Anthony Hopkins and Kate Winslet are among the acting honourees at the second annual TIFF Tribute Awards, in a Sept. 15, 2020 story. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Anthony Hopkins and Kate Winslet on being honoured at virtual TIFF fundraiser

Second annual TIFF Tribute Awards happens tonight

TORONTO — The Toronto International Film Festival is hoping to turn up the virtual glamour with a star-studded awards fundraiser Tuesday night.

Anthony Hopkins and Kate Winslet are among the acting honourees at the second annual TIFF Tribute Awards. The gala, which will be held online this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, aims to celebrate standout creators in the film industry while raising money for TIFF’s year-round programming.

Winslet says she’s impressed with how organizers have managed to move much of the festival online.

The ”Ammonite” actor hopes that some of these technological innovations will be integrated into future festivals to reduce the environmental footprint of flying people in from across the globe.

“In terms of the co-ordinating of my real life and still being able to honour my commitments to the festival, it’s been wonderful.”

However, Winslet acknowledges that it’s hard to digitally recreate the boost that smaller independent films can get from a platform as big as TIFF.

It’s something she’s benefited from in her long history with the festival. In a sense, Winslet says winning the TIFF Tribute Award feels like coming “full circle.”

In 1994, Winslet’s first film “Heavenly Creatures,” directed by Peter Jackson, won a media award at TIFF, despite causing a stir at the time for its depiction of same-sex desire.

Last Friday, TIFF hosted the world premiere of “Ammonite,” which stars Winslet and Saoirse Ronan as two women who fall in love while searching for fossils on the craggy shores of southwest England in the 1840s.

“It’s wonderful to be able to contribute to this very important evolving ongoing conversation and how the world views LGBTQ people in their relationships by telling their stories in a way that normalizes them, and expresses same sex love without fear,” says Winslet.

“To be part of this film, ‘Ammonite,’ and expressing that level of affection for someone of the same sex has truly been one of the most joyful experiences of my career.”

TIFF typically marks an important early stop on the long road of an Academy Awards campaign, and “Ammonite” looks to be no exception.

However, the Oscars conversation may be a little different this season between COVID-19 complications and anticipation of impending changes to the best picture category.

Earlier this month, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science announced that starting in 2024, best picture contenders must meet new eligibility criteria aimed at addressing the representation of gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity and disability both in front of and behind the camera.

While Winslet welcomes the move, she wants to see more initiatives like it — the sooner, the better.

“It should have happened a long time ago,” says Winslet. “Change only happens when you actually commit to the changes, and it’s incredibly important.”

Another film generating early Oscars buzz is “The Father,” which stars Hopkins as a man losing his memory as his daughter, played by Olivia Colman, struggles to take care of him.

Hopkins says he lives in a state of “non-expectation” as far as awards are concerned. Even the TIFF recognition comes as a pleasant surprise, he says.

“I’m glad they’re still doing (festivals) in this odd way,” Hopkins says from his Los Angeles home. “It’s so strange to not be there.”

Still, Hopkins says he’s grateful to be able to participate in an event that is “near normal” as the COVID-19 crisis has forced the film community to find new ways to come together.

Also set to be honoured at the TIFF Tribute Gala is director Chloe Zhao, whose American Midwest-set drama, “Nomadland,” was met with widespread praise at TIFF after winning the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. She will receive the TIFF Ebert Director Award, named after the late film critic Roger Ebert.

Oscar-nominated composer Terence Blanchard will be recognized with the TIFF Variety Artisan Award, while filmmaker Mira Nair will be honoured with the Jeff Skoll Award in Impact Media.

Following the premiere of her debut feature, “Beans,” at the festival, Mohawk director Tracey Deer, will receive the TIFF Emerging Talent Award. Selected by TIFF and MGM, the honour celebrates a woman who is making groundbreaking strides in the industry.

Canadian hitmaker Shawn Mendes is set to lend his musical talents to Tuesday’s festivities with a performance.

CTV “etalk” hosts Chloe Wilde and Tyrone Edwards will preside over the evening, joined by presenters including actors Colin Farrell, Regina King, Olivia Colman and Jodie Foster as well as director Ava DuVernay.

Canadians can tune into the awards at 8 p.m. on CTV or the network’s digital platforms. Variety magazine will stream the event internationally.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 15, 2020.

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