LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Steven Spielberg’s new film “The Fabelmans” earned its spot as the first Academy Awards nominee Sunday by winning the first prize at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Coming in theaters in November, “The Fabelmans” is a semi-autobiographical drama based on Spielberg’s childhood, covering his parents’ troubled marriage, anti-Semitic bullying, and his early efforts to make off-budget films with his teenage friends.

It was warmly received by the audience at its world premiere last weekend at the Toronto Film Festival, better known as TIFF.
“As I said on stage last night, I am above all happy to have brought this film to Toronto,” Spielberg said in a statement on Sunday.

“This is the most personal movie I’ve made and the warm reception from everyone in Toronto was my first visit to TIFF so intimate and personal to me and my entire ‘Fabelman’ family.”

The audience voted for the People’s Choice Award at North America’s largest film festival, and went on to become an early Academy Award winner, predicting eventual Academy Award winners as Best Picture as “Nomadland” in 2020.

Spielberg, considered one of Hollywood’s greatest living directors, won three Oscars: Best Picture, Best Director for “Schindler’s List” and Best Director again for “Saving Private Ryan.”
It has been nominated for 19 Academy Awards so far, and is expected to add to that number at next year’s Academy Awards, on March 12 in Los Angeles.

Toronto’s last 10 People’s Choice Awards winners were nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, with three of them winning an Academy Award, including 2019’s surprise winner, “The Green Book.”

“12 Years a Slave” (2013), “The King’s Speech” (2010) and “Slumdog Millionaire” (2008) began their journeys to Oscar glory with a Toronto award.

At the movie’s premiere last weekend, Spielberg told a spirited audience how he had long wanted to make a very personal movie, but was ultimately driven by “fear” of the pandemic.
“I don’t think anyone knew in March or April 2020 what was going to be a state of the art, a state of life, even a year from then,” Spielberg said.

“I just felt that if I were to leave anything behind, what is the thing that I really need to unravel and break up my nation, my father, and my sisters?”
“It wasn’t now or it never happened, but it almost felt that way,” said the 75-year-old director.

Among the Toronto runners-up were Sarah Polley’s “Women Talking” and Rian Johnson’s “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.”

The top documentary award went to Hubert Davies’ Black Ice, a Canadian film about historical racism in the professional ice hockey world.
The Toronto festival, known for its large film crowds and A-list stars, has been hard hit by the pandemic, but this year saw packed crowds and red carpets return.