Sunday, September 19, 2010

TIFF 2010 Festival Wrap-Up

Well, another festival done for the year. I was up slightly from last year, with 26 films or discussions, totalling 44 hours, 1 minute.

Things that worked well:

  • As always, the volunteers did a great job, and there was an occasion or two I watched them have to put up with crap from festival goers. But in general everyone was appreciative of the effort, as evidenced by the applause during the volunteer trailer, as soon as the cloud of names appeared.
  • Ended up using again this year to actually schedule my movies, and it continues to work well.
  • I liked the RBC trailers again this year (especially the guys wondering where they were going to get the 50k to save their store), but there were too few of them to last for an 11-day festival.
  • No problems with the advance order book this year, and it was good that premium screenings were so-marked in the official film schedule.
  • Luckily I made it through the entire festival without someone asking a meandering question in the Q&A (or worse yet, not asking one at all!)
  • The TIFF Bell Lightbox is a nice building. Free wi-fi, good food, cheaper concession prices, nice theatres (seating and sound), good location, permanent gift shop. And they'll be showing not only their normal year-round programming, but also the commercial runs of smaller festival-type films like Trigger.

Things that could use improvement:

  • The online box office seemed particularly bad this year, and they quickly abandoned the "shopping cart" in favour of the old-style single page for all the movies for purchasing tickets. Part of the problem is everyone has to go through the main, media-rich site for the TIFF organization to get to the film schedule, and then each film page is also filled with media and auto-playing slideshows and videos. Great most of the time, but not when thousands of people are hammering your site. They should probably consider a cloud-based solution (Amazon, Windows Azure) to scale up the website on the first day of general ticket sales. But then who knows if their old MaxWeb ticketing back-end could process orders fast enough?
  • There seemed to be an abnormally high number of technical and projection issues this year. For me, Film Socialisme at the Ryerson had no subtitles, and Dhobi Ghat was delayed 3 hours. More embarrassingly still, the gala for Little White Lies had to be moved from Roy Thomson Hall to the Scotiabank because the new digital projector couldn't do the subtitles, and the premiere of Cave of Forgotten Dreams had a projector issue a few minutes before the end, with Werner Herzog in the audience.
  • Downsides of the Lightbox: the theatre entrances seem a bit tight compared to the AMC or the Scotiabank, and they've got artifacts on display inside the theatre entrances where you're never going to see it (it's too dark, and you're usually in a rush to get in or out). And what's up with the men's bathroom on the second (or should that be second-and-a-half) floor? Everyone I saw was surprised by the stairwell you had to hike up, and there's only two stalls. Plus, there didn't seem to always be enough room to hold the lines for the theatres inside the building.
  • I may complain about the Lightbox, but really, it is nice to have the building complete and available year-round to foster film in the city, and it's great the festival now has a permanent home.
  • The general consensus between veteran festival-goers was that the number of screenings available during the early morning during the week were reduced from previous years, making it difficult to make use of some of the packages (like the 50-pack or the daytime pack). Not sure if that was due to the availability of theatres, impact of press/industry screenings, or just a philosophical change.

Miscellaneous notes:

Overall, was pretty happy with the films I saw this year. My favourites below, from those films that I saw:

  • Favourite Film: Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, because it was so unexpected, and was well-paced, well-written, and well-acted.
  • Best Canadian film: Tossup for me between Bruce McDonald's Trigger and Xavier Dolan's Heartbeats.
  • Best drama: I liked Kiran Rao's Dhobi Ghat, Trigger, and Heartbeats.
  • Best action film: Takeshi Miike's 13 Assassins.
  • Funniest film: The Trip
  • Best documentary: Tossup between Cave of Forgotten Dreams and Force of Nature: The David Suzuki Movie. Tabloid and Inside Job were pretty good, too.
  • WTF?! Award: Film Socialisme, and I don't think the subtitles would have actually helped any.
  • Screening with the most celebrity wattage: The Way, which had both Martin Sheen (fresh from walking the picket lines outside his hotel) and Emilio Estevez.
  • Director I enjoyed seeing the most: Werner Herzog edges out Errol Morris.

I hope to post other reviews and Q&A transcripts in the immediate future (although I say that every year and never get around to it). 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. Thanks for reading this year!

TIFF 2010 Award Winners

The festival announced its award winners for 2010:

  • The Cadillac People's Choice Award, voted on by the public based on ballots submitted after screenings, went to The King's Speech, starring Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush. The runner-up was The First Grader, a movie I saw earlier in the week, based on the real-life story of a Kenyan who enrolled in primary school at the age of 84 when the government announced free education for all its citizens.
  • The Cadillac People's Choice Midnight Madness Award, voted on by the public for the best film in the Midnight Madness programme, went to Stake Land, with Fubar II the runner-up.
  • The Cadillac People's Choice Documentary Award, voted on by the public for the best documentary, went to Force of Nature: The David Suzuki Movie, which I reviewed earlier in the festival. The runner-up was Nostalga for the Light.
  • The FIPRESCI Prize for the Discovery programme went to Shawn Ku's Beautiful Boy. This award is voted on by a panel of international critics from the International Federation of Film Critics.
  • The FIPRESCI Prize for the Special Presenations programme went to Pierre Thoretton's L'Amour Fou.
  • The award for Best Canadian Short Film went to Vincent Biron's Les Fleurs de l'age.
  • The SKYY Vodka Award for Best Canadian First Feature Film went to Deborah Chow's debut, The High Cost of Living (starring Zach Braff).
  • The City of Toronto Award for Best Canadian Feature Film went to Denis Villeneuve's Incendies.

