Anthony Hopkins, Kate Winslet honoured at TIFF virtual gala at Lightbox theatre

Anthony Hopkins, Kate Winslet honoured at TIFF virtual gala at Lightbox theatre
The TIFF Tribute Awards may have gone virtual but the sentiments were authentic in an hourlong CTV broadcast from a near-empty TIFF Lightbox theatre Tuesday night.

TIFF Tribute Actor Award recipients Kate Winslet and Sir Anthony Hopkins — she was in the England, he in California — acknowledged those affected by the global pandemic in their video acceptance speeches.

“My heart really goes out all of you who have battled and struggled and continue to struggle through these harsh and painful times,” said Winslet, who stars opposite Saoirse Ronan in period romance “Ammonite”, which had its world premiere at TIFF. “This award is yours,” “The Father” star Hopkins told first responders and front-line workers.

Mohawk filmmaker Tracey Deer, whose Oka crisis-set drama “Beans” premiered at the festival, was presented with her TIFF Emerging Talent Award via video by director Ava DuVernay.

Deer became emotional as she thanked her mother for her support and dedicated her award to Indigenous youth.

“I’m here because of you, because of the belief in me that you had. My mother is always right and so if my mother believed I could do it, then I believed I could do it,” Deer said. “This is something all our Indigenous kids need to hear; their dreams are important and their voices and together we need to make a society that is safe for them and that they can thrive in.”

At the inaugural TIFF Tribute Awards a year ago, celebrities including Meryl Streep, Antonio Banderas and Gary Oldman arrived on a red carpet outside a Fairmont Royal York Hotel ballroom. Later, 500 guests hoped to rub elbows with movie stars in between bites of beef tenderloin at a sit-down dinner.

Speeches were a mix of serious and humorous, veering more to the latter as the night went on.

Recipients Joaquin Phoenix (“Joker”) and “Jo Jo Rabbit” filmmaker Taika Waititi both went on to win Oscars months later.

This time, the awards honouring six creatives with films at TIFF were streamed on a movie screen facing rows of empty red seats in a TIFF Bell Lightbox theatre.

In other times, it would have been packed with festival goers. Only TIFF co-heads Cameron Bailey and Joana Vicente, along with show hosts Chloe Wilde and Tyrone Edwards of ETALK were in the theatre, all standing well apart from each other.

Director-screenwriter Chloé Zhao, whose drama “Nomadland” is generating Oscar buzz, accepted the TIFF Ebert Director Award from California by thanking organizers for putting on the festival during difficult times.

“I’m so amazed by the hard work you guys put in this year to bring the festival together and to give us a chance to take a break from all the craziness and just connect through movies is incredible,” she said.

The hourlong show moved briskly, with presenters and recipients speaking via video in a more glamourous version of the now-familiar Zoom meeting vortex.

Most, like presenter “One Night in Miami…” director Regina King, who wore vibrant yellow, dressed for the occasion.

Colin Farrell, who presented Zhao with her award with a heartfelt speech about her passion for exploring universal human themes onscreen, wore what most of us have been calling workwear for the past six months: a ripped T-shirt and colourful camo bandana.

Other presenters included Olivia Colman. She introduced her “The Father” co-star Hopkins by recalling his response after filming difficult scenes playing a man struggling with dementia: “Aren’t we lucky? Isn’t life beautiful?”



Filmmaker Jodie Foster gave a spirited introduction for “funny, charming and fiercely talented Kate Winslet,” calling her “the one who protects us all. She’s our lioness.”

The awards were interspersed with shout-outs to Toronto and shared TIFF memories from Natalie Portman, George Clooney, Ben Affleck, Denis Villeneuve, Zhang Ziyi, Jason Reitman, Danny Boyle, Nicole Kidman and Sarah Polley.

Rosamund Pike looked into the camera and slowly repeated: “TIFF,” while Tatiana Maslany recalled her earliest memory of the festival was from the seat of her bike, as she rode past crowds outside theatres. The broadcast also included a performance by Pickering native Shawn Mendes, who sang Stevie Wonder’s “Love’s in Need of Love Today.”

He also announced the Shawn Mendes Foundation Changemaker Award, a $10,000 award to support filmmakers “who are making films with a social message.”
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