The 2019 Toronto International Film Festival handed out its awards on Sunday afternoon, and in a surprise to many, writer/director Taika Waititi’s “anti-hate satire” Jojo Rabbit won the coveted People’s Choice Award. Produced by Fox Searchlight Pictures, the film is set during the end of World War II and revolves around a young boy named Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) who aspires to be a key player in Hitler’s army and is so infatuated with the dictator that he appears as his imaginary friend, as played by Waititi. Unbeknownst to Jojo, his mother (Scarlett Johnasson) is hiding a young Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) in their house, which forces the young boy to confront his anti-Semitic hatred head-on.
The People’s Choice Award win is incredibly significant. Nine of the last 10 winners of this award have gone on to score at least a Best Picture nomination, and last year’s winner Green Book went on to ultimately win the Oscar. Other winners of the People’s Choice Award include 12 Years a Slave, The King’s Speech, La La Land, and Room.
The runner-up for the prize this year was Noah Baumbach’s critically acclaimed Netflix drama Marriage Story starring Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson, while third place went to Bong Joon-ho’s exceptionally well-received dark comedy Parasite. I would not be shocked if all three films landed squarely in the Best Picture race.
Jojo Rabbit’s win was somewhat surprising, as the critical reception to the movie was fairly divisive. The Collider contingent at the festival liked it (read Matt’s review here), but some critics felt Waititi’s film was too flippant towards Nazis. I’d argue that criticism is invalid since the movie is told from the point of view of a 10-year-old (and the Hitler that appears is the Hitler that a 10-year-old who idolizes the man would imagine), and the film’s larger themes about empathy being the path towards shedding hate still rings true.
Regardless, it sure looks as though Jojo Rabbit is in line for at least a Best Picture Oscar nomination. The last People’s Choice Winner not to land an Oscar nod in the category was 2011’s Lebanese film Where Do We Go Now?.
Elsewhere at the TIFF 2019 awards, Delphine won Best Canadian Short Film, All Cats Are Grey won Best Short Film, The Twentieth Century won Best Canadian First Feature Film, and Antigone won Best Canadian Feature Film.
The People’s Choice Midnight Madness award went to The Platform, with The Vast of Night scoring runner-up and Blood Quantum nabbing second runner-up. The people’s Choice Documentary Award was given to The Cave, with I Am Not Alone nabbing second place and Bryce Dallas Howard’s Dads landing in third place.