Thoughts on TIFF 2010 Day 11

Thoughts on the final day:

  • Boy, there were some die-hards lined up for tickets for the free screening of the Cadillac People's Choice Award Winner, The King's Speech. I was there at 2:00 for The Trip, and there were already people lined up, and they weren't releasing tickets until 4:00.
  • The Trip: hilarious improvised romp through the restaurants of Northern England with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon played fictionalized versions of their real-life selves. As everyone has mentioned, their dueling Michael Caine impressions are one of the highlights of the film (and having seen Michael Caine in person at the festival last year, I can attest to that). But their conversations are also interspersed with personal moments, Brydon missing his wife and newborn, and Coogan having one-night stands while longing for his girlfriend in America and thinking about his own pre-teen son, lending a bit of dramatic flair to the comedic road trip. Well worth seeing.
  • 13 Assassins: the latest from Japanese director Takeshi Miike, 13 Assassins is a remake of the 1963 Eiichi Kudo film of the same name, and follows the real-life story of Shinzaemon Shimada, a samurai who is secretely charged with a mission to assassinate Lord Naritsugu, the adopted younger brother of the current shogun. Naritsugu is brutalizing his subjects, and after another lord commits seppuku, the consipracy is put in motion. Shinzaemon recruits others to his cause, and it all comes to a head in an action-packed 45-minute climax reminiscent of The Seven Samurai or Miike's last film, Sukiyaki Western Django. Even though there is a long buildup, the film never felt like it dragged, and the assassins' last stand again insurmountable odds is worth the wait.

Thoughts on TIFF 2010 Day 10

Some thoughts on Day 10:

  • Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives: winner of the Palme d'Or at Cannes, this latest from Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul finds Uncle Boonmee at the end of his days, suffering from kidney failure. He is visited by ghosts and spirits from his past, and experiences some of his past lives. This is a fairly arty film with a lot of levels not necessarily apparent on first viewing, so your enjoyment might or might not be tempered as such (I think I fall into the former camp).
  • Trigger: Vic (played by the late Tracy Wright) and Kat (Molly Parker) were once the two halves of a band called Trigger, until a falling out on tour. Fast forward to 10 years later, and the two women meet up for dinner, right before a tribute concert to the women of rock. The film follows the two over the course of a night, during which they hash out their long buried issues, conflicts, and feelings. Directed by Bruce McDonald (Roadkill, Highway 61) and written by writer/playwright Daniel MacIvor, Trigger features a couple of great performances by the leads, even more so especially considering the short time frame in which the completed the movie (a matter of days). Actor Don McKellar, Wright's real-life husband and who had a small cameo in the film, was at the Q&A and almost broke down while giving his thanks to everyone who worked so hard to get the film completed.
  • Henry's Crime: average heist movie that finds sad sack Henry (Keanu Reeves) serving time for a botched bank robbery for which he was duped into being the getaway driver. Eventually parolled, Henry decides if he's done the time, he might as well do the crime. Teaming up with former cellmate Max (James Caan), Henry figures out the best way into the bank is to tunnel from the theatre next door. This embroils him with a production of Chekov's The Cherry Orchard being staged there, along with leading actress Julie (Vera Farmiga). Whether you enjoy this movie is likely closely linked to whether you would have bought Reeves as Hamlet when he played the role in Winnipeg a number of years back.
  • Fire of Conscience: excellent high-adrenaline Hong Kong action flick from director Dante Lam. Follows Manfred (Leon Lai), an emotionally damaged cop who prowls the streets at night looking for a particular pickpocket. But his days are occupied trying to solve the murder of a prostitute and teaming with another detective, Kee (Richie Ren), to track down a cop killer who may be linked to something bigger. As typical with the genre, nothing and no one is as they seem.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Thoughts on TIFF 2010 Day 9

Some thoughts on Day 9:

  • This blog was referenced by an article on The Guardian's film blog.
  • Home for Christmas: based on some of the short stories of Levi Henriksen, this film from director Bent Hamer (Kitchen Stories, O'Horten) consists of several vignettes, largely connected only by the fact they all occur on the same Christmas Eve. There's the workaholic doctor called out for a childbirth; a couple of teenagers connecting with one another; the woman in an affair with a man who will never leave his wife; a divorced man who can't give his own kids presents on Christmas; a homeless man trying to make it back to his hometown; and others. The film constantly shifts between stories, and despite the short time available to each, you do develop feelings and sympathies for the characters. Only one story, that of an old man and his aged mother didn't really click for me, but the others found me longing for family and the holidays.
  • The First Grader: this film is based on the real-life story of Kimani Ng'ang'a Maruge, a veteran of the Mau Mau Uprising against British colonial rule in Kenya in the 1950's. After the government announced free universal education for all in 2003, Maruge, at the age of 84, enrolled in primary school to get the education he never had as a child. At first, the teachers refuse to admit him, but his persistence causes head teacher Jane Obinchu (played by Naomie Harris) to relent. Jane and Maruge must fight against wary parents and the system to keep Maruge in school, all the while Maruge must deal with his own demons from the past. An inspiring, dramatic, and at times, funny, story.

