When I went to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in May of 2007, I was surprised at how overcome I was with emotion. Despite the fact that I wanted to be a film director from the age of nine, or that I wrote screenplays in my spare time, or that I studied film techniques like I should have studied math, the emotions I felt when I walked into that courtyard were almost overwhelming.
Walking around and taking pictures of the footprints I was choking back tears. Somehow, right up until that moment, it had not occurred to me that the historical significance of the place would have such meaning to me, an ordinarily incredibly sentimental person.
Attempting not to weep in public, I wandered to the corner of the courtyard. There, I found what every tourist who has ever been there found: a small wishing pool, pennies littering the bottom. On a plaque in the water there is a quote from Marilyn Monroe that reads, “I used to go to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and try to fit my foot in a celebrity impression. It really meant to me that anything is possible… almost.”
This quote on a small plaque had somehow perfectly captured everything I was feeling. I realized I was overwhelmed by what this place held of the past, but I was overcome by what it meant to the future.
In that moment I remembered weeping when Sally Field broke down at her daughter’s funeral in Steel Magnolias.
I remembered being head-over-heels in love when Patrick Swayze strode over and declared that, “No one puts Baby in the corner.”
I remembered the terror I felt when a Tyrannosaurus broke through the top of a car, almost crushing the children inside.
I remembered being rocked by The Commitments, wishing Wilson Pickett would just show up already.
I remembered the girl in the red dress in a sea of murder and people being shipped off to concentration camps.
I remembered every magical movie moment that I had ever laughed or cried at, and it all came crashing in at once.
I feel this way again, at least once, every year during TIFF.
Every year between the first Thursday and the second Sunday in September, the Toronto International Film Festival happens. Everyone in Toronto knows this. For some it’s because it is the most inconvenient time of the year, in which it becomes incredibly difficult to get a drink on King Street West or see a movie south of North York Centre. For others it is because it is the best 11 days of the year.
For me, it’s the latter. The first time I went to TIFF was when a woman I knew from work was looking to get rid of a ticket to the gala screening of Bobby. You’ll notice that wasn’t so long ago. I was a first timer, but she was a pro. She knew exactly where to stand in Roy Thompson Hall to see the stars come in the from the red carpet and get great pictures as they went to their seats. She knew how to elbow her way up the stairs afterwards to get the two only remaining good seats.
I thought the movie was good, but not everyone did, and I experienced for the first time the divergent opinions that appear after a festival film, when adrenaline is high and opinions are flying.
I was hooked. The following year I saw six films, increasing ever year until I attended the Festival as an accredited member of the media.
Every year TIFF brings us hundreds of films from all over the world. They programme the best and brightest from every possible country (including our own), and frequently bring us first looks at films that will be Oscar winners.
And yet, every year, the Festival takes a beating from naysayers. Each fall I hear the same refrain: once TIFF was a small festival that meant something, but now it’s just a slave to Hollywood and doesn’t really matter to anyone.
It’s not for me to defend the Festival, but these criticisms baffle me. Obviously the Festival means something; it is very well attended every year, by new festival goers and 10 year veterans alike. It must also mean something if the TIFF Audience Choice Award often goes on to dominate awards season. Filmmakers the world over submit their films because they understand the quality of the programmers who put the festival together, but also the discerning nature of the audiences who attend.
For me, however, it doesn’t matter what people say about TIFF. To me, TIFF is magic. The people who work for TIFF in every position in the organization do it because they love film. They love it like we love it and they dedicate themselves to bringing the best possible slate of films to us each and every year.
This year an equally tireless group of writers has feverishly seen almost 100 of those films. We strive to bring you honest and genuine opinions about the films being presented, and we did it as much for ourselves as we did for you.
We did it because TIFF is about magic moments and meeting our idols as much as it is about films we’ll never forget. We did it because TIFF means as much to the past as it does to the future. We did it because every year, for 11 days in September, TIFF makes us feel like anything is possible… almost.
See you at the Festival.
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