By John H. Foote

While the death of Queen Elizabeth cast a shadowy pall over TIFF, the arrival of one man lit the dimmed lights with his mere presence.

Hollywood royalty arrived at TIFF this past week and stole the show, the entire festival revolved around Steven Spielberg. After the screening of his film The Fabelmans the talk of the festival was the film, easily the most personal of his career and among the finest films he has directed. Considering his filmography, that is indeed high praise. I fully expect Spielberg to be nominated for the ninth time as Best Director, and he might just win that third Academy Award.

TIFF climaxed early this early, never quite recovering from the staggering impact of Steven Spielberg bringing his first film here, his superb autobiographical The Fabelmans. Hefty standing ovations greeted the film, as it ended, the audiences clearly moved by the stunning work, delighting the beaming director and his cast and writer as they took to the stage afterwards for a short Q and A. (available on

The only film after to really compare with the screening of The Fabelmans was Sarah Polley’s seething, elegant Women Talking, which should also be a major player come Oscar time. Having not made a film for a decade, and recovering from a devastating head injury, Polley returns with a superb film, once again displaying her gifts and sublime intellect as a director.

But TIFF belonged to Spielberg. He cast a mighty long shadow, and I doubt anyone could have stepped out of it. Given the festival is a celebration of cinema, a film celebrating the growth of one of its greatest filmmakers took centre stage was rather perfect.

The Fabelmans explores his life as a boy and teen, being handed a movie camera by his mother, who saw in her son her own love of art and creating and encouraged him throughout his life. Portrayed by Michelle Williams in what is likely an Oscar winning supporting performance, it is a luminous piece of acting. As wonderful as she might be as a mother, she is a flawed human being, and Spielberg fearlessly explores discovering she was having an affair.

The movie is filled with fine performances, Williams especially but also the wonderful Judd Hirsch, and Paul Dano, both who could also land in the Oscar race.

Watching closely, it is not hard to pick out the moments that the director has immortalized in his films, plucked from his life.

A magnificent film, and the absolute frontrunner for Best Picture and Best Director at this moment. Awards season has arrived!

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