‘Dune’ Director Denis Villeneuve and Documentary Filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin Set as First Toronto Film Fest Honorees

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Filmmaker and Academy Award nominee Denis Villeneuve and documentary filmmaker, writer, singer and activist Alanis Obomsawin are the first two announced honorees for the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival. Set to be honored at the 2021 TIFF Tribute Awards, Villeneuve will receive the TIFF Ebert Director Award, while Obomsawin will be honored with the Jeff Skoll Award in Impact Media.

Cameron Bailey, artistic director and co-head of TIFF, said, in part, “Denis Villeneuve’s many films… are a testament to [his] boundless ability for authentic, passionate storytelling. There is no question Denis is an accomplished and outstanding filmmaker. It is wonderful to be celebrating his career at this time.”

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Villeneuve has an eclectic body of work with a wide range of genres and themes, including “Arrival” (2016), for which he received an Academy Award nomination for best director, and “Incendies” (2010), which picked up a nom for foreign language film. His other screen credits include “Blade Runner 2049,” “Sicario,” “Enemy” and “Prisoners.”

Villeneuve is currently gearing up for the release of “Dune,” his adaptation of Frank Herbert’s science fiction novel, which Villeneuve also produced and co-wrote with Jon Spaihts and Eric Roth. A major awards contender for Warner Bros., the film stars Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Zendaya, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Chang Chen, Charlotte Rampling, Jason Momoa and Javier Bardem.

“As a gifted documentary filmmaker and impassioned storyteller, Alanis brings awareness to vital indigenous issues and is widely recognized as a national treasure because of her extraordinary body of work,” said Joana Vicente, executive director and co-head of TIFF. “What is truly beautiful is that this year we are celebrating two incredible filmmakers, both of whom have deep personal ties to this country and have contributed to our cinematic landscape in very unique ways.”

A member of the Abenaki Nation, Obomsawin is one of Canada’s most distinguished filmmakers. She completed her 52nd film in the 52nd year of her career in 2019 with “Jordan River Anderson, The Messenger.” The film chronicled the lives and concerns of First Nations people while exploring issues of importance to all.

The TIFF Tribute Awards honor the film industry’s contributors and achievements, recognize leading industry members, actors, directorial expertise, new talent and below-the-line artist and creators. This year’s awards will be co-produced by Bell Media Studios and, for the second straight year, will be broadcast nationally by CTV and streamed internationally by Variety.

Last year’s Tribute Awards honorees included eventual Oscar-winners for best actor Anthony Hopkins (“The Father”) and director Chloé Zhao (“Nomadland”). Others included Kate Winslet, Terence Blanchard, Mira Nair and Tracey Deer.

The Canadian Federal government announced Monday that its border would open to fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents as of Aug. 9, and to the rest of the world as of Sept. 7. In their press release, TIFF says the opening allows TIFF to “welcome a portion of its traditional volume of international press, industry and talent back to the Festival as permitted by the Canadian government.”

TIFF continues to work closely with the Province of Ontario, the City of Toronto and public health officials on the safe execution of the festival, with its priority being the health of attendees and residents. In addition, they are partnered with Medcan, a global health care leader providing medical expertise and consultation.

The festival is scheduled to take place from Sept. 9 through Sept. 18.

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