Toronto Film Fest brings best to Canada

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Jude Law, Leelee Sobieski, and Tommy Lee Jones

We expect trashy entertainment magazines and TV shows to dwell on the glitz and glamour that descends on Toronto during the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).

As gaudy as it is, we all gush over photos of celebs like George Clooney and Reese Witherspoon eating at our lunch spots, perusing our favourite vintage shops, frequenting our bars and breathing the same Canadian air.

But it’s nauseating when even The Globe and Mail and The Toronto Star resort to plastering their front pages with images of celebs instead of spreading the cinematic culture that drives the festival.

Sure, heavy-hitting actors are part of the gig, but any festival veteran can tell you that TIFF is so much more than stargazing. The festival fosters a community of real movie lovers and treats them to sneak-peeks of domestic and foreign films several times a day at some of Toronto’s most beloved theatres, such as The Elgin and The Varsity.

Most film-junkies mark the festival on their calendars and pre-order ticket vouchers months in advance. When the film schedule is finally released, they host movie-picking parties and wait anxiously to learn their spot in the lineup. For them, it’s all about the films.

TIFF devotees take the festival seriously. They prepare questions to ask directors during the Q&A sessions that follow most screenings. They meet with other attendees to discuss whether or not a film deserves their vote for “Best in Show” and they even publish blogs about their festival experiences.

But TIFF-goers are not all business. Many enjoy simply sharing their appreciation of cinema with others.

Before the screening of The Secrets (a film by French/Israeli filmmaker Avi Nesher), festival-goers offered tickets to other film screenings free of charge. <>Heavy Metal in Baghdad’s “rush line” of hopeful dozens waiting for the chance to buy last-minute passes were able to catch the film due to philanthropic film lovers with extra tickets.

There was no shortage of A-listers at the screening. The film’s executive producer Spike Jonze (director of Adaptation and Being John Malkovich) and musician M.I.A. were both in attendance.

But the celebrity guests didn’t generate the buzz in the lobby after the show. Instead, people were sharing their thoughts about the film. Heavy Metal’s producers invited the crowd to the after-party where they could pass the time chatting over drinks and music. Nick Zinner of the New York band the Yeah Yeah Yeahs was on the turntables to provide the soundtrack to a night dedicated to celebrating film.

Every year at TIFF, cinema lovers gather to celebrate film and appreciate the chance to welcome the world’s best.

The Toronto International Film Festival runs until Sept. 15. Check out for tickets and details.

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