Thoughts on TIFF 2010 Day 8

Some thoughts on Day 8:

  • Beaver!
  • Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale. Hilarious and thrilling film. Young Onni Tommila is the real star of the film, and the next great action hero. Well worth seeing.
  • Monsters: Interesting film, but don't go in expecting an action piece. The "monsters" of the title are almost more of a background piece to the relationship between the two leads (played by real-life couple Whitney Able and Scoot McNairy). Much of the dialogue is improvised, which didn't always work for me especially when it tried to get allegorical, but probably does fit with director Gareth Edward's goal of having a "real-life" monster movie. Some of the sci-fi elements reminded me of The Mist or Cloverfield, but like I said, the film is more about the journey of the leads (both physically and emotionally) than the aliens around them.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

Pietari (played by Onni Tommila), a young boy living in rural Finland with his single father Rauno (Jorma Tommila), is intrigued by the excavation being done on a nearby mountaintop by a group of supposed scientists. After investigating with his friend, Pietari becomes consumed with the thought that the scientists have found Santa Claus frozen in the ice; but this is not the "Coca-Cola" version of Santa we're used to today, but a much darker one from ancient lore, one that would sooner spank or boil alive young children. As mysterious happenings soon envelope his neighbours, only Pietari knows what's going on, and may be their only saviour.

It's hard to characterize this film; it's more of a thriller with some horror elements thrown in, but with a lot of humour and some tender moments around the relationship between father and son. The film, from director Jalmari Helander based on idea from himself and his brother, is a prequel of sorts to the short films Helander has previously released on the Internet (YouTube has Part 1 and Part 2).

The movie maintains a brisk pace right out of the gate, and the suspense builds to a thrilling and hilarious climax. Young Onni Tommila does a great job as Pietari, and is one of the best things about the film. Overall, it was really fun and exciting, and it seemed to be a real crowd-pleaser. Well worth seeing if you get a chance.

Director Jalmari Helander did a Q&A after the film:

  • He's made two shorts on the same topic before, and this movie is kind of a prequel; everyone seems to like the shorts and always ask him why he doesn't make a feature, so he did.
  • The idea was developed by him and his brother; they wondered why Santa Claus has changed over the years. The original Father Christmas is totally opposite from the one we have now. So they started to investigate it.
  • The music was done by first-time composer Juri Seppä, who is a friend of Helander's.
  • Onni Tommila is actually Helander's nephew, and has been in a few of Helander's short films. Helander thinks Tommila is really something.
  • When asked why there are no women in the film, Helander responded that there was one in the beginning on the first shooting day, but he suddenly realized that there couldn't be any in the story. He originally had more women in the script (for example, Pietari had a mother), but when men have their own plans, it's so much easier to do those plans when there's no women around asking "what the hell are you doing?"
  • Shooting took place over 26 days.
  • They went to the northern part of Norway because the mountains are great there, unlike in Finland. The real Korvatunturi mountain is a really stupid, sad hill.
  • It was nice to be really isolated with the whole team, it was really interesting.
  • They don't have the Easter bunny in Finland, they have an Easter Witch, but Helander doesn't have any opinion on her.
  • Helander is 34 years of age. One of his influences is the movie E.T.

Possible spoilers below:

  • He's working on something else right now, but does have an idea for a sequel. He says it's not going to be pretty with all these Santas around the world.
  • There's lots of CGI in the last 15 to 20 minutes of the film, not so much in the beginning, except for some snow, the excavated pit, and dead reindeer (because they didn't have enough real ones).

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Thoughts on TIFF 2010 Day 7

Some thoughts on Day 7:

  • How to Start Your Own Country: funny yet thoughtful look at a few micronations around the world that raises deeper questions about what it means to be a country. The film takes a look at well-known micronations like Sealand, as well as lesser known ones. While some of the founders come off a bit eccentric, the filmmakers do portray them in a sympathetic light, and all have their own deeply held beliefs as to why they do what they do.
  • The Solitude of Prime Numbers: based on the best-selling Italian novel by Paulo Giordano, who co-wrote with director Saverio Constanzo, this film examines a boy and a girl through different period of their lives; their childhood, their teens, their early 20's, and their late 20's. Both are damaged, either physically or emotionally or both, and struggle with relating to family, people, and each other. Filled with melancholy, it's occasionally as difficult to relate to the characters as it is for them to relate to their own world, but the shifting timeframes gradually reveal the source and depth of their sorrows.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Thoughts on TIFF 2010 Day 6

Past the halfway point now, with 14 movies seen, and 12 to go.

  • Mercifully, no technical issues today, but then again, I only watched one movie.
  • Heartbeats (Les amours imaginaires): director/actor Xavier Dolan's follow-up to J’ai tué ma mère (I Killed My Mother), the film finds friends Marie (Monia Chokri) and Francis (played by Dolan himself) becoming obsessed with newcomer Nicolas (Niels Schneider), a blond, curly-haired Adonis that bewitches them both, threatening to drive a wedge between them. By turns funny and sad, comedic and dramatic, Heartbeats is a worthy sophomore effort from Dolan.

Into the Wind

As part of the Mavericks program, Steve Nash (of the Phoenix Suns) and Ezra Holland brought their new film about Terry Fox to the festival. The film was developed as part of ESPN's 30 for 30 series of films to celebrate the network's 30th anniversary, but this also happens to be the 30th anniversary of Terry Fox's run across Canada to raise funds for cancer research.

For those who are unfamiliar with Terry Fox, he was a young man in his 20's, who lost a leg to cancer. After reading about Dick Traum, the first amputee to finish the New York Marathon, Fox became inspired to run across Canada, from the east coast to the west, and in the process raise money to go towards finding a cure for cancer. Into the Wind tells the story of Terry Fox and of his run.

