Toronto: Damien Chazelle's 'La La Land' Captures Audience Award

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Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in ‘La La Land’ (Photo: Venice Film Festival)

Damien Chazelle’s La La Land has joined the search for the next Oscar front-runner out of the Toronto Film Festival after picking up the top People’s Choice award on Sunday.

La La Land, which stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone and bowed in Venice, was named the top audience prize winner in Toronto, which is often a barometer of future Academy Award nominations. The People’s Choice award is voted on by ordinary Toronto fest-goers, either with their ticket stubs placed in a box in a theater or with an online vote.

Related: ‘La La Land’: Venice Review

Chazelle’s follow-up to Whiplash is an L.A.-set musical about a couple of Hollywood strivers who fall in love. The Summit/Lionsgate release is set for a December opening.

Chazelle in a statement said he was overwhelmed by La La Land taking the top audience award in Toronto. “To make this movie was a dream come true, and to see it connect with Toronto audiences in this way is deeply gratifying. I wanted this film to speak in a way that even the most far-fetched dreams can guide us, and everything about this moment feels surreal,” he said.

Toronto ballots have traditionally chimed with the Academy voting, as previous Toronto Film Festival audience award winners like 12 Years a Slave, Slumdog Millionaire, and the Brie Larson-starrer Room last year rode a wave out of Toronto to Academy Awards glory after earning the People’s Choice award.

The first runner-up for the top audience award was the Dev Patel-starrer Lion, directed by Garth Davis and which bowed in Toronto, and the second runner up was Mira Nair’s Queen Of Katwe. Chazelle’s La La Land opened the Venice festival and had the coveted Friday afternoon Patron Preview slot in Telluride before arriving in Toronto, and gathered award season buzz along the way.

Related: ‘Queen of Katwe: Toronto Review

The People’s Choice award for best Midnight Madness sidebar title went to Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire, which stars Brie Larson. The first runner up was André Øvredal’s The Autopsy of Jane Doe, and the second runner up was Julia Ducournau’s Raw.

And the top audience award for a documentary was picked up by Raoul Peck’s I Am Not Your Negro, which is based on an unfinished James Baldwin novel. The second runner up was Fisher Stevens’ Before the Flood, and the first runner up is Steve James’ ABACUS: Small Enough to Jail.

Elsewhere, the Platform award for best international film was picked up by Jackie, by Pablo Larrain and starring Natalie Portman. And the NETPAC award for the best Asian film receiving a world or international premiere in Toronto was given to Maysaloun Hamoud’s In Between, an Arabic and Israeli language film about three Palestinian women living in Tel Aviv.

Mbithi Masya’s Kati Kati, a Kenya-Germany co-production, nabbed the FIPRESCI critics prize for the best title in the Discovery sidebar. And the FIPRESCI jury’s best Special Presentations program title went to I Am Not Madame Bovary, by Chinese director Fen Xiaogang, who accepted the prize via video link alongside lead Fan Bingbing from the San Sebastian festival.

Related: ‘Lion’: Toronto Review

The best Canadian feature film trophy went to Those Who Make Revolution Halfway Only Dig Their Own Graves, a three hour drama about a radical Quebec leftist cell in Montreal by directors Mathieu Denis and Simon Lavoie that had its world bow in Toronto.

And the best Canadian first feature film award was grabbed by Old Stone, a Mandarin language drama directed by Johnny Ma that debuted in Berlin and had a North American premiere in Toronto. The best Canadian short-film award went to Alexandre Dostie’s Mutants, while the best short film in the TIFF lineup was Imago, a first film by director Raymund Ribay Gutierrez.

‘La La Land’: Watch a trailer: