Toronto International Film Festival: Come for the Movies, Stay for the Parties
Post Labour Day marks the start of a very busy fall events season beginning in early September with the star-studded Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). The largest public film festival in the world (national pride moment), screening over 300 films during its 11-day run, TIFF annually brings in a host of international media, A-list celebrities and no shortage of entertainment. Between the movies, the music, the fashion and the late night parties, there are a number of ways to “do” TIFF.
The world premiere screening of Looper was the first sci-fi film to open the festival and a rare US-China co-production, bringing Bruce Willis, so-hot-right-now Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Emily Blunt to the stage (and screen). Somewhere between past, future and present it falls amongst the stylings of movies such as Memento and Inception with twists and turns that will keep you on the edge of your seat throughout. The buzz post film was mixed–some loved it, some found it “unrealistic” (did they really need to alter JGL’s face to look more like Willis?) but it is definitely one to keep you entertained.
The following evening I caught the gala screening of Argo, a real life hero saga depicting a previously secret CIA mission to extract six U.S. citizens from Iran during the 1979 hostage crisis. Short of some backlash on certain liberties they may have taken altering the storyline – seems the Canadian government’s involvement was not highlighted in true form – this movie really hit it out of the park and marked Ben Affleck as a bona fide director. Affleck is now said to be rectifying the situation for his new bud and real life protagonist Ken Taylor with changes to the film for mass release.
West of Memphis on Saturday resulted in a daytime mob of fans surrounding the appearance of Johnny Depp (including full-costumed pirates), who spoke post film and has long been one of the many celebrity advocates for the West Memphis 3 – the boys who were wrongfully accused of murder and sentenced to life in prison. As far as documentaries go, Oscar-winning filmmaker Amy Berg does a great job of highlighting new evidence through captivating interviews and footage in this latest film (there have been a number of previous takes on the subject including the Paradise Lost series). Throw in huge support from top celebrities like Peter Jackson, Eddie Vedder, Natalie Maines and of course Johnny, and you have the makings of a movement.
Causing grown men to weep in public (not naming names), Amour was absolutely beautiful and thoroughly depressing. Make sure you have plans for a hot tea and a warm bath post film – you will need the recovery time. An unconventional work by Michael Haneke, which won him the Palme d’Or at Cannes, this story about marriage, aging and facing mortality is simple yet masterfully executed. As far as I’m concerned, any movie that sparks such strong genuine emotion in its viewer is grade-A material. Oscar, perhaps?
A Royal Affair was brilliant. I love a good period piece with opulent costumes, and this one happens to be based on the true story of King Christian VII – a whole other side of (Dutch) royalty I never knew! Surprisingly much more sexy than I had anticipated, and at times even funny, with comic interludes by the “off-kilter” king played by Mikkel Følsgaard this thoroughly engaging story of, you guessed it, a royal affair between the anointed Danish Queen and the king’s oddly attractive German country doctor means Enlightenment values (Rousseau-style) act as catnip for lovers, reform and ultimately betrayal.
More Buzz: The Place Behind the Pines, Rebelle, Rust and Bone, Reality, Midnight’s Children, Anna Karenina
So, Soho House Toronto. This newly minted Toronto membership club was the place to be if you were looking to party with the A-list. Fresh off construction, Soho House was home to a vast majority of the most exclusive screening afterparties and became a feeding ground for celeb sightings with everyone from Kate Hudson, Matt Damon, Bruce Willis and Jake Gyllenhaal in attendance. Even recluse Kristen Stewart came out to play for her first public appearance since “the incident”. The other new hot spot on the block for post- and pre-screenings was the Shangri-La (great rooftop patio!) where Toronto Life held their first Most Stylish party on opening night and amfAR held their big bash the following evening.
Some Key Tools for Navigating the Festival
Pre-TIFF Talks. If you can score an invite to TIFF’s official Insider Event this is a must-go. You will get a full rundown of the Festival lineup including recommend flicks direct from the Festival curators Leading up to TIFF there are also offshoots of this type of talk where film insiders (who have often seen many of the films in advance) will give you some key movie picks to start you off. Online: Artistic Director @cameronbailey’s twitter feed is also a mecca for as-it-happens updates.
TIFF App. New for this year, TIFF launched a very easy to navigate app that I found extremely helpful for mapping my journey from theatre to theatre, planning last minute programming and keeping up to date on all social media chatter surrounding the Festival.
Rush Tickets. TIFF notoriously sells out of the most popular films, but they do reserve a fairly substantial block of tickets for Rush Seats. If you are hardcore enough to brave the lineup, your chances are usually pretty good at getting in (and often they save some amazing seat locations for their Rush purchasers).
The Lightbox. TIFF now has its own official home in the TIFF Bell Lightbox, which was host to a number of great screenings this year and also has a pretty amazing lineup of programming year round. Part theatre, part exhibition space, part event venue, this is a great place to keep the fun going – not to mention the theatre seats are the comfiest in the city.
Amy Burstyn Fritz is Director at Knot PR, a Toronto-based communications agency that works with lifestyle, fashion and culture clients. She has work with various organizations in the fields of media, marketing and public relations before becoming a partner at Knot PR in 2011. Amy’s love of the arts has led her to work and volunteer with a number of top Canadian arts organizations including the Canadian Opera Company, the Canadian Art Foundation and Luminato.