Nash and Holland, who are cousins and together have a production company, had previously tackled smaller projects like commercials and music videos. But after being approached by ESPN to be part of their 30 for 30 project, Nash and Holland decided to make Terry Fox the focus of their contribution. Narrated by Taylor Kitsch, the film interweaves footage of Terry's run with
interviews of his mother and father, his childhood friend Doug Alward who drove the support van, Terry's brother Darrell who eventually joined Terry and Doug on the road, Bill Vigars, a PR representative of the Canadian Cancer Society who worked with Terry during the run, Terry's high school coach, and Douglas Coupland, who wrote a book about Fox back in 2005.

One of the unique things about this particular film is that it also incorporates the journals that Terry Fox kept on his run, providing insight into his motivations and feelings as he moved across the country.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Fox's run, and this year's Terry Fox Run is next Sunday, September 19th. You can visit the Terry Fox Foundation for more information or to donate.

Notes from the Q&A below. I don't think this really needs a spoiler alert, but if you aren't familiar with Terry Fox's story, there are points below that discuss how it ended.

  • Nash: Terry fox is a hero to all us Canadians. Nash was 6 in 1980 when Fox did his run, and he would watch the news every day to see where Fox was. The run raised a lot of questions for a 6-year old, like what is charity, what is giving, what is community, what is cancer, what is terminal illness? He hopes that the traits that Terry Fox displayed became a part of him and of the community.
  • Nash: You can see why Fox's Marathon of Hope continues today, and why it is still taught in schools. Fox was a normal guy who did extraordinary things, but the way he went about it is quintessentially Canadian.
  • Holland: They wanted to tell a story from Terry's perspective. They tried to figure out how to get the audience on the journey with Terry in an honest and simple way.
  • You can see the his reflections in his diaries, his insecurities contrasted with his public persona.
  • Holland: Steve Nash is conversational with people, and has an ability to get people to open up and tell it as it was, that's Steve's magic.
  • Nash: Being able to sit down with Terry Fox's family was a pleasure and a great personal experience. He didn't want to go in with a list of questions, he wanted to have a conversation, leave open possibilities of new angles and directions, emotions, and hopefully uncover some things about Terry we haven't realized before.
  • Overall it was a celebratory tone, with sad moments.
  • Inside Canada, he's our biggest figure, but to his family and friends, they remember the Terry before the Marathon of Hope.
  • His run had an impact internationally, and is run in 50 countries around the world. It's very Canadian that he is relatively unknown outside of the border, and that we don't go around thumping our chest about it.
  • Holland: It was incredible the amount of archival footage they were able to find. As an 8-year old in England, he vaguely remembers a school assembly about Terry Fox, but when he read Douglas Coupland's book, Terry, it really hit home for him.
  • When ESPN approached them to make a film about an athlete, Fox was the one who stood out, even just on the pure athletic achievement alone, plus he's a normal kid with a good friend, and the whole arc of the movie was right there. Nash: the film is made primarily for a US audience on ESPN, so he wanted to just get out of the way of the story and let it tell itself.
  • But they also wanted to do something different, and get inside Terry's head through his journals. But Nash could relate to Terry Fox as an athlete full stop. They were also interested in the contradiction in Fox; did he know he was going to die? It wouldn't have stopped him; he refused to see doctors and kept going. It was ironic that the motto for the run was "Cancer can be beaten," but it was killing him to do it.
  • Nash and Holland are co-producers with director Bill Guttentag on a movie about Pele.
  • They would like to make dramatic feature films at some point.
  • Nash: It's humbling to work in a new profession, but it's amazing to challenge yourself and grow. The teamwork, collaborative nature, and creativity in film-making is similar to basketball.
  • Nash: On the topic of Terry Fox being a small, not very good basketball player and then rising to be the captain of his high school team through sheer determination and practise, it never crossed Nash's mind the similarities to his own career and challenges in the NBA.
  • On what they think Terry would be doing today, Nash thinks he might have continued on as a leader in the community, or he may not have wanted that 24 hours a day and just wanted to be a regular human being in his community as a teacher or coach. Holland said that Bill had said Terry said to him that he wanted to carry on with his education and get back to his life after the run was over.
  • Nash: it would be great if this film inspires people the way Terry Fox inspired him.
  • Fox's family has seen the film, but they haven't had the chance to speak with them yet. They have heard the family is pleased with the film, and it means a lot to Nash and Holland that the family likes it.
  • Someone asked if Julian Schnabel influenced Nash at all, since Schnabel painted Nash's daughters, which is actually hanging in the Art Gallery of Ontario currently in an exhibition of Schnabel's work. Nash had made a Nike commercial with Schnable's daughter and knows Schnabel's son, so they have talked on occasion about film-making, but not specifically about this project.
  • On the fact that the early days of the run were not widely publicized, Nash thinks that today it would be unlikely to go unnoticed, but Holland said there are so many competing media interests today, it may not have had the same impact.
  • The reporter who said Terry hadn't crossed Quebec is no longer alive, but at the time issued a retraction. Nash and Holland said everything they read indicated the reporter was kind of a jerk in real life, and they think the retraction was probably driven more by the paper.
  • On if they ever disagreed about anything on the movie, Nash and Holland said it was like having a conversation, a continual dialog, but it was really fun.

