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TAFF announces 2020 award winners

The 2020 Toronto Arthouse Film Festival featured a great selection of 35 films – from narrative films and documentaries to experimental gems and music videos – hailing from Canada and around the globe. 


Unfortunately, this year's edition turned out a bit different than foreseen. The recent COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent restrictions issued by the Canadian government made the physical event impossible. Our primary concern is the health and safety of our guests, therefore we have decided to postpone the 2020 edition by a year. The TAFF team is very happy to confirm that the entire 2020 selection will be screened for the public during the fall of 2021, alongside next year's official selection.


In the meantime, the jury members have not been sitting still, but have been viewing each film and casting their votes. Today, the Toronto Arthouse Film Festival announces the award winners for 2020.


The prize for the Best Narrative Feature Film went to 'Obscure' (United States) by Kunlin Wang. 'Obscure' is a coming-of-age journey of a teenage boy who sexually awakens after discovering the sexual relationship between his father figure and sister figure. The sibling love and companionship, which once served to counterbalance familial strangeness, is now disturbed and gradually develops into a sexual attraction and desire.

'The Chef' (United States) by Hao Zheng received the award for Best Narrative Short Film. In the near future, when labor workers are being replaced by humanoids, Chinese chef Pu is ordered to pass on his cooking skill to humanoid robot William and teach him Chinese cooking. Designed to satisfy his owner, William tries to follow Pu’s every instruction, but his robotic demand for precision and perfection is essentially contradictory to Chinese cooking. At the same time, protests against AI replacing human labor become more intense. Qiang, Pu’s apprentice, is one of the protestors. As Qiang disappoints Pu time and time again with his cooking, Pu starts to get closer to William, which pushes him away from human beings. Pu becomes at a loss in this dilemma.

Best Documentary Feature Film went to 'Mentally Al' (United States) by Joshua Edelman. A character study of, “the funniest comedian you’ve never heard of,” and an exploration of how we define artistic success, 'Mentally Al' follows Al Lubel, a former Star Search grand champion as he struggles to get by, perpetually broke and sleeping on friends couches, as he continues to pursue his artistic dreams into his sixties.

'Wisemen, God, and Wednesday' (Canada) by Sam Luk was awarded with Best Documentary Short Film. Samwise and Stevie grew up with homelessness in BC and Nova Scotia. Ianos is a gender-queer Greek. Kwaku is a single father who came from extreme poverty and famine.

'Freeze Frame' (Belgium) by Soetkin Verstegen won the prize for Best Animated Film. Freeze frame: the most absurd technique since the invention of the moving image. Through an elaborate process of duplicating the same image over and over again, it creates the illusion of stillness. In this stop motion film, identical figures perform the hopeless task of preserving blocks of ice, like archivists. The repetitive movements reanimate the animals captured inside.

The award for Best Experimental Film was for 'Darkness of Otherwhere' (Japan) by Ayoub Qanir. A young woman gets emotionally caught in a voyeuristic game on the dark shades of Tokyo only to reveal a darker past of her own.

Best Music Video went to 'Going to Beyond' (Canada) by Kalli Paakspuu. 'Going to Beyond' is based on the song, "Üle Toonela tumeda vee" (“Over the Dark Waters to Toone”) and is about going to the land of the dead in the Finno-Ugric mythology. Sung by singers that were recent refugees in Toronto and conducted by Maestro Roman Toi in 1954, this film is a creative treatment of the emotional story of leaving everything that is known; It tells the singers' story of despair and renewal.

'Moto' (Canada) by Brian Dale Sokolowski received the award for Best Canada Based Filmmaker. A 2 ½ minute filmic essay shot at a pro national motocross race in Southwick, Massachusetts, in which the director recalls a death he witnessed during teenage years spent racing dirt bikes.

And last but not least, Best Toronto Based Filmmaker was awarded to 'Zeen?' (Canada) by Calyx Passailaigue. Chad is a pretentious white Jamaican film director. With his ragtag Caribbean cast and crew, he aims to shoot a highbrow social drama called “Brothers in Babylon”.


Do you have a personal vision? Are you a true independent filmmaker? Do you hate making compromises? The Toronto Arthouse Film Festival welcomes filmmakers who explore and develop new filmmaking conventions in their quest to realise their visions effectively on a limited budget. The Toronto Arthouse Film Festival is dedicated to showcasing innovative and exciting work by risk-taking filmmakers from around the world. Aesthetically and thematically varied, these films mark the arrival of exciting new directing talents.


We hope you stay healthy and safe, and are looking forward to seeing you all next year for a double edition of the Toronto Arthouse Film Festival!

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