It’s that time of year again!
The red carpets come out, the lights go up, and the streets of Canada’s biggest city fill with people eager to take in the newest and most anticipated films from around the world – it’s the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). Taking place in Toronto from Sept. 6 to 16 at multiple venues throughout the downtown Toronto area, this year’s festival promises to evoke emotions and reactions both unexpected and familiar.
Second in prestige only to the Cannes Film Festival, TIFF has a long history of bringing the most thought provoking, imaginative, and innovative films to a Canadian audience for the first time. The first festival was held in 1976; it was known as the Festival of Festivals and had a total turnout of 35,000 people.
Over the years, the festival would grow to become a vital platform for new cinema and to this day TIFF remains popular with filmmakers from around the world. A public eager for the best in contemporary cinema, the international media attention and its ability to generate “Oscar buzz” has made TIFF one of the most successful cinema events in the world and the most anticipated film festival in North America. Attendance in the last few years has exceeded 260,000.
Boosting TIFF’s popularity among filmmakers and artists alike is the non-competitive nature of the festival. At the Cannes Film Festival attendance is by invitation only and films compete against each other for esteemed awards. The People’s Choice Award is the most prestigious award TIFF bestows and a panel of film experts does not determine the winner. The People’s Choice Award goes to the film with the highest rating as voted by festival attendees.
This year, 372 films are due to be shown at the festival and to make things simpler for festival goers, the films are all divided into categories which are officially called programmes. Gala Presentations, TIFF Docs, Special Presentations, and Vanguard are just a few of the many programmes listed. Now, I could go through the categories and describe what kinds of films are included in each but I’m not going to do that. I am neither a film critic nor a theatre professional so I’ve decided to come up with a few categories of my own.
The most WTF films
Bardo Light – A young man is accused of killing his father, but he claims the real killer is the television set. Weird, no?
The ABCs of Death – This one is a collaboration of two dozen horror directors, and consists of twenty-six ways to die in alphabetical order.
My Awkward Sexual Adventure – An accountant makes a deal with a stripper; he’ll help her get out of debt and she’ll help him become better in bed.
Canoejacked – Two escaped convicts form an unlikely friendship with a nudist who owns a canoe. A Canadian twist on the clichéd prison break movie.
Serious, thought-provoking types
Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God – This documentary explores the issue of pedophilia in the Catholic Church, starting from small-town churches in the U.S. and going right up to the Vatican.
No Place on Earth – This film, also in the TIFF Docs category, tells the story of 38 Ukrainian Jews who lived underground for eighteen months in order to survive the Second World War.
High-profile, red carpet extravaganzas
On The Road (Kirsten Dunst, Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart) – Based on Jack Kerouac’s novel of the same name, a group of kids take to the road to explore life.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Ezra Miller, Emma Watson) – A classic coming-of-age story. A shy teenager is coaxed out of his shell by a kind teacher and two wild friends. I’m convinced that I’ll love this film just because Emma Watson is in it.
So what’s the bottom line here, you ask? Well, if you happen to be anywhere near the Toronto area in the next week or so, stop by and see a film or at the very least, see if you can spot someone famous. And if not, TIFF is something you should definitely be aware of. The fact that the second most prestigious film festival in the world is Canadian is something to be pretty proud of.
For more information about TIFF, go to www.tiff.net/thefestival.