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Coming Attractions / TIFF19

5 reasons this is a must-attend film fest

Photographers at TIFF18

Photo by Jag Gundu; courtesy of Getty Images


September 5–15


Visit tiff.net for schedules, summaries, tickets, and more. And, if you’re planning a visit to TIFF19, make sure to check out the Tourism Toronto site, seetorontonow.com, for travel ideas.



To misquote Dr. Henry Jones Jr. in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, “ahhhh, Toronto.” The forty-fourth Toronto International Film Festival begins on September 5 and runs through September 15, and that means stars on Yonge Street, long lines, social media madness, and lots of Oscar buzz.


It also means me talking TIFF nonstop for days and weeks and months. (I apologize in advance to my wife and children for me incessantly discussing the intricacies of the lineup and studying the film schedule like it’s the map to the Ark of the Covenant.) I’ll be attending the festival for five days, and will be posting updates before, during, and after, here on buffalospree.com.


At press time, the initial film announcements were not made, but there are still plenty of reasons to be excited. Here are five things that should make TIFF19 a fascinating festival.


This is the first year after the departure of CEO Piers Handling

TIFF CEO and executive director Piers Handling was always a ubiquitous sight at TIFF screenings, and his passionate introductions were among my favorites. Handling joined TIFF in 1982, and earned the CEO and executive director positions in 1994. After thirty-seven years, he bid farewell following the 2018 festival, and was succeeded by producer Joana Vicente as its new executive director. She is also co-head of the fest with  artistic director Cameron Bailey.


So what does that mean for the eleven-day festival? Maybe nothing right away, at least. But considering Vicente’s global perspective—she even speaks five languages—it’s possible TIFF’s lineup of international films will grow.


“I was excited by the idea of getting to know Toronto,” she recently told tiff.net. “I have lived in many places in my life—Macao, Portugal, France, Mozambique, Madeira, New York—so it doesn’t scare me to try a new city.” It will be thrilling to see what she tries with TIFF.


The People’s Choice Award has to rebound after (shudder) Green Book

As visitors depart from festival screenings, friendly volunteers are always on hand to encourage attendees to vote for the Grolsch People’s Choice Award. And vote they do. Part of the TIFF fun, then, is trying to predict what film will take the top prize—and, perhaps, go on to Oscar glory. (People’s Choice winners to take the top prize at the Academy Awards have included 12 Years a Slave and Slumdog Millionaire.


Guess what? It happened again in 2018. This, however, was terrible news, since the terrible winner was a terrible film, Green Book. OK, Peter Farrelly’s asinine Civil Rights drama was not really terrible. But it certainly did not deserve Best Picture honors.


Let’s see if audiences in 2019 have better taste. For what it’s worth, I confidently predicted the Bradley Cooper-Lady Gaga soap opera A Star Is Born would easily take last year’s People’s Choice Award. Clearly, my predicting skills are terrible.


The Platform section has undergone a shake-up

I adore TIFF’s Platform section, which champions “up to 12 works with high artistic merit that also demonstrate a strong directorial vision.” Past selections have included prestige entries like Jackie and Moonlight, as well as smaller scale gems like Lady Macbeth and Nocturama. (If you have not seen the latter two, get on that.)


The jury has featured high-caliber directors like Brian De Palma and Wim Wenders. In 2019, the list includes acclaimed filmmaker Athina Rachel Tsangari and Berlinale artistic director Carlo Chatrian. The real news, however, is that the jury also included a film critic, Variety’s Jessica Kiang. She is a writer with uncommon insight and remarkable passion. Consider this, from her review of A Star Is Born for The Playlist: “We get a truly fantastic Bradley Cooper performance, playing by far the most sympathetic version of this character we’ve yet seen—the type of heart-stoppingly gorgeous fantasy guy who not only whisks you to a gig in his private jet but also swipes the frozen peas at the checkout, the quicker to apply them to your swollen hand.”


I can’t wait to see what she brings to the Platform judging process.


The strange, ever-mobbed, Scotiabank Theatre just got a lot more interesting

One of the most humorous and annoying aspects of attending TIFF as a credentialed film critic is the saga of the often-broken, seemingly endless escalator at the Scotiabank Theatre. Recently, news broke that in a few years, the theater will be replaced by mixed use buildings. Where will TIFF host its main press screenings? And what does this mean for the escalator?


Only time will tell.


The festival continues to highlight women in film, and that’s a wonderful thing

One of the highlights of TIFF18 was its focus on women in film. More than thirty-five percent of the entries in the 200-plus film lineup were directed by women. (That list included the best film released so far in 2019, High Life, from Clare Denis.) The festival also held a “Share Her Journey” rally focused on making real change in the industry, and made TIFF embark on a well-publicized effort to increase diversity among accredited film critics and media.


This focus looks to continue in 2019; this year’s TIFF Gala introduces the ​Mary Pickford Award honoring a female emerging talent in the industry. Which female filmmakers will be the breakout stars of 2019? Stay tuned.



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