STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
The season of movie awards has begun. Yesterday the Toronto International Film Festival awarded the People's Choice Award to "Green Book," the true story of a black classical pianist and his white driver on a 1960s concert tour.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "GREEN BOOK")
MAHERSHALA ALI: (As Don Shirley) Do you foresee any issues in working for a black man?
VIGGO MORTENSEN: (As Tony Lip) You in the Deep South - there's going to be problems.
INSKEEP: That is just one film at the Toronto festival attended by NPR critic Bob Mondello.
BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: With nearly 350 features and shorts and attendance far above half a million, the Toronto International Film Fest is easily the largest in North America. Because of its timing, it can also be influential. Previous winners of the Grolsch Award include such Oscar contenders as "12 Years A Slave" and "La La Land." And this year, the competition included new films from the directors of both those movies. Director Steve McQueen was back with the socially conscious heist drama "Widows" starring Viola Davis.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "WIDOWS")
ELIZABETH DEBICKI: (As Alice) Why should we trust you anyway?
VIOLA DAVIS: (As Veronica) Because I'm the only one standing between you and a bullet in your head.
MONDELLO: And director Damien Chazelle teamed up again with his "La La Land" leading man, Ryan Gosling, to tell the story of Neil Armstrong's Apollo moon landing in "First Man."
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "FIRST MAN")
RYAN GOSLING: (As Neil Armstrong) You're down here and you look up, and you don't think about it too much. But space exploration changes your perception.
MONDELLO: Also attracting attention at the fest an updated "A Star Is Born" with Lady Gaga in a role previously associated with Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand and the two Grolsch Award runners-up - Roma, a black-and-white story inspired by director Alfonso Cuaron's childhood in Mexico, and a love story/social critique from "Moonlight's" director, Barry Jenkins, based on James Baldwin's novel "If Beale Street Could Talk."
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK")
STEPHAN JAMES: (As Alonzo Hunt) I love you. You know that.
KIKI LAYNE: (As Tish Rivers) I do. And I understand what you're going through because I'm with you.
MONDELLO: Other films centered on headline issues from high-profile stories of drug addiction to films about politics and women and diversity. Just days after the Venice Film Fest fielded a competition slate of 21 movies with only one woman director represented, Toronto boasted that women had made 34 percent of the movies it screened.
And there was a push to broaden coverage at the festival as well. Film critics are overwhelmingly white and male. At the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the ratio of top white male critics to top female critics is more than 30 to 1. So festival organizers added more than 200 new film writers to its list of attendees. And in case anyone missed the point, they included a documentary about Hollywood gender imbalance called "This Changes Everything."
I'm Bob Mondello.
(SOUNDBITE OF DO MAKE SAY THINK'S "BOUND AND BOUNDLESS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.