Taika Waititi.
Taika Waititi. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Fox Searchlight

Academy Award–nominated New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi will be honored with the TIFF Ebert Director Award at this year’s new TIFF Tribute Gala awards event taking place during the 44th Toronto International Film Festival. The award recognizes and honors a distinguished filmmaker for their outstanding contribution to cinema. .

“Taika Waititi is one of the most innovative, bold, and exciting filmmakers working in the industry right now,” said Joana Vicente, Co-Head of TIFF. “TIFF is thrilled to honor his extraordinary talent with the inaugural TIFF Ebert Director Award.”

“Taika Waititi is the rock star cinema needs right now,” said Cameron Bailey, Co-Head of TIFF. “His films are full of razor-sharp humor, faultless style, and boundless generosity. Somehow he manages to stuff both indie hits and massive crowd-pleasers with big, radical ideas. We’re thrilled to be premiering his latest, Jojo Rabbit, at the Festival and to hand over the inaugural TIFF Tribute Award for direction to this 21st-century master.”

Waititi directed the superhero film Thor: Ragnarok, which made over $850 million at the box office worldwide, and will write and direct the upcoming Thor: Love and Thunder. His films as writer-director also include Boy and Hunt for the Wilderpeople, and he co-wrote, co-directed, and co-starred in What We Do in the Shadows with Jemaine Clement. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his short Two Cars, One Night. Waititi’s upcoming anti-hate satire Jojo Rabbit, starring Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Rebel Wilson, Stephen Merchant, Alfie Allen, Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johansson, and Waititi himself, will have its world premiere at TIFF and will be released by Fox Searchlight on October 18, 2019.

The TIFF Ebert Director Award is an evolution of the organization’s former Roger Ebert Golden Thumb Award, which celebrated a remarkable filmmaker who reflected renowned film critic Roger Ebert’s passion for cinema. Past recipients include Claire Denis, Martin Scorsese, Ava DuVernay, Agnès Varda, and Wim Wenders. 

TIFF previously announced that three-time Academy Award–winning actor Meryl Streep will receive the TIFF Tribute Actor Award, sponsored by RBC, and that Participant Media will receive the TIFF Impact Award at the Gala, accepted by Founder and Chairman Jeff Skoll and CEO David Linde. One other recipient of the TIFF Tribute Actor Award will be announced in the coming weeks, in addition to the recipient of the inaugural Mary Pickford Award, honoring a female emerging talent in the industry in celebration of United Artists’ 100th anniversary.

The 44th Toronto International Film Festival runs September 5 to 15, 2019.

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