Thoughts on Day 5

Some random thoughts for Day 5:

  • Wouldn't be a day at the festival without technical issues. They had to "reboot the server" at the AMC for a showing of 22 of May, and then the Lightbox had a building-wide problem with all the theatres when we were about 5 minutes from the end of Cave of Forgotten Dreams. At least they were able to restart after a couple of minutes, which means we didn't miss the Herzogian ending of the film.
  • Tamara Drewe: light, funny, entertaining bedroom farce. Nothing too taxing, which was a nice way to start the day.
  • 22nd of May: in contrast, this was a lot darker, with a security guard being haunted by the people killed in a bombing he didn't stop. Not too bad, ending shots quite good, get a bit of sense of the characters but could've done with something deeper on them.
  • Cave of Forgotten Dreams: fascinating look at the Chauvet caves in France, which contains cave paintings that are over 30,000 years old. Herzog utilized 3D cameras, which really bring to light the drawings, especially given that they are painted on uneven, rolling surfaces. Amazing to think of our far distant ancestors drawing on those walls so many years ago.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Force of Nature: The David Suzuki Movie

Non-Canadians might not be aware of who David Suzuki is, but for Canadians, he is a household name. A scientist, broadcaster and environmentalist, Suzuki has for years hosted a science program on the CBC called The Nature of Things. Suzuki is passionately devoted to the environment and has done much to highlight the problems facing us through his work and through his organization, the The David Suzuki Foundation.

Force of Nature, the latest film from director Sturla Gunnarsson (who's Beowulf and Grendel I saw previously at the festival), takes a slightly different focus with Suzuki than we're used to seeing. Rather than just be science film, Gunnarsson weaves excerpts from Suzuki presenting his "Legacy Lecture" with insights into his personal life, influences and the evolution of his activism. Suzuki talks in the first-person about his childhood in the internment camps for Japanese-Canadians during World War II, his work for the US government as a scientist during the Cold War, his obsession with research during the 60's and 70's, his eventual shift to TV, and his increasing involvement in environmental concerns.

Suzuki is quite open and honest with how his experiences influenced him. How his isolation in childhood, being between two worlds, not quite Japanese, and not quite accepted as Canadian, drove his initial interest in the natural world. How his drive to write the perfect paper resulted in long hours in the lab which would eventually lead to divorce from his first wife. How a conversation with a student initially sparked him to look at the responsibility scientists have for how their basic research may eventually be applied. How reporting on the Haida's efforts to stop logging in the Queen Charlotte Islands crystallized his thoughts on how humanity and nature are intrinsically linked to one another.

Having grown up watching The Nature of Things on CBC, and coming from a similar cultural background, the film really resonated with me. Suzuki, and by extension the film, did a good job at highlighting the pivotal events in his life that shaped and directed his opinions and beliefs, and you could clearly understand and appreciate why he is so passionate and driven to sound the call about our impact on this planet. I think this makes the film even more effective than just a simple presentation of his lecture would be.

For anyone who got nostalgic when they played the old theme music from the show, here's a link to the opening.

Director Sturla Gunnarsson and David Suzuki himself were at the screening and did a Q&A after the film:

  • When asked where the hope is today, Suzuki replied that the environmental movement alone is not enough. If we reach out to human rights, social justice, and peace movements, it creates a very broad tent to include all of these issues, making a big movement that would be hard to ignore.
  • He continued that he is afraid if you look at our own actions, Canada ratified Kyoto, but you never hear about it anymore. Most countries that have ratified will meet their targets, but Canada elected a law-and-order PM who obviously doesn't give a s--- about international law and said he wasn't going to do anything about Kyoto.
  • Having said all that, Suzuki thinks the hope is that we will have a broad tent and the public will do something. It looks to him that unfortunately it may take more Katrina-like events before we get serious about making change.
  • The hope is that we can imagine a future; we always have. Knowing based on our past we can use our experience to see where the danger lies, where the opportunities lie, and imagine a different way of going.
  • When asked if the participation of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) guarantees wide distribution, Gunnarsson said it's really Entertainment One, the top distributor in the country, that guarantees that. The film opens October 1, 2010 in Toronto and Ottawa, and 2 weeks later across the country.
  • The CBC guarantees it will be seen on TV in 2011, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of The Nature of Things. The NFB will ensure the film will travel far and wide in international and educational markets. Planet Green will ensure the film will be seen in the US.
  • When asked about what hope do we have with the world's spiralling population, Suzuki said that we are way over the capacity of the planet to sustain us indefinitely. 1/5th of the world's population (the developed world) consumes 80% of the planet's resources and produces well over 80% of the toxic waste sent back into the biosphere. If we have too many people, the solution will not be to get rid of them or forget about them. The opportunity we have is to reduce the hyperconsumption in the developed world. All the stuff we consume, a lot of it should be utilized by the developing world to bring them up as we radically reduce our consumption. Hyperconsumption and population are the two driving factors undermining the future.
  • He never thought he would be in this role, leading the charge. He always thought of himself as a messenger, transmitting information out to everyone else to exploit. He gets a lot of people coming up to him, saying they support his foundation for which he is very grateful, but then may say, "boy, am I glad you're out there doing that," as if that is somehow enough. We all have to be involved; every day we are doing things, making decisions, that are all adding up to the impact on the planet. Becoming aware is only the first step, we all have to become more directly involved. It's very rewarding when you start down a different path.
  • Co-executive producer Laszlo Barna first contacted Gunnarsson to ask him to meet David Suzuki to discuss doing a project together. Gunnarsson wasn't sure at first, but Barna was very persuasive. Suzuki wanted to do a film about the meaning of life and the history of time back to the Big Bang and moving through to the present. They had many discussions about making a popular science movie, but as discussions unfolded, Gunnarsson became more interested in Suzuki himself. What emerged was a film that dealt with the relationship between David, his character, his life story, and his ideas.
  • Suzuki continued that he himself is not a filmmaker, it was really Gunnarsson's film. Suzuki couldn't see where this direction was going to go. He kept thinking in terms of his work in television, where you start with something and have to explicitly link everything together. In film, it's a different audience when someone has paid $10 to sit in a seat for an hour-and-a-half. They are going to be looking at it in a different way than someone watching television.
  • What excited Suzuki was that Gunnarsson has given the audience a lot of credit by exposing them to his ideas and letting them think about it and put them together. It doesn't have to be driven like in TV where you tell the audience something and the repeat it again and again to drive it home.
  • Gunnarsson said that with every documentary film, there is a process of getting engaged and building trust. After the first few shoots, he realized he was on the right track when he would ask Suzuki a question and Suzuki would respond to him and not the camera.
  • On the topic of the music in the film, Gunnarsson said that right from the beginning he was so taken by the fact that Suzuki has been at the centre of all these major turning points in the 20th and now 21st centuries, so he always imagined in part the film would be a trip through modern history and imagined using pop music from different eras.
  • He didn't know exactly which songs he would use, but one tune he did want was a Neil Young song for the opening, but it fell through. He says that was his good fortune, because he got Jonathan Goldsmith to do a version of "Hard Rain" he really liked.

