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Toronto International Film Festival announces Empire of Light director Sam Mendes as recipient of TIFF Ebert Director Award

Cameron Bailey, CEO of TIFF, is thrilled to announce that Academy Award®–winning filmmaker Sam Mendes will receive the TIFF Ebert Director Award. The TIFF Tribute Awards presented by BVLGARI will return to an in-person gala fundraiser during the 47th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival on Sunday, September 11 at Fairmont Royal York Hotel. 

TIFF will be presenting the Canadian Premiere of Mendes’ most recent work Empire of Light, which he wrote, directed, and produced. Mendes made his feature film debut at the Festival in 1999 with the World Premiere of American Beauty, a TIFF People’s Choice Award winner, for which he was honoured with an Oscar in the Best Director category.

“From his first appearance at TIFF with American Beauty, director Sam Mendes brought his exacting and lyrical vision of cinema to Toronto,” said Bailey. “We are delighted to honour his unique voice and body of work with this year’s TIFF Ebert Director Award.” 

Set in an English seaside town in the early 1980s, Searchlight Pictures’ Empire of Light is a powerful and poignant story about human connection and the magic of cinema. Starring Olivia ColmanMicheal Ward, Tom BrookeTanya MoodieHannah OnslowCrystal Clarke, with Toby Jones and Colin Firth, Mendes also teams up with award-winning cinematographer Roger Deakins, who was also a TIFF Tribute Award recipient in 2019.

The TIFF Ebert Director Award recognizes filmmakers who have exemplified greatness in their careers. Named after legendary film critic Roger Ebert, the Award marks an evolution of the Festival’s Roger Ebert Golden Thumb Award, which in past has gone to celebrated visionaries such as Martin Scorsese, Claire Denis, Ava DuVernay, Wim Wenders, and the late Agnès Varda. Past recipients who received the Award since the TIFF Tribute Awards were introduced include Denis Villeneuve (2021), Chloé Zhao (2020), and Taika Waititi (2019).

Mendes joins the recently announced list of 2022 TIFF Tribute Award honourees, the ensemble of My Policeman, who will receive the TIFF Tribute Award for Performance presented by Polestar. More information on the 2022 TIFF Tribute Awards event and this year’s honourees will follow in the coming weeks.

The TIFF Tribute Awards have served as an awards-season bellwether, with past honourees such as Deakins, Waititi, Zhao, Jessica Chastain, Sir Anthony Hopkins, and Joaquin Phoenix going on to win awards on the international stage. The TIFF Tribute Awards honour the film industry’s outstanding contributors and their achievements, recognizing leading industry members, acting talent, directorial expertise, new talent, and a below-the-line artist and creator. The Awards event also serves as TIFF’s largest annual fundraiser to support TIFF’s Every Story fund, which promotes diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in film and TIFF’s core mission to transform the way people see the world through film. 

SAM MENDES: BIOGRAPHY 
Sam Mendes founded and ran the Donmar Warehouse in London for 10 years. He was the founding director of Neal Street Productions and The Bridge Project. His work has been seen at the National Theatre, RSC, Royal Court, Old Vic, Young Vic, BAM, the West End, and on Broadway. Films include American BeautyRoad to PerditionJarheadRevolutionary RoadAway We GoSkyfallSpectre, and 1917. Awards include the Academy Award for Best Director and Best Picture and three other Academy Award nominations, five BAFTA Awards, three Golden Globe Awards, three Tony Awards, five Olivier Awards, the Olivier Special Award, three Evening Standard Awards, two Directors Guild of America Awards, the PGA award, the Jason Robards Award, and the Hamburg Shakespeare Prize. He has also won the Director’s Guild Award for lifetime achievement. He is an Honorary Fellow of the National Film and Television School, and a fellow of Peterhouse, Cambridge. He was made a CBE in 2000 and knighted in 2020 for services to drama.

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