A Sneak Peek at the Toronto Film Festival

by Hannah Zolezzi

The Toronto International Film Festival, a major event on the movie festival circuit, is underway. It’s facing some uncertainty now that Piers Handling has announced that he will end his 23-year run as chief executive and step down after next year. Mr. Handling brought the festival, commonly known as TIFF, into international prominence. But he has also occasionally been  subject of criticism, particularly over how much he is paid to run the nonprofit festival.

Among those attending this year will be Manohla Dargis, The Times’s co-chief film critic. She was interviewed about what she thinks about this festival, this is what she said, “Exhilarating, exhausting, essential — the Toronto International Film Festival is how many movie lovers start each new fall season. That’s certainly true for me. I’ve been coming to this annual event on and off (mostly on) for more than 20 years, and it’s now part of my cinematic life. The festival is well known for its splashy, starry premieres partly because it’s where a number of movies start sprinting toward the next Academy Awards. But for many of us, the festival means more than its role in the Oscar ecosystem or its celebrity quotient, even if I did sail past the British actor Charlie Hunnam (here for his new movie “Papillion”) at my favorite vegan joint yesterday.”

The famous tend to remain hidden away in villas and yachts at Cannes, the world’s most glittering festival. There’s something different about Toronto (Canadians, for one), which despite its glitz remains enjoyably down to earth. Some of this has to do with the fact that TIFF is open to the public. And some of it has to do with the energy that comes from the city itself. You’re able to see  movies, slip out for meals, coffee and fresh air in between activities, such as a Swedish biopic about the tennis rivals Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe, an American documentary about miners and an Indian take on Shakespeare’s “Titus Andronicus.”

Every festival goer has their own methodology of what to see and when. Here, you can catch up with movies you missed at other festivals, but you can also see something you haven’t heard of. It’s a blast not knowing what you’ll see after the lights dim: a new favorite, a shock to the system, a revelation. And if you choose badly, there’s always another movie starting soon.

Originally called the Festival of Festivals, TIFF started in 1976 as a compilation of titles that had played elsewhere. Over time, the event greatly expanded, partly by taking advantage of its dates to become a launchpad for the new season. It bulked up on premieres, attracted Oscar hopefuls, rebranded and built a home in downtown Toronto. Now more than 400,000 attendees, including crowds of non-professionals, descend each year to sample a staggering number of movies from across the world. This year’s event is somewhat more tightly curated than in the recent past, although to be honest, I am still trying to figure out what are the must-sees in a lineup of 255 titles.

This year’s festival includes a movie with a Times connection. “Kodachrome” is based on an elegiac article by A. G. Sulzberger about the final rolls of the once-popular slide film being processed by a photo lab in Kansas. Kodachrome became the first commercially successful color film after its introduction in 1935. Then, in 2006, Kodak took Kodachrome off the market. Soon afterward, Dwayne’s Photo in Parsons, Kan., became the last place on earth that could develop it. But it was running out of chemicals, also discontinued by Kodak, as the end of 2010 neared. “Kodachrome” is directed by Mark Raso, who is from Toronto, and stars Jason Sudeikis, Ed Harris, and Elizabeth Olsen. The film brings the Canada Letter its second contest.






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