Thoughts on Day 4

Some random thoughts for Day 4:

  • Mr. Horse-man!
  • Thanks to who pointed out the music used in this year's TIFF Bell Lightbox Trailer is Hold Your Secrets to Your Heart from Miracle Fortress. The single is available from from iTunes.
  • I missed the cupcakes, but did catch the inaugural screening of theatre 2 in the TIFF Bell Lightbox, Errol Morris' Tabloid. The theatre was nice; lots of leg room, high plush seats, stadium-type seating, drink holders, and rear-window captioning capability. Downsides were small entrance doors that become a bit of a bottleneck, and insufficient space to hold people in line before the movie let in. Will have to try the cafe and the bar at some point this upcoming week.
  • Can programmers please remember to repeat the Q&A questions through the mike? Some are really good about it like Thom Powers and Steve Gravestock, and some should know better by this point.
  • Piano in a Factory: I'm not entirely sure about some of the scenes and motivations, but overall liked and enjoyed the film. Probably could also be a bit shorter, but we did see a director's cut that is 15 to 20 minutes longer than what the commercial release will be.
  • Into the Wind: moving documentary from Steve Nash and Ezra Holland about Terry Fox, done for ESPN's 30 for 30 series. Interviews with Terry's parents, brother, friend, and others, interspersed with archival footage and excerpts from Terry's own journals from the trip. This is the 30th anniversary of Fox's run, and this year's Terry Fox run is next Sunday, September 19th. You can visit the Terry Fox Foundation for more information or to donate.
  • Tabloid: Errol Morris' newest documentary. I actually went into this blind, not knowing anything about the subject, and found I really enjoyed the film that way. The revelations that are piled on one after the other as the film progresses is one of the ways it hooks you.
  • Norwegian Wood: based on the Haruki Murakami novel, this is the latest film from Tran Anh Hung (The Scent of Green Papaya). I haven't read the novel so I can't comment on how faithful the film is, but I did find the movie interesting and emotionally engaging. Stars Kenichi Matsuyama, who's becoming something of a fixture at the festival for me; I've seen Matsuyama in Linda, Linda, Linda, Detroit Metal City, Kamui Gaiden, and Bare Essence of Life.
  • Thanks to everyone who's read or linked to this blog. Sunday morning it passed 100,000 page views since its inception back in 2004. Here's to the next 100,000!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

2010 TIFF Lightbox Trailer Theme Music

Thanks to who pointed out the music used in this year's TIFF Bell Lightbox Trailer is Hold Your Secrets to Your Heart from Miracle Fortress, from the album Five Roses.

Miracle Fortress is a band from Montreal and their site can be found at

The single is available also available from from iTunes.

Thoughts on TIFF 2010 Day 3

Some random thoughts on day 3:

  • No new trailers for me today.
  • What's up with all the technical problems this year? Or is it just more visible because everyone and their brother are on Twitter? Subtitling issues at Roy Thomson Hall for Little White Lies and moving everyone to Scotiabank, then issues at Scotiabank for Dhobi Ghat pushing the screening back 90 minutes, and I suspect there were similar problems for the Film Socialisme screening on Day 1 I attended.
  • Speaking of Dhobi Ghat, it was worth the wait. Very nice film, story and performances. Director Kiran Rao and actors Aamir Khan, Prateik Babbar, Monica Dogra, and Kriti Malhotra were all there and did a Q&A. This was the first role for both Dogra and Malhotra, and I think the second for Babbar.
  • Note for anyone who ended up skipping Dhobi Ghat because of the delay, they were saying in line that you can do exchanges or refunds at the main festival box office on Sunday.
  • Also saw Force of Nature, the documentary about scientist, environmentalist, and broadcaster David Suzuki, who was in attendance with director Sturla Gunnarsson (who's Beowulf and Grendel I saw previously at the festival). The film weaves Suzuki's Legacy Lecture with his personal life, providing a first-person look at the influences that shaped Suzuki's life and passions. Having grown up watching The Nature of Things on CBC, and coming from a similar cultural background, the film resonated with me, and Suzuki was fairly forthcoming about his own failings and successes, and how he came to be such a champion for the environment.
  • For anyone who got nostalgic when they played the old theme music from the show, here's a link.
  • Cupcakes tomorrow! Unfortunately, Sunday is one of my busier days, and I'm not going to be near the Lightbox in time to partake.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Thoughts on TIFF 2010 Day 2

