New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi will receive the Toronto International Film Festival’s new director’s prize. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

‘Thor’ director Taika Waititi to receive Toronto film fest’s new director award

TORONTO — The Toronto International Film Festival is introducing a new director’s prize, and the first recipient will be New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi.

Festival co-heads Joana Vicente and Cameron Bailey say the TIFF Ebert Director Award will be handed out at the inaugural Tribute Gala, which will also bestow an acting award to Meryl Streep.

The “Thor: Ragnarok” director is among the A-listers premiering new projects at TIFF. His anti-hate satire “Jojo Rabbit” is about a young German boy who discovers a Jewish girl hiding in his home, with Waititi also co-starring as the boy’s imaginary best friend, Adolf Hitler.

Last month, organizers announced that its first-ever Tribute Actor Award would go to Streep, who stars in Steven Soderbergh’s TIFF title, “The Laundromat,” about a group of journalists probing the so-called Panama Papers money laundering scandal.

The gala is set for Sept. 9 and is an annual fundraiser to support TIFF’s year-round programming.

The Toronto International Film Festival runs Sept. 5 to 15.

“Taika Waititi is the rock star cinema needs right now,” Bailey said in a release Tuesday of Waititi, who is also set to write and direct the upcoming “Thor: Love and Thunder.”

“His films are full of razor-sharp humour, faultless style, and boundless generosity. Somehow he manages to stuff both indie hits and massive crowd-pleasers with big, radical ideas.”

TIFF’s new director award is described as “an evolution” of the former Roger Ebert Golden Thumb Award. That prize celebrated a filmmaker who reflected late film critic Roger Ebert’s passion for cinema. Past recipients include Claire Denis, Martin Scorsese, Ava DuVernay, Agnes Varda, and Wim Wenders.

TIFF says it will announce another recipient of the acting award in the coming weeks, as well as the recipient of the inaugural Mary Pickford Award, honouring a female emerging talent.

“Jojo Rabbit” stars Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Rebel Wilson, Stephen Merchant, Alfie Allen, Sam Rockwell and Scarlett Johansson. It’s set for release Oct. 18.

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