Mati Diop to receive inaugural Mary Pickford Award at Toronto International Film Festival

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Mati Diop. Photo by Huma Rosentalski

TORONTO — Director Mati Diop will receive the inaugural Mary Pickford Award supported by MGM Monday at the Toronto International Film Festival Tribute Gala.

The award, named in honor of Toronto native Mary Pickford, recognizes an emerging female talent who is making groundbreaking strides in the industry. Pickford was the pioneering actor, producer and co-founder of United Artists. The honor is being established in conjunction with United Artists’ centennial this year, according to a news release.

“Like Mary Pickford, Mati Diop has demonstrated her trial-blazing influence both in front of and behind the camera, making her the ideal inaugural awardee. We look forward to partnering with TIFF to honor Pickford’s legacy and United Artists in celebration of their 100th year,” said Jonathan Glickman, president of MGM Studios’ Motion Picture Group, in a statement.

The creation of the award follows TIFF’s continued commitment to championing women and diverse voices in front of and behind the camera.

“We’re thrilled to honour the incredible Mati Diop as our inaugural Mary Pickford Award recipient, as United Artists marks its centennial year,” said Joana Vicente, executive director and co-head of TIFF, in a statement. “She is a vibrant and important new voice within the industry and one to watch closely.”

Diop has directed the short films “Atlantiques” and “Big in Vietnam” and the documentary “A Thousand Suns” — all of which played TIFF — as well as the shorts ‘Snow Canon” and “Liberian Boy.” “A Thousand Suns “was presented by Claire Denis in 2013 as part of TIFF’s year-round Cinematheque programme.

As previously reported, Diop earlier this year became the first black female director to be accepted into the competition lineup in the 72-year history of France’s prestigious Cannes Film Festival. Her film “Atlantics,” which was based on the short “Atlantiques,” went on to win the prestigious Grand Prix at the festival.

“Atlantics,” written by Diop and Olivier Demangel, stars Mama Sané, Amadou Mbow, Ibrahima Traoré, Nicole Sougou, Amina Kane, Mariama Gassama, Coumba Dieng, Ibrahima Mbaye, and Diankou Sembene. It will have its North American premiere at TIFF and will be released by Netflix later this year. The film is produced by Les Films du Bal, Cinekap and FraKas.

“Mati Diop’s film ‘Atlantics’ is a profound and unsettling work of art,” said Cameron Bailey, artistic director and co-head of TIFF, in a statement. “We know this is just the start for such an original and authentic voice, and we’re delighted to celebrate her success at this year’s TIFF Tribute Gala.”

Of all TIFF’s titles in this year’s lineup, 36 percent are directed, co-directed, or created by women, and women comprise half the festival’s programming team, according to a news release. Following the organization’s signing of the 50/50×2020 pledge at last year’s festival, TIFF has worked to integrate responsible data management and practices to understand the diversity and inclusion of its film programming.

TIFF gave filmmakers the opportunity to self-identify to inform gender representation in the official selection. As part of TIFF’s Share Her Journey campaign, the organization will continue to provide more than 120 female creators free access to TIFF’s Industry Conference and year-round programming, according to the release.

The overall number of speakers at this year’s conference represents a 50/50 gender split, as do TIFF Talent Development initiatives such as TIFF Studio, Filmmaker Lab, and TIFF Rising Stars.

Mary Pickford was the highest-paid actor — male or female — during the late 1910s and was a savvy businesswoman who helped shape the industry as we know it today. In 1919, she revolutionized film distribution by partnering with Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks and D.W. Griffith to form United Artists. Pickford, who also went on to co-found what is today the Motion Picture & Television Fund and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, continued to be a part of United Artists through the early 1950s.

TIFF’s Mary Pickford Award will be supported by MGM Studios, whose retains the United Artist library as part of its global film and television library of content.

As previously reported, three-time Academy Award–winning actor Meryl Streep will receive the TIFF Tribute Actor Award sponsored by RBC; three-time Academy Award–nominated actor Joaquin Phoenix will receive the TIFF Tribute Actor Award; Taika Waititi will receive the TIFF Ebert Director Award; Participant Media will receive the TIFF Impact Award, accepted by Founder and Chairman Jeff Skoll and CEO David Linde; and Academy Award–winning cinematographer Roger Deakins will receive with the Variety Artisan Award.

The 44th Toronto International Film Festival starts Thursday and continues through Sept. 15. For more information, go to



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