Toronto: Peter Farrelly's 'Green Book' Wins Audience Award

Courtesy of TIFF; Jemal Countess/Getty
'Green Book' (Inset: director Peter Farrelly)

The Peter Farrelly film had a world premiere at the fest. The first runner up is Barry Jenkins’ 'If Beale Street Could Talk.'

Peter Farrelly's Green Book, starring Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali, has joined the search for the next Oscar frontrunner out of the Toronto International Film Festival after picking up the top People's Choice honor on Sunday.

The feel-good buddy comedy-drama 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 Barry Jenkins’ If Beale Street Could Talk; the second runner-up was Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma.

The expected top audience winner, Bradley Cooper's A Star is Born, surprised by not making it into the runner-up column, in part because of a voting system at TIFF that ensured fans of co-star Lady Gaga did not vote multiple times or, as festival director Piers Handling told the Hollywood Reporter, "No one crashed the voting process."

The People's Choice Awards are voted on by TIFF attendees, either with their ticket stubs placed in a box in a theater or with an online vote. Voters 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.

The festival added in a statement on its Twitter account: "Grolsch People's Choice Award PSA: Once we receive an online vote we take many steps to ensure the submissions are legit—including checking the origin of the votes and if they are coming from ticket holders."

TIFF organizers also told THR that measures taken aim to quickly spot and eliminate any "mass campaign voting," and the festival also adjusted the total number of votes for any film in its lineup to the capacity of the cinemas in which they screened, to ensure all films had an equal chance at winning.

In Green Book, Mortensen plays an Italian-American bouncer hired to chauffeur a black classical pianist (Ali) on a concert tour through the deep South in the 1960s. On the road, they must rely on “The Green Book,” a guide book to the few hotels and restaurants that accept African-Americans.

Previous TIFF audience award winners including Room, La La Land and 12 Years a Slave received a lift from the fest on their way to Academy Awards glory.

In other prize-giving, the People's Choice prize for best Midnight Madness sidebar title went to Indian director Vasan Bala's The Man Who Feels No Pain, a Bollywood-inspired action film that had its world premiere in Toronto. The first runner-up in the category was David Gordon Green’s Halloween, while the second runner-up was Sam Levinson’s Assassination Nation.

The top audience award for documentary was given to E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin's Free Solo, a film about legendary rock climber Alex Honnold. The first runner-up was Tom Donahue’s This Changes Everything, while John Chester’s The Biggest Little Farm was the second runner-up.

The juried Platform Award for best international film went to Wi Ding Ho for Cities of Last Things, a Mandarin and English-language co-production from Taiwan, China, the U.S. and France, while the NETPAC award for best Asian film receiving a world or international premiere in Toronto was given to Ash Mayfair's debut feature from Vietnam, The Third Wife.

The Audentia Award for best female director went to writer-director Aalam-Warque Davidian's Fig Tree, a tragic love story set in 1989 during the Ethiopian Civil War, while the FIPRESCI prize for best title in the Discovery sidebar was awarded to Irish playwright and director Carmel Winters' boxing drama Float Like a Butterfly.

The best Special Presentations title went to Israeli director Guy Nattiv's Skin, in which Jamie Bell stars as a white supremacist from the Midwest and Vera Farmiga also appears.

Elsewhere, the best Canadian feature film trophy went to Sebastian Pilote's The Fireflies Are Gone, while the best Canadian first feature film award was given to Katherine Jerkovic's Roads in February. Both are French-language films from Quebec.

The best Canadian short film prize went to Meryam Joobeur's Brotherhood.