The Toronto Film Festival, North America’s largest festival, has unveiled its plan for this year’s edition to run September 10–19. As anticipated, the fest is going to look very different due to the coronavirus, which is likely to account for a 50% year-on-year downturn in revenue.
Organizers say the 45th TIFF will be “tailored to fit the moment,” with a combination of physical screenings and drive-ins, digital screenings, virtual red carpets, press conferences and industry talks. There will be considerably fewer movies — a selection comprising 50 new features — and the festival is not expecting large numbers of international press or industry to attend in person.
Among the strong crop of early movies confirmed to screen at the festival are Kate Winslet-starrer Ammonite, Thomas Vinterberg’s Another Round, Concrete Cowboy with Idris Elba, Fauna from director Nicolás Pereda, Good Joe Bell starring Mark Wahlberg, Suzanne Lindon’s Spring Blossom, True Mothers by Naomi Kawase and Halle Berry’s directorial debut Bruised. More titles will be announced over the summer.
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The movies will play over the event’s first five days as physical, socially distanced screenings. There will also be five programs of short films, interactive talks, film cast reunions, and Q&As with cast and filmmakers.
However, the festival acknowledged Wednesday that its plans for an in-person festival will be contingent on local government’s “reopening framework to ensure that festival venues and workplaces practice, meet and exceed public health guidelines.” Large gatherings are still not permitted in Toronto.
TIFF temporarily closed its year-round offices and cinemas at TIFF Bell Lightbox in March due to the pandemic. The organization is now taking steps to prepare for reopening and working with medical advisors and public health officials to ensure safe conditions.
Meanwhile, TIFF is launching a bespoke digital platform for the festival. The organization has partnered with Shift72 on the platform, which will host digital screenings, talks and special events.
The Industry Conference will be online-only this year, with screenings for press and industry taking place on the digital platform only. The fest says there will be “advanced security and anti-piracy measures, access to buyers, and opportunities for networking.”
Organizers said today that TIFF has been “severely impacted” by the pandemic. Earlier this week, the festival confirmed 31 staff cuts due to COVID-19 and the temporary closure of its building. The festival is forecasting a 50% reduction in revenue from 2019.
“The pandemic has hit TIFF hard, but we’ve responded by going back to our original inspiration — to bring the very best in film to the broadest possible audience,” said Cameron Bailey, the festival’s co-head and artistic director.
“Our teams have had to rethink everything, and open our minds to new ideas,” he continued. “In countless video calls over the past three months we have rebuilt our Festival for 2020 drawing on our five decades of commitment to strong curation, support for filmmakers and engagement with audiences. We have listened to this year’s urgent calls for greater representation of underrepresented voices. You’ll see that this year at the Festival. And we have watched as audiences have embraced cinema’s ability to transport them through screens of all sizes. You’ll see that too. We’re excited to present thoughtful, high-impact programming this September that reflects our belief that there’s no stopping great storytelling.”
For 2020, TIFF says it will welcome 50 filmmakers and actors as TIFF Ambassadors to help the festival deliver its program. They will include Ava DuVernay, Taika Waititi, Anurag Kashyap, Nicole Kidman, Martin Scorsese, Nadine Labaki, Alfonso Cuarón, Tantoo Cardinal, Riz Ahmed, Isabelle Huppert, Claire Denis, Atom Egoyan, Priyanka Chopra, Viggo Mortensen, Zhang Ziyi, David Oyelowo, Lulu Wang, Rosamund Pike, Sarah Gadon and Denis Villeneuve.
TIFF will also present its annual TIFF Tribute Awards, acknowledging and celebrating outstanding contributors to the film industry. Launched in 2019, the TIFF Tribute Awards have honored, among others, Meryl Streep, Taika Waititi, Mati Diop and Joaquin Phoenix.
Now in its third year, TIFF’s Media Inclusion Initiative will continue to accredit eligible black, indigenous, people of color, LGBTQ+ and female emerging film critics. New this year, TIFF is also offering companies and individuals the opportunity to gift industry access to 250 underrepresented emerging filmmakers from around the world.
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