Toronto: 'Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri' Captures Audience Award

Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox
'Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri'

The rap satire 'Bodied' and the doc 'Faces Places' also took the fest's top honors.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri got a major boost for its Oscar prospects on Sunday at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it received the top audience prize.

The dark comedic drama from Fox Searchlight and director Martin McDonagh stars Frances McDormand as a mother whose daughter was brutally raped and murdered. Her character decides to call out the police chief, played by Woody Harrelson, on three giant billboards for failing to find the killer, hoping to drive him into action. Three Billboards earned the best screenplay prize in Venice, on its way to Toronto, and is set for a Nov. 10 release.

The first runner-up in the main audience winner category was Craig Gillespie's I, Tonya, the Tonya Harding biopic starring Margot Robbie, while the second runner-up was Luca Guadagnino's romance drama Call Me by Your Name, starring Armie Hammer and Timothee Chalamet.

Three Billboards joins such previous TIFF audience award winners as Silver Linings Playbook, The King’s Speech and last year's La La Land — movies that rode a wave out of the fest to awards-season glory.

Other audience prizes in Toronto included JR and Agnes Varda's Faces Places, which took home the audience award for best documentary. The first runner-up in the category was Long Time Running, a Tragically Hip concert film by Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas De Pencier, while the second runner-up was Morgan Spurlock's Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!

Also on Sunday, Joseph Kahn's Bodied grabbed the Midnight Madness audience award. Khan's genre film, produced by Eminem, portrays a grad student who becomes obsessed with battle rapping and is based on a script by Toronto rapper Alex Larsen (Kid Twist). The first runner-up in the popular Midnight Madness film competition was James Franco's real-life comedy The Disaster Artist, while the Vince Vaughn-starrer Brawl in Cell Block 99, helmed by S. Craig Zahler, was the second runner-up.

Elsewhere, the juried Platform award for best international film was picked up by Warwick Thornton's Sweet Country. "I've never killed off a character in the first third [of a movie] and had the audience cheer," Thornton said of the TIFF audience, which embraced his drama about an Aboriginal stockman and his wife trying to stay ahead of a fervent posse in the harsh outback of the Northern Territory after being accused of a murder.

The Discovery award went to Ava, directed by Sadaf Foroughi. Earlier during the festival, her film saw its two Iranian leads blocked by immigration authorities from coming to Canada to help promote their film.

The FIPRESCI jury also gave Manuel Martin Cuenca's The Motive the prize for best Special Presentations program title. And the NETPAC jury gave its award for best international Asian film to Taiwanese director Huang Hsin-Yao for The Great Buddha +.

Wayne Wapeemukwa's Luk'Luk'l grabbed the best Canadian first feature film award, and Robin Aubert's Les Affames picked up the best Canadian feature film trophy. "Thanks to the jury for seeing the auteur behind the zombies," Aubert said in a statement.

The best Canadian short film trophy went to Marc-Antoine Lemire's Pre-Drink, and the best international short prize was nabbed by Swedish helmer Niki Lindroth von Bahr's The Burden.