano. "It was incredible to see how much of this was in his work the whole time."

"He's sharing a piece of himself that I find very moving," Dano added. "There's a real gift in it, when somebody of that stature and at that level of artistry is willing to do that."

The Fabelmans is in select theaters Nov. 11. It opens nationwide this Thanksgiving.

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