Some random thoughts for day 2:

  • Dr. Strangelove! Terminator! Don't forget to rinse your hook...
  • Link from the Globe and Mail's website today from Amber MacArthur's tech column.
  • The Way: a bit uneven in places, but overall, I liked this film from Emilio Estevez, directing his father, Martin Sheen, as a man who is driven to finish his son's pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago, reconnecting with the memory of his son, himself, and the world along the way. Those in the audience who did the route themselves seemed to find the film captured the experience quite well. After seeing this movie, you'd be hard pressed to not find yourself wanting to do the same. Estevez and Sheen were there for a Q&A. Co-star Deborah Kara Unger was there at the start, but had to duck out early.
  • Guest: I saw Jose Luis Guerin's last film at the festival, Dans la ville de Sylvia, back in 2007. On a tour of festivals for that movie, Guerin took the opportunity to film his travels, resulting in Guest. Along the way, he observes life in many countries, from Italy to France, Peru, Chile, Cuba, China, and Jerusalem, connects with many of the locals, and finds common themes among the often difficult lives people lead.

Friday, September 10, 2010

2010 Programme Book Gift Bag

Finally connected up with my friend who picked up our tickets this year, and there was a programme book gift bag after all. One rumor I read said the bags were not given out when you picked up your programme book because they were held up at customs. When my friend went to pick up the completed order, bags were available, although he had to specifically ask for it. No word on whether any would still be left at this point.

Highlights of this year's bag:

  • A tote bag.

  • No Stella Artois glass! So much for my collection.

  • A small 237 ml bottle of Diet Coke.

  • A bag of Blockbuster popcorn.

  • A Crest 3DWhite teeth whitening strip.

  • A rent 1/get 1 free coupon for Blockbuster with post-its to bookmark your programme book.

  • A card advertising the Tim Burton exhibition organized by MOMA that will be at the Lightbox in November.

  • A card advertising 50% off the Toronto Star.

  • A Pizza Nova gift card.

  • An ad for, which seems to list all the various film festivals around Toronto during the year.

  • A card advertising the Liberty Entertainment Group's restaurants, like the Rosewater Supper Club (no discount, though).

  • A Blockbuster gift card, although it doesn't say if there's any credit on it.

  • A scratch and win card for the Drake Hotel.

  • 3D glasses for the National Film Board of Canada's website (

Inside Job

Inside Job is an intriguing look at the causes and the effects of the recent financial crisis. With narration by Matt Damon, and interviews with some of those that contributed to the problem and those who foresaw the results but went unheeded, director Charles Ferguson's film lays out the initial origins of the problem back in the 70's and 80's when deregulation of the financial industry began, moves through its expansion in the 90's and early 2000's, right up to the boiling point in 2008/2009. The film presents a clear explanation of collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) and credit default swaps (CDSs) and shows how they created a house of cards just ripe for a collapse.

Inside Job reminded me somewhat of Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, in that both films took a rather esoteric topic and made it understandable to a layperson, and highlighted how greed created a self-perpetuating cycle that piled more and more bad decisions on top of one another to the point that failure was inevitable. The film shows the intertwining connections between academia, government, and the financial services industry, with the same players moving back and forth between each of them, further entrenching the same principles that led to many of the problems.

Director Charles Ferguson, producer Audrey Marrs, and Gillian Tett, US managing editor of the Financial Times, did a Q&A after the film:

  • Ferguson's hope for the film is to be able to show the world these issues and hope it leads to action.
  • When asked about how they got people to interview for the film, Marrs said that in getting people, they gave them a brief synopsis of the film and Ferguson's CV, and she was surprised more people didn't ask for more information. She thinks that many thought they were going to them just for the expertise, and that they had never been challenged before. For those people that declined, they pushed really hard to get specific no's, as opposed to people just saying they were too busy and deferring.
  • Gillian Tett described that before moving to the editorial side, for 5 years she covered global markets, and she used to be frustrated at trying to take these complicated, specialized topics and ideas and communicate them to other people. It was an area of activity that was incredibly important to the global economy but very hard to communicate. She thinks the film does a good job of taking this geeky, complex stuff and communicating its core essence to a wider audience, and wishes there had been some version of this 5 years ago.
  • She continued that it is tempting to take a topic like CDOs, which seems dull and geeky and boring, and stick it on the back page. People would tend to say its geeky and boring, so leave it to the technical experts. And technical experts are not used to be questioned, because people aren't looking at what they are doing, so they are left alone and get on with their stuff, but we now know in finance that is dangerous.
  • She raised the question of how many other geeky areas of activity are there in society today where people are averting their eyes, like how many people knew what was happening in the Gulf of Mexico before the BP well blew up, and how many other areas is there a need for people to make serious films looking at these technical areas where experts are not used to being challenged?
  • Some interview subjects tried to back out afterwards, but they had all signed releases before doing the interviews. Ferguson got an e-mail from Martin Feldstein the day after the interview rescinding his permission, but they already had a signed release so they left the footage in; Ferguson had thanked his legal team before the start of the screening.
  • On the academic connection: Ferguson started in academia, has a PhD in political science from MIT, and did economic policy. He noticed some of his professors popping up as expert witnesses in antitrust cases or regulatory proceedings. Over time he kept in touch with academia, and has friends who are academics, and he noticed this became more prevalent, and once the crisis hit, he looked deeper, and found what you saw in film and much more. The Law and Economics Consulting Group, one of the firms mentioned in the film, is a $300 million a year publicly held company; overall, it is a billion dollar industry, and their website listed all the academic experts you could hire, and there are a lot of serious people
    on there.
  • When asked about the film's position that President Obama hasn't addressed the issue in more depth (and the film is fairly non-partisan in that both Republican and Democratic administrations alike get blame for contributing to the problem), Ferguson said that he doesn't know the President personally, but says once he made certain appointments for positions like the Secretary of the Treasury, the Fed, etc. the die was cast. He said
    he really doesn't know the answer to that, but in discussions with others, some people think it's actually contrary to the President's own political self-interest to do what he has done and probably had the capital to do much more.
  • Gillian Tett said she thinks President Obama was trying to to tackle many targets at once, and to reform the financial industry would require a strong, concerted focus, but the lobby is very powerful. Before becoming a journalist, she trained as a social anthropologist, and one of thinkers that had an impact on her was Pierre Bourdieu, the French anthropologist, who argued the way elites stay in power is not by controlling the means of production
    (i.e. money), but by controlling the cognitive map (how we think). This plays into Ferguson's point about the academic role in all this; academics were reinforcing and supporting a cognitive map that served the financial industry very well. There is a powerful nexus of thinkers, politicians, idea people, money men and women, who worked together in recent years to create the system.
  • Ferguson concluded by agreeing that the US political system has become more a servant of the financial service industry, but it's not irreversible, and the American people have in past come to realize similar problems in the system and asserted themselves, and thinks that the President has the capacity to do much more.
  • The film will be released this fall in North America.

