Best TIFF movies: Steven Spielberg's 'The Fabelmans,' Weird Al parody and 'Black Ice' doc named fan favourites

·4-min read
The Fabelmans (Courtesy of TIFF)

As the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) comes to a close, films like Weird: The Al Yankovic Story, Canadian documentary Black Ice and Steven Spielberg's The Fabelmans were favourites with this year's audience.

The winner of the TIFF 2022 People’s Choice Award is The Fabelmans, coming out ahead of Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery from Rian Johnson, and Sarah Polley's Women Talking.

“Above all, I’m glad I brought this film to Toronto," Spielberg said in the statement he provided for the awards ceremony. "This is the most personal film I’ve made and the warm reception from everyone in Toronto made my first visit to TIFF so intimate and personal for me, and my entire Fabelman family."

The Fabelmans, starring Gabriel LaBelle as Sammy, along with stars Michelle Williams, Paul Dano and Seth Rogen, is inspired by the director's childhood, growing up with a passion for making movies and the family dynamics that surrounded his life. Spielberg crafted this beautiful fictional depiction of his childhood with long time collaborator Tony Kushner.

Burt Fabelman (Dano) is a computer engineer who doesn't, initially, entirely grasp the desire his son, Sammy, has towards filmmaking, while his wife Mitzi (Williams), who has a particular affinity for the piano, is more of a free spirit who encourages Sammy to pursue whatever makes him happy. Bennie (Rogan) is Burt's best friend and co-worker but as Sammy gets older, he notices Mitzi's particular closeness to Bennie, with a significant shift happening when the family moves from New Jersey to Arizona.

The Fabelmans is a fun and heartfelt but emotional coming-of-age story with Williams, in particular, giving a stunning performance, really committing to the changing dynamics of Mitzi's life.

"I found this to be, for me, a very daunting experience because I was attempting, in a semi-autobiographical way, to recreate huge recollections in not only my life but in the lives of my three sisters, and my mother and father, who are no longer with us, and just the responsibility of that began to build when Tony and I sat down," Spielberg said at a press conference during TIFF. "Tony was certainly my therapy counsellor in getting this out of me, and as we started working on this, I realized that there was no.. ... distance between me and the experience, I wasn't going to be able to put a camera [in between], in the way Sammy is able to put a camera between him and the things that are happening to him."

"I set out to tell the story of my mom and dad's divorce when I made E.T. and I had written some pages about the divorce, and then I got carried away, ... so I put an alien between the reality of the divorce. ... I just wanted to tell a story that was completely honest to my recollections. I'm not saying that all my recollections are 100 per cent accurate, but as best as I can recollect."

(Courtesy of TIFF)
(Courtesy of TIFF)

Midnight Madness: 'Weird: The Al Yankovic Story'

Winning the TIFF 2022 People’s Choice Midnight Madness Award was Weird: The Al Yankovic Story, directed by Eric Appel.

"There is no better audience than Midnight Madness at TIFF," Appel indicated in a statement submitted for the awards ceremony.

He added that the film is about "leaning into our own weirdness and being a vehicle for finding your own happiness."

Weird: The Al Yankovic Story is one of the most appealing films from the festival, a parody biopic of the life of "Weird Al" Yankovic, played by the endearing Daniel Radcliffe, who plays accordion to hit songs like "Eat It," "My Bologna" and "Amish Paradise."

Black Ice (Courtesy of TIFF)
Black Ice (Courtesy of TIFF)

Documentary: 'Black Ice'

The TIFF 2022 People's Choice Documentary Award winner is Black Ice, directed by Hubert Davis, with a statement from the director, submitted for the awards ceremony, stating that the team behind the film would particularly like to thank the athletes who "opened up their stories."

Black Ice is an examination the role of Black players in Canadian hockey, including pre-NHL contributions to the game and the racism that continues today. It documents the history of the establishment and dissolution of the Coloured Hockey League in Nova Scotia, from 1895 to 1930, and the journey of Black players being part of the NHL, including the racist incidents on and off the ice.