Film festivals are going through a bit of an evolution in recent years. Thanks to groups like Time’s Up and the incredible strides that female filmmakers have made, festivals are finding themselves in a position where they must become more inclusive or get called out by folks who want change (Venice, that would be you). One of the fall festivals that seemingly wants to lead the way, honoring diversity and inclusivity in filmmaking is the Toronto International Film Festival. And this year, TIFF is expanding its pledge for inclusivity by honoring one of the best up and coming female filmmakers in the world, Mati Diop.
Today, TIFF announced that Diop would be the recipient of the first-ever Mary Pickford Award at this year’s event. The brand-new annual award honors “an emerging female talent who is making groundbreaking strides in the industry.” The name of the award comes, obviously, from Mary Pickford, one of the founders of United Artists and a trailblazing actress/producer. She was the second woman ever to win a Best Actress Oscar trophy.
“We’re thrilled to honor the incredible Mati Diop as our inaugural Mary Pickford Award recipient, as United Artists marks its centennial year,” said Joana Vicente, Executive Director and Co-Head of TIFF. “She is a vibrant and important new voice within the industry and one to watch closely.”
Diop broke out recently thanks to her film “Atlantics,” which premiered earlier this year at the Cannes Film Festival, where the filmmaker competed for the Palme d’Or (the first Black female to do so) and took home the Grand Prix. The film was quickly purchased by Netflix and will have its debut on the streaming service later this year.
“Mati Diop’s film ‘Atlantics’ is a profound and unsettling work of art,” said Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director and Co-Head of TIFF. “We know this is just the start for such an original and authentic voice, and we’re delighted to celebrate her success at this year’s TIFF Tribute Gala.”
“Atlantics” tells the story of a Senalgese woman that is set to marry, but things get thrown into chaos when a fire breaks out, and a mysterious fever spreads. Then the young woman is shocked to find that the man she secretly fell in love with has returned.
“Like Mary Pickford, Mati Diop has demonstrated her trial-blazing influence both in front of and behind the camera, making her the ideal inaugural awardee. We look forward to partnering with TIFF to honor Pickford’s legacy and United Artists in celebration of their 100th year,” said Jonathan Glickman, President of MGM Studios’ Motion Picture Group.
We saw the film at Cannes and in our review, we said, “But even examined in a vacuum devoid of its sociopolitical implications, it bears the aesthetic and thematic hallmarks of an expertly rendered film with an impressively nuanced subjectivity.”
This year’s TIFF begins on September 5.