Issue: September 2015 - The TIFF Issue

Theatrical evolution: a history of TIFF ‘s relationship to Yonge and Bloor

Toronto is changing. Nowhere is it clearer than in the downtown core. Large parts of the city’s centre are being torn down and rebuilt, notably Regent Park. Industrial lands are being transformed into condos, such as CitySpace, Liberty Village and the Distillery, and thanks to the recent PanAm Games, our waterfront is finally getting attention. Perhaps the biggest change is the Yonge Street strip, particularly between Dundas and Bloor. Nestled between what was once hippie Yorkville to the north and Toronto’s seedy underbelly to the south, this part of Yonge contained old, decrepit buildings, seedy massage parlours, and dive bars. These areas have transformed, replaced by posh shopping districts and civic squares. With the opening of the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival just days away, it seems appropriate to explore the festival’s relationship with the Yonge/Bloor intersection, paying particular attention to its use of movie theatres. Sadly, these buildings are no longer standing, but by exploring the history of TIFF venues, we can understand Toronto’s evolution from a quaint bedroom community to a growing international cosmopolitan centre. In the past decade, the south side of Bloor at Yonge has undergone enormous transformation. On the southwest corner, Strollerys, a men’s fashion store that’s been in business for over a century, sold its equally old building to condo developers who plan to build an 80-storey condo development; on the southeast corner construction...

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Who is the Canadian Tom Hardy? A City to City match game

This year, the Toronto International Film Festival is focusing its City to City programme on one of the world’s most renowned cultural centres: London. The pairing makes sense, since London and Toronto have much in common: both are world-class hubs for film culture and media; both have recently hosted large athletic competitions; and both have amazing subway systems. (Okay, maybe London has the edge with city transit.) Regardless, as filmmaking hubs just out of Hollywood’s grasp, England and Canada have a wealth of talented actors and directors. As Toronto prepares to welcome London’s finest new filmmakers, TFS wanted to see if we could match English and Canadian talent. Who is the Canadian counterpart to British director Danny Boyle or actor Tom Hardy? Read on to find out. Xavier Dolan and Andrew Haigh   It’s hard to think of two Western writers/directors today making such sensitive, sly, achingly real films about the LGBT community. Dolan and Haigh are attuned to the complexities of being young and gay, telling stories about characters trying to figure out their freedoms and limitations in mainstream society. Meanwhile, both have recently left their homes (Quebec and north England, respectively) to work on projects in the United States. Haigh was a writer, director and producer on the superb, short-lived HBO drama Looking. Dolan is now directing The Death and Life of John F. Donovan, starring Jessica...

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For the love of short film: why filmmakers choose short film to tell a story

Short filmmaking is an art form worthy of celebration. It’s not only a place for artists to get their work noticed, but for some, it is a way to have fun and challenge the artistic medium. These films often tackle themes and narratives of a socio-cultural and political context, which shape and influence how we experience ourselves, and the world around, us via film. Frequently, short filmmaking also has a community aspect among artists and filmmakers. In developing this identity, new ways are established to get filmmakers recognized for the positive aspects of their craft. Creating a short film is often a necessary stepping-stone for any first-time filmmaker. Numerous notable directors, such as Tim Burton (Frankenweenie), Wes Anderson (Bottle Rocket) and Paul Thomas Anderson (Coffee and Cigarettes), received their starts early on making short films. Often produced on a limited budget by emerging filmmakers, the art of short film can transform and transcend traditional filmmaking and storytelling. With running times under 40 minutes (which is the industry standard), short films span every style and genre imaginable. Animation or live action, documentary, horror, drama and even experimental, nothing is off limits. This freedom is certainly an enticing aspect to directors, who use these works to gain experience and/or prove their talent, in order to gain funding for future endeavours. I’ve learned to love the form. I think there are stories...

