American Fiction wins TIFF People’s Choice Award 2023, beating Miyazaki and Payne

Ayaan Paul
Ayaan PaulSep 18, 2023 | 13:35

American Fiction wins TIFF People’s Choice Award 2023, beating Miyazaki and Payne

The 2023 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) marked the culmination of a two-week cinematic celebration, featuring a range of world premieres and screenings of acclaimed films from the international festival circuit. Here’s a look at the winners and runners-up at TIFF 2023 and their potential at the upcoming Oscars.


TIFF is one of the most prestigious and influential film festivals in the world. Founded in 1976, it takes place annually in Toronto, Canada, usually over the course of 10 days in September. It has gained international recognition for its dedication to showcasing a diverse range of films, from Hollywood blockbusters to independent and international cinema.

  • What sets TIFF apart and makes it a vital event in the film industry's calendar is its unique People's Choice Award.
  • Unlike many other film festivals where awards are determined by juries or panels of experts, the People's Choice Award at TIFF is decided by the festival's audience members.
  • This democratic approach to recognising outstanding films is a hallmark of TIFF's commitment to celebrating the art of cinema as a shared experience.

The winner

The top prize at the festival is one of the festival's most prestigious honours, and this year, it was claimed by American Fiction. Directed by Cord Jefferson and starring Jeffrey Wright, the film is a satirical take on the publishing industry. 

The film centres on a novelist who experiences unprecedented success after intentionally penning a stereotypical novel about Black life. This win at TIFF could serve as a significant stepping stone for American Fiction as it begins its journey towards the Oscars.



The first runner-up at TIFF was The Holdovers, directed by Alexander Payne. 

The film follows a curmudgeonly instructor at a New England prep school who remains on campus during Christmas break to babysit a handful of students with nowhere to go. The instructor soon forms an unlikely bond with a brainy but damaged troublemaker, and with the school's head cook, a woman who just lost a son in the Vietnam War.

The fact that it secured a runner-up spot suggests it made a strong impression on the festival's audience. Its performance at TIFF may position it favourably for Oscar consideration.

The second runner-up, The Boy and the Heron, is a special entry directed by the legendary Hayao Miyazaki.

This film marked Miyazaki's return to animation after a decade, and its screening at TIFF garnered considerable attention. 

The film follows a young boy's adventures and is characterised by Miyazaki's signature storytelling and animation style. Although the film faces competition from the blockbuster Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, its positive reception at TIFF can be an asset as it enters the awards season.

Other winners

Dicks: The Musical, an A24 production, made waves at TIFF and received the People's Choice Midnight Madness Award.  


The American musical comedy film directed by Larry Charles and based on the off-Broadway musical F**king Identical Twins by Josh Sharp and Aaron Jackson, struck a chord with audiences. Winning this award could provide momentum as it vies for recognition in various Oscar categories.

In the documentary category, Mr Dressup: The Magic of Make-Believe secured the People's Choice Documentary Award.

Directed by Robert McCallum, this documentary pays tribute to the beloved Canadian children's show Mr. Dressup. 

TIFF and the Oscars

TIFF, along with the Cannes, Venice and Telluride film festivals, is often seen as the unofficial kickoff to the Oscar season. Winning the coveted People's Choice Awards at TIFF can provide films with an early boost for their award campaigns. 

  • The People's Choice Award is a coveted honour, and winning it can significantly impact a film's trajectory in the wider award landscape, particularly during the competitive season leading up to the Oscars. The audience's choice often reflects a film's broad appeal and its ability to resonate with diverse viewers. 

The TIFF People's Choice Award holds a special place in the film industry as a prelude to Best Picture winners. Many past recipients of the TIFF People's Choice Award have gone on to achieve remarkable success at the Academy Awards, including winning the coveted top prize at the Oscars.

  • Past TIFF People's Choice Award recipients that have gone on to win the Best Picture Academy Award include Nomadland, Green Book, 12 Years a Slave, The King's Speech, Slumdog Millionaire, American Beauty, and Chariots of Fire.
  • Many films that have received this award have secured Best Picture nominations at the Oscars, including The Fabelmans, Belfast, JoJo Rabbit, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Room, La La Land, The Imitation Game, Silver Linings Playbook, Precious, Life Is Beautiful, Places in the Heart, and The Big Chill.

The TIFF People's Choice Award serves as both a barometer of audience sentiment and a predictor of future accolades. Films that secure this award at TIFF often garner increased attention, critical acclaim, and distribution deals, all of which contribute to their potential Oscar campaigns.

It has become a tradition for filmmakers and actors to attend TIFF with hopes of winning this award and launching their films into the global spotlight.

To learn more about how TIFF and other film festivals act as important precursors in determining the annual awards race, have a look at: How To Win An Oscar

Over the years, the list of TIFF People's Choice Award winners has included titles that have left a lasting mark on the film industry, reinforcing TIFF's reputation as a launchpad for cinematic excellence. Beyond the recognition, the award provides an essential platform for films to reach wider audiences and secure their place in film history.

Given this rich history of TIFF People's Choice Award winners achieving Oscars success, American Fiction, The Holdovers, and The Boy and the Heron emerge as films to watch as the awards season unfolds. Their recognition at TIFF serves as a promising start to their journey towards potential Oscar glory. 

Last updated: September 18, 2023 | 13:35
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