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“American Fiction” Takes Top Prize at Toronto Film Festival

Debut Feature by Cord Jefferson, a Satire on Race, Media, and White Consumption of Black Culture

"American Fiction" Takes Top Prize at Toronto Film Festival

“American Fiction,” a satirical film addressing themes of race, media, and the consumption of Black culture by white audiences, secured the prestigious People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). Directed by Cord Jefferson in his debut feature, the movie tells the story of Thelonious ‘Monk’ Ellison, portrayed by Jeffrey Wright, an author and university professor who is pressured by his publishers to make his writing more “Black.”

To meet these expectations, he adopts a pseudonym and writes a novel that embodies what he believes are the stereotypical notions of African American identity. This novel unexpectedly becomes a massive success, attracting producers and media attention, forcing Ellison to grapple with the consequences of his actions.

Adapted from Percival Everett’s novel “Erasure,” this film examines the concept of authenticity in American culture. Cord Jefferson, an Emmy-winning writer known for his work on shows like “Succession” and “Watchmen,” directed the movie.

The People’s Choice Award at TIFF, determined by audience votes, has historically been an indicator of early Oscar contenders, often predicting the Best Picture winners at the Academy Awards. Past films like “Nomadland” and “Green Book” received this accolade before achieving Oscar glory.

The first runner-up for the People’s Choice Award went to Alexander Payne’s “The Holdovers,” a 1970s-set dramedy at a New England prep school. The second runner-up was awarded to Hayao Miyazaki’s “The Boy and the Heron,” a Japanese animated film.

“American Fiction” had its world premiere at TIFF and is set for wide release in North America in November. The festival, which took place from September 7 to Sunday, attracts A-list celebrities and cinephiles eager to preview films before their general release. Despite Hollywood actors’ and writers’ strikes, many notable figures attended TIFF, either due to interim agreements with unions or because they were involved as directors or producers.

Prominent figures like Sean Penn, Sylvester Stallone, Taika Waititi, Nicolas Cage, Patricia Arquette, Salma Hayek Pinault, Jessica Chastain, Ethan Hawke, Dakota Johnson, and Elliot Page graced the TIFF red carpet. Music stars Lil Nas X and Paul Simon also attended to promote documentaries about their careers.

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