Toronto International Film Festival 2008 – September 4-13

Cynthia Cheng

The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), which opened on September 4, is one of the biggest film festivals open to the public.  The ten-day festival celebrates its 33rd year this year.  Since 1976, the festival has grown from a showcase of select films from other festivals (at the time, TIFF was called the Festival of Festivals) to a preview of what the Oscar race might be.  Recently, several movies which received nominations or statues had their premieres at TIFF, including Walk the Line, Ray and Crash.

TIFF is also known to highlight homegrown cinema.  Perhaps the Canadian film which has received the most press this year is Paul Gross’ PasschendaelePasschendaele tells the story of one of the most important battles during the First World War, a pivotal point in Canadian history and is based on Gross’ grandfather’s experiences as a WWI soldier.  This film is the TIFF’s opening gala and is scheduled for wide release on November 11, Remembrance Day.

Of course, a film festival isn’t a film festival with its parties.  While there are plenty of closed events throughout the ten day showcase, for the first time, TIFF is holding a wrap party that is open to the public.  This will be held on September 13 at Dundas Square.  Plenty of celebrities come to TIFF.  This year, they include Matt Damon (who will be hosting the OneXOne gala), Brad Pitt, Paris Hilton and Kiera Knightley.

TIFF has certainly made its mark for the city. Yorkville, long time a central location for the event, has “grown up” with TIFF, according to a Toronto Star article.  In the 1960s, Yorkville was hippie central before they were pretty much banished west to the Annex.  TIFF, which has been part of the Yorkville scene since its start in the mid 70s, has seen Yorkville grow from former hippie district to an area with elegant restaurants and boutiques.  However, TIFF is on the move.  Since last year, more and more events have drifted south to what’s known as Entertainment District.  This is where TIFF’s home will be after 2010, with the opening of the Bell Lightbox, a film centre which will not only screen TIFF films, but also offer year-round activities, screenings and so forth.