Known for premiering films like Slumdog Millionaire and The King's Speech, TIFF has become synonymous with Oscar buzz

By Michael Miller
September 09, 2015 03:00 PM
Ishika Mohan

The Academy Awards are still another six months away, but with the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) just around the corner, the hum of Oscar buzz is officially in the air.

Opening for its 40th anniversary on Sept. 10, TIFF is matched only by Cannes in its prestige and influence. But unlike its French counterpart, Toronto provides films with a relatively non-competitive atmosphere, and more convenient timing with regards to awards season. In 2007, TIME summed up TIFF’s place on the festival landscape, saying it has “grown from its place as the most influential fall film festival to the most influential film festival, period.”

Toronto further separates itself from the festival pack by forgoing a jury and categorized awards like Best Actor/Actress, opting instead for a more democratic process. TIFF’s major prize, the aptly named People’s Choice Award, is handed out to the movie with the highest ratings as voted by festivalgoers.

Since the festival was founded in 1978, 13 People’s Choice Award winners have gone on to be nominated for Best Picture, with five of them (Chariots of Fire in 1981, American Beauty in 1999, Slumdog Millionaire in 2008, The King’s Speech in 2010 and 12 Years a Slave in 2013), taking home the Oscar. Slumdog Millionaire, in particular, was virtually unheard of before its debut at TIFF, and ended up winning eight Academy Awards.

Even more impressive, seven of the last eight Best Picture winners (No Country for Old Men in 2007, Slumdog Millionaire in 2008, The Hurt Locker in 2009, The King’s Speech in 2010, The Artist in 2011, Argo in 2012 and 12 Years a Slave in 2013) were screened at Toronto ahead of their U.S. release dates.

Other notable People’s Choice recipients include The Big Chill, Places in the Heart, Life Is Beautiful, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Precious, Silver Linings Playbook, and The Imitation Game – all of which went on to be nominated for Best Picture. Hotel Rwanda was also a People’s Choice winner, and was subsequently nominated for three Oscars, including Best Original Screenplay and Best Actor.

Last year, TIFF was a particularly good barometer for the acting races. Still Alice, which earned Julianne Moore an Oscar for her performance, premiered and was sold at Toronto in 2014. Likewise, The Theory of Everything, which propelled Eddie Redmayne to a Best Actor win, also had its world premiere at TIFF.

Redmayne and Moore will both put their Oscar buzzworthiness to the test again this year in Toronto with their new films, Freeheld and The Danish Girl, respectively.

Other big names making world premieres at TIFF include Matt Damon and Jessica Chastain in The Martian, Kate Winslet in The Dressmaker and Bryan Cranston in Trumbo. Steven Frears’ Lance Armstrong movie, The Program, starring Ben Foster, Roland Emmerich’s Stonewall and Jean-Marc Vallee’s Demolition, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, are also expected to make a splash in 2015.

For full coverage of the 2015 Toronto Film Festival – including the hottest premieres, the biggest stars and the buzziest films – check out people.com/tiff, instyle.com and ew.com

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