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Rolling out the red carpet: veteran TIFF volunteer Judith MacLean

Volunteers are the backbone of most major cultural organizations like the Toronto International Film Festival; it simply cannot function without them. TIFF has one of the largest volunteer databases in the world for an annual event, numbering around 3,500 strong. Many of these volunteers have been involved with the festival for years, often having more experience than many of the staff. Judith MacLean is one such volunteer, who after 22 years, continues to be an enthusiastic TIFF volunteer. Judith became involved with TIFF in the early ’90s, volunteering to assist a friend at the late Uptown Theatre. She only did a couple of shifts, but “really enjoyed the experience and excitement at the Uptown, and decided it was something I wanted to do. The following year, I called and asked to volunteer at the Uptown for the festival. That was my official start, which I think was 1993. I had done a lot of volunteer work in various Arts organizations in Toronto — the National Ballet and the Canadian Opera Company — and thought the film festival would be a fun way to get involved. I have so many great memories from the Uptown. One of my favourite is sitting on the stairs of the Uptown with Lynn Redgrave, talking about her visit to Toronto and the movie she was in, Gods and Monsters, in 1998.” I called and...

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How to festival politely: a TIFF etiquette guide

So, you want to attend a screening at the Toronto International Film Festival. If you’ve never been to TIFF, you may erroneously believe it’s just another day at the movies, but you’d be wrong. Screenings at TIFF are an inimitable experience: there’s a great deal of activity behind the scenes, the crowds are staggering and the high concentration of celebrities electrifies the city for two full weeks. In the midst of all this excitement, there are plenty of opportunities for etiquette faux pas, awkward encounters and other poor behaviour. You’re likely a pretty cool person, but even the most refined of us are prone to etiquette missteps now and then. Whether this is your first time attending the festival or you’re a seasoned veteran, we’re here to get you through the unique TIFF journey with grace and aplomb that would make Emily Post proud. This essential TIFF etiquette guide takes you through everything from ticket purchasing to post-screening Q&As. But before we begin, let’s get this out of the way: turn your cellphone off. Don’t be that person; everyone hates that person. 1. Be prepared. The first step in your odyssey is getting your hands on some tickets. This can be a bit stressful, as tickets sell fast and TIFF has a unique selection process. This brings us to our first pointer: be prepared! Knowing what to expect, and...

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The thrill of discovery: elements of a great festival film

In the film world, most people have a general sense of what a festival movie is, even if it’s usually an ephemeral idea instead of a concrete one. It’s kind of like pornography: you know it is when you see it. Moreover, while it’s generally easy to identity a festival film, it’s often hard to pin down what constitutes a great one. What exactly is the difference between an excellent festival film and a bad one? What elements are present in great festival films that make them so? And are these the same sorts of elements found in successful films in the multiplex? There are no straightforward answers to these questions. The notion of what makes great art is often difficult to pin down and just like any great work, there are a variety of ways of achieving significance. However, when discussing great festival films there are some notable qualities that are present across the board. Namely: great festival films are always surprising and essential. They are often low budget or debut completely out of nowhere, avoiding our usual radars. They can announce the arrival of a new talent or redefine the way we see an old one. They often tap into cultural themes that speak to the way we live our lives in the here and now. Above all, great festival films electrify an audience — they mine...

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TIFF 2015 introduces a Platform for the best in film

One of the unique traits of the Toronto International Film Festival has always been that the audience, not a jury of filmmakers, critics, and academics, determines its top prize. After every festival screening, viewers can vote for the film they like best to determine the winner of the People’s Choice Award, which is theoretically a coveted indicator of future Oscar glory. However, in its 40th incarnation, TIFF is changing this manner of determining the best film at the festival — sort of. It just depends upon your definition of “best.” TIFF has introduced Platform, a new programme that seeks to remedy the issues with a crowd-sourced top prize while drawing attention to a carefully curated selection of international cinema. Named after Jia Zhang-ke’s 2000 film, Platform is a juried selection of 12 films that will play between Thursday, September tenth, 2015 and Thursday, September 17, 2015. Each film will run at the Elgin Theatre and a Q&A will follow each screening with the director, moderated by a respected film critic. Unique to the programme will also be the fact that each first screening will be simultaneously shown to press, industry and normal festivalgoers. This means there will be no press or industry screenings beforehand. Once the films screen, a three-person jury will determine the winner of the Platform prize and award the winning director $25,000 on Sunday, September 20,...

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