Get your first look at American Fiction, this year’s People’s Choice Award winner at the Toronto International Film Festival. MGM released the official trailer for American Fiction as it heads into awards season. The film marks the feature directorial debut of Cord Jefferson (TV’s Watchmen and Master of None) and adapts the novel Erasure by Percival Everett. American Fiction is the story of author Thelonious “Monk” Ellison (Jeffrey Wright) who struggles to get his work published and encounters outrageous racial stereotypes and reductive identity politics. However, he decides to beat the gatekeepers at their own game and spins a yarn that caters to publishers’ expectations for stories that reflect streetwise Black experiences told with a very specific flavour.
“There were so many overlaps with my personal life and things that I had been thinking about,” Jefferson said during a virtual press conference last week when asked what drew him to the book. “A piece of art has never resonated with me so deeply.”
Jefferson added that his satirical look at race relations doesn’t aim to wag the finger, but instead tries to invite people in by finding humorous ways to acknowledge our tendencies to over-simply complex issues of race and identity. “All we wanted to do was make a movie that raised these issues with a bit of levity,” he said.
Award Season Frontrunner
American Fiction is already drawing Oscar buzz following its coup at TIFF. The People’s Choice Award is often a key bellwether for Oscar favourites. Previous winners Nomadland (2020), Green Book (2018), 12 Years a Slave (2013), The King’s Speech (2010), and Slumdog Millionaire (2008) are among audience favourites that went on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture, while winners Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017) and The Fabelmans (2022) won the Golden Globe for Best Picture and were nominated for the top prize at the Oscars. Every other winner in recent years (La La Land, Jo Jo Rabbit, Belfast, Room) has won one of the top Oscars.
The film’s especially getting buzz for Wright’s performance. During the press conference, Jefferson noted that he had Wright in mind only 50 pages into reading the book. He likened Wright’s comedic side to the flipside of the dramatic chops that funnyman Bill Murray showed in films like Lost in Translation and Broken Flowers. “If you give people the right material, they will rise to the occasion,” Jefferson noted.