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Sam Mendes, the filmmaker whose directorial debut American Beauty had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival 23 years ago en route to bringing him the best director Oscar, will be the recipient of the Ebert Director Award at the fourth annual TIFF Tribute Awards, TIFF announced on Tuesday.
The 57-year-old Brit, whose latest film, Empire of Light (which Searclight will release in the U.S. on Dec. 9), will also have its Canadian premiere at TIFF, is set to collect his honor alongside several other honorees at a Sept. 11 gala at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel.
The event is as a fundraiser to support TIFF’s Every Story fund, which promotes diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging in film and TIFF’s core mission to transform the way people see the world through film.
“From his first appearance at TIFF with American Beauty, director Sam Mendes brought his exacting and lyrical vision of cinema to Toronto,” TIFF CEO Cameron Bailey said in a statement. “We are delighted to honor his unique voice and body of work with this year’s TIFF Ebert Director Award.”
The TIFF Ebert Director Award — which is named after the late film critic Roger Ebert, a TIFF regular — recognizes filmmakers who have exemplified greatness in their careers. The award marks an evolution of the festival’s Roger Ebert Golden Thumb Award, which in the past was awarded to the likes of Martin Scorsese, Claire Denis, Ava DuVernay, Wim Wenders and Agnès Varda. Since the introduction of the TIFF Tribute Awards, it has recognized Denis Villeneuve (2021), Chloé Zhao (2020) and Taika Waititi (2019).
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