Sam Mendes, an Academy Award-winning filmmaker, has been named the recipient of the Ebert Director Award at the Toronto International Film Festivals. He will be honored for his life's work, but particularly for his upcoming documentary Empire of Light, which will premiere in Canada during the festival. Previous recipients include Martin Scorsese, Claire Denis, Wim Wenders, and Agnes Varda.
Mendes became a filmmaker for TIFF in 1999 with the world premiere of American Beauty, a beloved suburban comedy that won the TIFF Peoples Choice Award. That is often a bellwether for the Best Picture Academy Award, which American Beauty went on to win in early 2000.
Director Sam Mendes brought his ecstatic and lyrical vision of cinema to Toronto from his first appearance at TIFF with American Beauty, according to TIFF CEO Cameron Bailey. We are honored to recognize his unique voice and body of work with this years TIFF Ebert Director Award.
Mendes' first film since 1917 received him Best Picture and Best Director Oscar nominations in 2020. With the Broadway run of The Lehman Trilogy in 2021, the play won several Tony Awards earlier this year, including for Mendes' direction.
Empire of Light will be released by Searchlight Pictures on December 9 following its festival run. (An official Canadian premiere at TIFF means it is likely to have a world or at least North American premiere at Telluride in Colorado the prior weekend. Empire of Light isnt on the Venice Film Festival lineup.)
Empire of Light is billed as a moving tribute to cinema's magic in an English seaside town in the early 1980s. (Its rumored to be a far more intense experience than that vague logline promises.) The cast includes Olivia Colman, Micheal Ward, Tom Brooke, Tanya Moodie, Crystal Clarke, Toby Jones, and Colin Firth.
The cast of My Policeman would receive the other awards announced so far at the festival in Toronto.