Happy New Year, Toronto! Having crawled out of our sleepy den of the holiday season, we at Toronto Film Scene took a few minutes to look back at the year 2010 in a city packed to the gills with film. It’s easy to forget from one year to the next just how juicy and delicious the film buffet is, so below are the 10 most notable, interesting, innovative, and important film goings-on in Toronto in the last 12 months presented for your reading pleasure in chronological order.
The first annual Toronto Silent Film Festival
Since Toronto is so full of film and film historians, it was only a matter of time before a festival dedicated to the silent origins of the medium would have cropped up. Brilliantly put together by festival director Shirley Hughes, the Toronto Silent Film Festival brought back a number of forgotten classics complete with live music. This festival will return in 2011, running from March 30 to April 7. These classics are not the yawn-inducing napfests you may believe them to be, especially in the face of the Hollywood blockbusters of today ( Inception anyone?), but are instead the bedrock of today’s cinema and totally worth your time. Check out this festival next year for certain.
Toronto Underground Cinema
The hot-bed of Kung-fu cinema in Toronto, the former Golden Classics theatre, re-opened its doors this year reinvented as the Toronto Underground Cinema. With events like the Adam West’s Batman screening and Q&A, as well as a small-scale redux-ed version of The Wright Stuff, a series of films curated by Edgar Wright, the Underground has been making waves in the repertory theatre market in the city. Looking forward to seeing what they do in 2011.
Carlton Cinema reopens
Many despaired at the closing of the Carlton Cinema in December of 2009, but the despair did not last for long with the announcement that Magic Lantern Theatres had purchased the theatre with plans to keep it open and showing the independent films that made the space such a beloved part of the Toronto film landscape. Its subsequent re-opening in the summer that included two days of free screenings was well attended. The refurbished seats, sound system and general environs leaves Toronto with no excuse not to go out and see those independent and foreign films that make this one of the best places to live for cinephiles.
The first BITE ME! International Body Image Film and Arts Festival
When we ran across this festival announcement in an NFB newsletter we quickly hopped on it to support. Not only was it a smart idea, run by smart people, but it was a festival that aimed to educate while entertaining. Focusing heavily on the education and interaction portion of what the festival experience has to offer, with after screening discussions and day-long workshops for youth, this was a solid entry into the already overcrowded festival landscape in Toronto. The BITE ME! Festival took on a fierce enemy in the body image department and did it with class and style. The second annual BITE ME! Festival will occur from July 8-10, 2011. We’re really looking forward to the next one. Don’t let this festival disappear, so add this to your schedule for July.
The opening of TIFF Bell Lightbox
After 35 years in Toronto, TIFF finally has a permanent, year round home. TIFF Bell Lightbox opened on September 12, 2010 and has already brought more than its estimated film value to this city. With a permanent exhibition space, a gift shop, two restaurants, five cinemas, reasonably priced concessions and a mandate to provide the best in film programming every day of the year, it is truly the film powerhouse TIFF always dreamed it would be. Here at TFS we’re kind of TIFF Bell Lightbox evangelists. We screamed from every possible rooftop how wonderful this space is and will continue to do so.
The Essential Cinema exhibition and screening series
TIFF released its Essential 100 list on May 14, 2010. The result of both an expert panel and public poll of the 100 films they feel are “essential cinema,” and striking a balance between “best” and “most influential”, the list has been contested by many and TIFF has taken heat for the choices (including a little from us). Rather than create a list and send it out to be dinner party debate fodder for many years to come, TIFF took it to the next level and engaged interested film lovers and passive moviegoers alike by creating a fully immersive Essential 100 experience. The Essential Cinema exhibition opened TIFF Bell Lightbox’s gallery space and started a three month long screening series of as many of the 100 films as they were able to get prints for. The exhibition included some innovative new works, as well as featured artifacts and memorabilia from the 100. It was truly the only conceivable way to open TIFF Bell Lightbox and was a testament to the organization that TIFF is.
Le Cyc , the graphic novel bike-opera
In September, the artist collective Polydactyl Hearts released the DVD of their graphic novel bike-opera, Le Cyc and performed the piece live in Toronto. Le Cyc is the story of a city powered by the bike pedaling of its citizens, but is run by an evil overlord who rigs the supposed democratic bike race to choose the city’s leader. The piece is rich in symbolism, is brilliantly scored and is a DVD everyone should own — especially now that the City of Toronto has essentially declared war on bikes. Its release here was truly a testament to the notion that Toronto will accept all film creations, even those made of drawings with India ink, coffee and wine. Wait, that should read especially those made of drawing with India Ink, coffee and wine.
The Reel Asian Industry Series
Part of the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival, the industry series is an integral part of this festival’s unique and multicultural viewpoint. While the festival itself focuses on Asian films, subject matter and filmmakers, it serves a larger purpose in showcasing the inherent blending of cultures here in Toronto. This year’s industry series included a number of panels that drove to the heart of this, while allowing both the public and the industry to get a peek at how international issues and culture can become local.
Resurrection of the Toronto Film Challenge
The Toronto Film Challenge — 24- and 48-hour film challenges, respectively — came back strong after a two-year hiatus with a new round of the 48-hour Film Challenge. This competition came complete with great local judges and a wonderful opportunity to make a film on a micro level with macro possibilities. The event took place in November this year and we’re looking forward to the next installment. We missed this and we’re glad it’s back.
The Tim Burton visual art exhibition and screening series
Immediately following the success of the opening of TIFF Bell Lightbox’s gallery space with Essential Cinema, TIFF brought to Toronto the much anticipated celebration of Tim Burton’s visual artwork. Newly commissioned works from Tim Burton Studios, a wealth of drawings and sculptures, an associated film series brilliantly and thoughtfully curated by Jesse Wente (including 36 hours of all Burton’s films shown in chronological order with no breaks — an event unique in the world), and a visit from Burton himself, this exhibition is not only a delight for film lovers, but only a taste of the potential that TIFF and their new space has.