Saturday, September 19, 2009

2009 Festival Wrap-up

I still have 5 more films to post, but in the interim here's my annual end-of-fest wrapup. I was slightly down from last year, with 24 films and discussions totalling 42 hours, 25 minutes. By the end of all that, I was at the point I could have introduced a film and thanked all the sponsors from memory (thanks to our lead sponsor Bell, our major sponsors RBC and BlackBerry, our public supporters the Government of Ontario and Telefilm Canada, and of course we can't forget the Government of Canada's marquee contribution this year).

Things that worked well:

  • As always, the volunteers did a great job, and they always steered me to the right line.
  • The AMC lines were kind of all over the place, but like I said, I was always directed to the one I needed to be in. Plus, we were inside this year, and I didn't see anyone cut into the line (some of the other venues had issues).
  • Got good, prompt feedback from customer service during the advance order procedure this year, which cleared up some of the issues that arose.
  • Thought some of the translators did an exceptional job this year. The gentleman doing the translation during the Gigante Q&A, and the woman doing a number of the Japanese translations were both quite good.
  • The festival generally kept its promise to ensure all the gala films had regular screenings somewhere else during the festival. There were two exceptions with the two Bollywood films, but the explanation given was they were world premieres, and it is highly unusual for such films to debut outside of India.
  • I came to it rather late, but I used to create my schedule this year. It proved exceptionally helpful when scheduling films with a friend. Hope to see it around next year.
  • I generally saw less people texting or checking their cells during the films, with the exception of the premiere of Defendor. One of the actors who played a thug in the movie kept checking his damn phone throughout the screening.
  • I liked the additional time available to select films during the advance order procedure and having the Labour Day weekend free, but not sure if that was primarily due to when Labour Day fell this year. Be interesting to see what happens in 2010.
  • I managed to have only two street dogs (plus one at the Scotiabank) this year!
  • Kind of liked the RBC trailers, especially the Chick-Chicken one (you're the hostess!). Also glad to see GM was being fiscally responsible by recycling their trailers, which still get a chuckle. The short films celebrating Toronto's anniversary were kind of interesting - one wag in a screening today described the Toronto Maple Leafs victory parade as the "most depressing film in the festival." Side note: by the end of the festival my friend and I were playing a game trying to guess which RBC, Cadillac, and Toronto short would show up before the film.
  • Had a good press year this year, with a quote in the Toronto Star and a mention in Stella Artois NOW Magazine insert. But then, I'm something of a press whore. :-)
  • Colin Geddes made a valiant effort to come up with something new for the anti-piracy (or anti-cowboy) warning, but don't think it's quite made it into the mainstream yet.

Things that could use improvement:

  • The festival had a screw up in the advance order book this year with listing premium screenings, but they did acknowledge it relatively quickly and attempted to honor any selections of those films. Not sure how that slipped by, but funny thing is, most festival veterans noticed right away.
  • I saw people cut into line at the Ryerson and Isabel Bader, and I know other people Twittered or posted similar experiences. They could probably do a better job at policing some of those lines. I did see some people get turned away, but not always.
  • One pet peeve that I'm sure many share is people in Q&A's that ask meandering questions or don't ask any question at all. Right behind that is people who insist on talking during the Q&A. I saw someone Twitter that they wish they had a rifle in one particularly bad Q&A to take the questioner out.
  • There was the usual problem of the online box office not scaling on the first day of sales, but that's pretty much par for the course.
  • Usually everyone is really curious what the song is in the Bell Lightbox trailer after a couple of days (anyone would really, after hearing it repeated over and over again). Since the festival always goes to the trouble of selecting a Canadian artist, might be nice for them to credit them in the trailer as well. In case you're wondering, this year's is Light You Up by Toronto group Pilot Speed (see my post here:
  • The festival might want to consider posting on the website a description or pictures of the TIFF merchandise they have, even if they don't accept sales on the website. You'd be surprised by the number of hits that come up with people searching for that.

Of the films I saw this year, there's probably fewer I hated, but less that really stood out. Probably my fault for taking less risks in my schedule this year. Below are my favourites of the 24 films I saw:

Favourite films: Gigante and La Donation, with honorable mention to Mr. Nobody and Air Doll.

Best film with a political bent: Backyard.

Best Canadian film and best drama: La Donation, which won a special jury prize for Canadian film this year.

Best film involving a hitman: La Soga, over Vengeance and Accident (the latter of which my friend and I dubbed The Conversation crossed with Final Destination).

Best film with the least amount of dialogue and a guy walking all over town: Gigante over Police, Adjective.

WTF?! Award: this year goes to Les Herbes folles. My friend heard a rumour that the cat croquette reference in the film is a shout out to a friend of Renais that did a documentary about cats, but I haven't been able to find any confirmation on that yet.

Film that was the most fun: Hipsters.

Best documentary: much to my own surprise, I didn't pick any documentaries this year. I'll have to compensate by going to the next Hot Docs.

Screening with the most celebrity wattage: I actually avoided most films with a celebrity cast this year, so it would probably be a tossup between Perrier's Bounty, which had Cillian Murphy and Brendan Gleeson, and Defendor, which had Woody Harrelson, Kat Dennings, and Elias Koteas. I'm skipping over In Conversation with Michael Caine, but it was quite amusing listening to all his anecdotes.

I hope to finish the five remaining reviews I have (which include three Q&As) sometime within the next few days. Hopefully people found this blog useful again this year, and with any luck I will be back again next TIFF with more ticketing tips, reviews, and Q&As. And if I manage to get around to it this upcoming year, maybe reports from other local festivals as well. Thanks for reading!


I found your blog on a Google search as my boyfriend and I made plans to attend TIFF this year. We both found it more helpful than TIFF's website; especially the ticket purchase and selection process. Thank you for sharing your experience and insight, it's a pleasure to read!

I, too, found you with Google search and (since I'm from the states and this was my first time in Toronto), I also found your info on the ticket purchase and selection process invaluable! Much clearer than the TIFF site. I've also enjoyed reading your reviews since you saw a lot of films I wanted to see, but couldn't make it to due to scheduling.

May I add to your 'room for improvement' list the lack of an effective sound system for the talk backs. Most frustrating when the filmmaker's voice is too soft to hear!

My experiences at the Toronto International Film Festival. Note this blog is not affiliated with the Toronto International Film Festival Group or the festival itself.
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