About This Festival
A VIP Event
Can't get to Cannes International Film Festival this May to mingle with movie stars? The film industry offers another celeb-studded option, and you don't need a yacht to access it. The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) takes place each September, bringing Hollywood VIPs to Canada's largest city for 11 days of glamour and gleaming white teeth.
George Clooney, Julianne Moore and Johnny Depp jetted in for the 2015 event. So did Penelope Cruz, Kate Winslet, Matt Damon and Helen Mirren. And it's not just actors – big-name directors play the game here, too. Ridley Scott, Michael Moore and Stephen Frears were among those who hit the red carpet most recently. They all come to generate buzz for their films, many of which premiere at TIFF.
Toronto's soiree is a huge affair in the film biz. Industry people arrive from around the globe. More than 300 movies screen. Many have star power, but more are low-budget films from independent makers in, say, Laos or Qatar or Morocco. Buyers scope out the wares, looking for the next blockbuster. Producers work the circuit, hoping to make a sale. Everyone networks, and deals are struck. What's $10 million or so between new friends?
The action centers on TIFF Bell Lightbox, the festival's glassy-mod complex in downtown Toronto. The chic building holds learning studios, a film library, exhibition galleries and five cinemas. Big-shot parties take over the onsite bar, restaurant and rooftop terrace, where Al Pacino, Natalie Portman and the like rub elbows over cocktails.
Theaters in the surrounding Entertainment District also host events, and a couple are particularly prime for stargazing. Nearby Roy Thomson Hall (the symphony's home base) is the main venue for TIFF's galas – i.e., the mega premieres where A-listers walk the red carpet. Fans can wait behind a barrier, and stars typically will come by and sign autographs once they leave their limos. The Princess of Wales Theatre is another gala site and sweet spot to snap photos with Hollywood glitterati.
Prefer to ogle stars in a stealthier manner? Actors often do interviews with the press at the fancy hotels around TIFF, so a walk through the lobby of the Intercontinental, Shangri-La, or Ritz-Carlton might pay off with a celebrity sighting or two.
TIFF separates the 300-plus films it shows into different categories including:
- Gala and Special Presentation – This covers the high-powered features with famous directors and movie stars.
- Midnight Madness – It's a series horror, action and future cult classics that unspool in fun late-night screenings.
- City to City – Each year TIFF picks a region to focus on. In 2015 it was films from and set in London, England; in 2014 it was Seoul, South Korea.
- Kids – Pint-sized cinephiles get their own slate of movies to watch, from animated adventures to coming-of-age stories from Japan, Sweden, France and elsewhere around the globe.
- Documentaries, experimental films, shorts and Canadian-made pictures are spotlighted, as well.
Besides movies screenings, the festival presents 50 or so sessions by speakers who are creative innovators and business visionaries. It's the practical side for filmmakers who want to learn how to "Monetize a Short on the Open Market" or the ins and outs of "Financing Female-Led Films."
TIFF's public component takes place on Festival Street, aka the road that runs by the Lightbox. It is closed to traffic during the first part of the fest and transformed into a free street fair with live music, cinema-inspired art installations and food trucks.
Awards and History
TIFF gives out a slew of awards, but the top prize is the People's Choice Award. Past winners include Room (2015), The Imitation Game (2014), 12 Years a Slave (2013) and Silver Linings Playbook (2012).
The festival has been going on for 40 years. It started in 1976, when some 35,000 film buffs lined up to see 127 flicks. By 2015, the numbers had grown to almost a half million moviegoers viewing well over 300 films.