From One Film Festival to the Next - TIFF 2013 Underway in Toronto
by Alex Billington
September 6, 2013
I still remember my very first Toronto Film Festival way back in 2007. The festival denied me a press badge, so I woke up early and bought tickets every day. I crashed with my friends Peter Sciretta (of SlashFilm) and Jen Yamato (of Rotten Tomatoes at the time) in the basement of a bed & breakfast on Church St. Somehow, with an endless amount of passion and determination, I saw 20 films in total, from Michael Clayton to The Assassination of Jesse James to Juno. I'm back in Toronto again, for my 7th TIFF in a row, continuing the crazy fall film festival season. From Telluride straight to Toronto. It's a completely different fest now, I'm already tired, Peter and Jen don't go anymore, but I'm here for the films. As always, it's all about the movies.
I've come to love the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) over the years. The city has grown on me in a big way, the festival has improved and is now very well-organized, I receive a press badge every year, and they program one hell of a line-up of films (nearly 300 in total!). It's exhausting going directly from one film festival to another, but this is the experience I live for. I still wake up early and queue up in long lines, I still fight to get a ticket to hot premieres, I still spend the money & time & effort to travel to Canada just to see more movies. Thankfully navigating this fest is second nature nowadays, and it's easy to catch screenings.
Toronto is one of my annual film festival stops along with Sundance, Cannes and Telluride. Taking place in early September, this is right when the fall season kicks off, and it has become the perfect place for all the studios and independent distributors to launch their awards caliber features. They come here because of the diverse (Canadian) crowds, the cinephiles, and the overwhelming number of critics/press that pack in 4 to 5 movies a day, buzzing/raving about the best ones, and tearing apart the worst ones. I'm not one to get into the discussion of whether or not Oscar buzz from these festivals actually makes a difference in the results next year, because I'm just happy to be here seeing films this early. I want to watch the best films I can here.
This year Toronto is going all out playing just about every major prestige film they can: from 12 Years a Slave to Gravity to Prisoners to Enough Said to Dom Hemingway, and Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club to Horns with Daniel Radcliffe to Ron Howard's Rush. They've also got a massive amount of indies from all over the world, including Canadian filmmakers like Xavier Dolan (with Tom at the Farm) and other great picks like Ti West's The Sacrament, John Carney's Can a Song Save Your Life? and David Gordon Green's Joe. Every single person I talk with at this festival is seeing different films, each person has their own complex schedule of screenings that usually never matches up with anyone else.
If anyone is in Toronto attending the festival and catching films, my tip is to use the site TIFFr.com to organize your own schedule. It's a beautiful interface that works with the official TIFF schedule (including press & industry screenings) to create a sleek personalized calendar and show you what you can/can't make. Toronto's specialty is the number of films they're showing and it's always a challenge to organize and figure out a schedule that allows you to see everything and get some sleep every once in a while. It's fun to talk with each and every press I run into all over town and ask them what they just saw, what they're seeing next, and their thoughts. Everyone has something unique to say and it's that complete mix and mash of all kinds of unique opinions that makes the TIFF experience so exciting. What are you seeing today? And tomorrow?
I'm the lucky one who has the advantage of Telluride and Cannes. Most of my colleagues are scrambling to figure out how safely fit in Gravity, 12 Years a Slave and Labor Day screenings in the midst of all the other major premieres and indie flicks on their docket. If I'm lucky, I'll catch a second screening of those movies, but they're not a priority at this point. Which means I'm free and open to explore the more diverse side of TIFF and the other indie premieres. For 2013, I'm very excited to see Richard Ayoade's The Double, Ron Howard's Rush, Sion Sono's Why Don't You Play in Hell?, David Gordon Green's Joe, Atom Egoyan's Devil's Knot and Clif Prowse's Afflicted. Plus anything else good or bad that I stumble into along the way.
The best film festivals in the world are the ones where you end up discovering great gems amongst the many celebrity-buzz titles. The kind of films that really stick with you and leave an impact even if they don't have a well-known actor in them. With the selection in Toronto, this festival has that kind of discovery/breakout potential, and I've come across many favorites over the years (Sleepless Night being one that comes to mind from last year). I look forward to spending the next week up in Toronto seeing films all day, catching parties at night, and enjoying my time here in this Canadian city. Stay tuned for my coverage here on FS.net and on Twitter @firstshowing, along with my Instagram and Criticwire grades. Over and out from Toronto.