pfyre (pfyre) wrote in bean_daily,

Toronto film festival marks its 30th year

courtesy of Dryope - Sean Bean and Viggo Mortensen at the After Party for the Toronto International Premiere of 'A History of Violence'
for the article and the hi-res pic of the thumbnail above click on the link below - warning it is HUGE - look behind the CUT!


Toronto film festival marks its 30th year

Angela Mulholland, News
September 8, 2005 12:28 PM ET

Viggo Mortensen and David Cronenberg, on set of A History of Violence, got early good reviews from the Toronto festival

When it got off the ground 30 years ago, the Toronto International Film Festival (then called the "Festival of Festivals") was a small fish in a big pond, going begging for the big stars. Those days are now just a distant memory.

The Toronto festival has become regarded as the most successful of the international film festivals. Film critic Roger Ebert has said that although Cannes is still the larger of the two, "Toronto is more useful and more important."

More than 3,000 films from around the world now vie for a coveted spot on the TIFF's programme lists, though the festival accepts only about one in 10. In Canadian cinema alone, the festival received 733 submissions this year and was able to accept only 87 films.

"It's certainly a bigger deal to get into our festival now than it was even 10 years ago," says the TIFF's Director of Communications, Gabrielle Free.

Part of the TIFF's appeal is that it's become known as "the friendly festival," Free says.

"Filmmakers love coming here," Free says. "We treat them well, we handle the films well, we handle the cast members well."

And of all the festivals, Toronto is the place to do business. There are hundreds of industry and sales agents who descend on the city to preview, buy and sell films. What's more, there are probably 800 members of the media here from Canada, the U.S. and around the world, ready to give a new film publicity.

"In terms of a North American launching pad, you can't do much better than Toronto," says Free.

The TIFF has always distinguished itself from other festivals by choosing not to be about competition, like Cannes for example, preferring instead that the public vote on the films for the handful of awards the festival hands out. That gives the TIFF a certain collegial atmosphere, with filmmakers here to see each other's work, not fight for a jury prize.

Film industry types love the TIFF because they say it's the best festival for gauging audiences' reactions. Buyers and media feel they can get a reasonably good read on a film's chances for North American box office success based on the reaction in Toronto.

And time and time again, they have been proven right.

A number of films that might have been otherwise overlooked found instant fans at the TIFF and then went on to great success -- films such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Whale Rider, Atanarjuat, and the documentary Spellbound. And many directors, including Canada's Denys Arcand and Atom Egoyan, found worldwide exposure through the TIFF they might not have otherwise had.

Of course, the festival also can spot the losers. Countless films that generated "buzz" during production fizzle out after premiering at the TIFF. Worse, the TIFF can even torpedo a film. In 1993 for example, acclaimed director Gus Van Sant, fresh from the success of My Own Private Idaho, came to town for the world premiere of Even Cowgirls Get the Blues. Toronto audiences hated it. Van Sant headed home for a hasty re-edit, but it was in vain; the film was skewered by critics upon wide release.

Over the years, as the festival has grown in prominence and scope, some cinephiles have complained that the TIFF has lost focus, spending too much energy on bringing in the red carpet stars and catering to the big studio movies that don't seem to need any extra promotion.

The TIFF's executive has long said that it is catholic in its approach, seeking to offer something for everyone. They want to act as a launch pad for awards season hopefuls as well as provide a showcase for the selling of "hot" films. At the same time, they want to act as a forum for non-English language films to penetrate the North American market and be the launch pad for new Canadian films.

Unlike Cannes, which focuses on industry types, Toronto audiences actually go to all the films at their festival. In fact, the diversity of films on offer is driven by Toronto -- and Canada -- itself. The city embraces many cultures and is eager to sample the cinema from each of those cultures. The city is also filled with true "cinephiles" who are unabashedly Canadian: polite, eager and appreciative.

"The Toronto film-going public is phenomenal," says Free. "We take it for granted, but it's a very savvy group of people, very knowledgeable about film, very open."

In recent years, the TIFF has experienced its share of setbacks. In 2001, the festival began less than a week before the Sept. 11 attacks. Screenings were cancelled that day and though the festival continued, many of the guests had cleared out to return home.

In 2002, the city was still reeling from the SARS scare, which kept some guests away. Roger Ebert also caused a much-publicized fuss, complaining in his columns about long lineups and attacks from the local media. After Ebert grumbled that he had been turned away from too many screenings, the TIFF promised to bring in changes. It opened up more screens, using cinemas downtown as well as in its traditional locale of Yorkville.

This year, it's the film industry itself that is trying to recover from a setback of its own: one of the most devastating summers for ticket sales in years. Studios are now looking to the TIFF, hoping that many of this year's films -- including Walk the Line," "A History of Violence," and "North Country" -- will generate enough buzz and pre-Oscar excitement that film lovers will be ready to leave the house again and return to the theatres.

© 2005 Bell Globemedia Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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