Toronto: Chloe Zhao's 'Nomadland' Wins Audience Award

Frances McDormand in 'Nomadland'
Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures

Frances McDormand in 'Nomadland'

The Frances McDormand-starrer screened at TIFF's virtual 2020 edition after picking up the Golden Lion in Venice.

Chloe Zhao's Nomadland picked up the top People's Choice honor on Sunday at the pandemic-era Toronto Film Festival, which wrapped on Saturday.

The Frances McDormand-starrer was named the top audience prize winner in Toronto, which is often a barometer of future Academy Award nominations. The first runner-up for the top audience prize was Regina King's One Night in Miami, while the second runner-up was Tracey Deer's Beans.

Searchlight is set to release Nomadland, Zhao's look at America's van-dwelling community and her follow-up to The Rider, on Dec. 4. McDormand plays a widow from a collapsed Nevada mining town who finds new life on the road in a drama based on Jessica Bruder's 2017 nonfiction book, Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century.

Nomadland, while debuting in competition at Venice, received a gala screening in Toronto and a Telluride-supported U.S. premiere at drive-in screenings in Los Angeles.

The People's Choice award for best documentary went to Canadian director Michelle Latimer's Inconvenient Indian, while the top audience prize for best Midnight Madness sidebar title went to Roseanne Liang's Shadow in the Cloud.

This year's audience winners will have an asterisk beside the honors as TIFF had a slimmed-down lineup of 50 titles, against 333 last year, Hollywood studios were mostly absent and the Oscars have been delayed until April 2021.

In juried prize-giving, the FIPRESCI prize went to Dea Kulumbegashvili's debut feature Beginning, and the NETPAC award was picked up by Palestinian filmmakers Tarzan Nasser and Arab Nasser's Gaza Mon Amour. 

And Latimer's Inconvenient Indian also earned the Amplify Voices Award for best Canadian feature, while Tiffany Hsiung's documentary short Sing Me a Lullaby picked up the Short Cuts trophy best short, while the Short Cuts award for best film went to Daila Guiguet's Dustin, and the best Canadian film went to Paul Shkordoff's Benjamin Benny, Benny.

TIFF juries also gave the inaugural Changemaker Award to Kelly Fyffe-Marshall's short Black Bodies.

Amid the pandemic, Toronto opted for far more streaming than screening, as it had limited in-person theatrical play and mostly virtual red carpets, press conferences and industry events amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.

As it went online, TIFF used a first-time digital platform to comply with safety precautions during the COVID-19 crisis, while also enabling Torontonians to view movies from the front seat of their cars at pop-up drive-ins or seated in deck chairs at outdoor cinema venues.

The People's Choice Awards are voted on by TIFF attendees. Participants could not vote more than once online using their email address, as TIFF measured the origin of each vote and matched them to the festival's ticket buyer information and database.