Film Socialism

I can't really comment too much on this film. Everything I've read indicated that there should have been English subtitles (albeit ellipitical ones), but the version I saw at TIFF had none, and my French is extremely limited, so that made it even more difficult to interpret what I was seeing. Especially the middle section of the film, set at a small gas station, where there was a fair amount of dialogue.

If you're a fan of Godard's work, and/or you have a good working knowledge of French, consider seeing this, but otherwise, you may not get much out of the film.

Thoughts on Opening Day

Some random thoughts on day 1:

  • New trailers! RBC one was funny, but hope they have more in store, because it will get old fast. Cadillac seems to be going for iconic film images this year (Psycho!).

  • Liked the new volunteer trailer.

  • The Lightbox Tim Burton trailer was visually interesting. Have to checkout the exhibit when it comes to town.

  • The TIFF woman doing the intro for Film Socialism found it cute the audience remembered the arrrrrr for her anti-piracy spiel.

  • Speaking of Film Socialism, what was up with the 30 minute delay? Heard conflicting reasons for the delay, from the projectionist being late to the film itself being late. And were there supposed to be subtitles? The few reviews from Cannes I've read seem to imply that there should've been (although they probably wouldn't have helped me interpret the movie any better).

  • Inside Job was a fascinating look at the causes and impact of the financial crisis, and does a good job explaining collateralized debt obligations, credit default swaps, and how they led to the whole financial mess. Took a fairly non-partisan view in the sense that both Republican and Democratic administrations alike take blame, along with the major players in the financial industry and academia. Director and producer were in attendance, and did a Q&A which I'll post a summary of when I get a chance.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

My TIFF 2010 Fest Schedule

Got my tickets for this year:

Friday, September 03, 2010

Individual Tickets Now On Sale

Individual tickets to screenings are now on sale:

Online at, starting September 3, 2010 at 7:00 AM

At the Festival Box Office at 363 King Street West (King and Peter Streets) or by phone at (416) 968-FILM or 1-877-968-FILM:

  • September 3: 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM
  • September 4 to September 8: 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM
  • September 9 to September 18: 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM
  • September 19: 7:00 AM to 5:00 PM
The website is pretty unresponsive at the moment.

Monday, August 30, 2010

TIFF 2010: Box 9 out of 39 Drawn

In this year's ticket lottery, there were 39 boxes, and box 9 was selected as the starting point. This means all orders that were dropped off in box 9 will be processed first (after donors are processed), then box 10, 11, 12, etc., up to 39, after which boxes 1 through 8 will be processed.

If you filled out an e-mail address on your Advance Order Book and your envelope, you should get an e-mail between now and September 2, letting you know which of your choices were filled; for any that weren't you will receive vouchers that you can use starting September 2 to select a different screening. Don't panic if you don't receive an e-mail, a number of people every year don't.

You can pick up your tickets or vouchers starting on September 2, 2010 at 7:00 AM at the Festival Box Office at King and Peter. If you actually got all your choices, I recommend you do not show up first thing at 7:00 AM, as the lines will likely be long.

For all those that did not participate in the advance order procedure this year, general tickets go on sale starting September 3.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Advance Order Books Due Tomorrow

Just a reminder, Advance Order Books have to be returned before 1:00 PM on Monday, August 30, 2010 to the Festival Box Office at King and Peter. If you miss the deadline, then your order will be processed after everyone else in the lottery.

Your Advance Order Book should be in the order envelope you received at pickup, and the envelope should include your Drop Off Voucher. Keep your Pick Up Voucher, as you will need that to pick up your tickets.

Don't forget to also fill out your e-mail address on both the envelope and the cover of the Advance Order Book, so the festival can notify you of which tickets you will receive.

If your 1st and 2nd choice for a screening were sold out, then you will receive a voucher at pick up that can be used to pick and pay for another screening, which you can pick as soon as September 2, 2010.

For a more detailed explanation of what happens in the lottery, consult my post here.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

TIFF 2010 Programme Guide Tote Bag

I've heard that the reason that purchasers of the programme guide did not get tote bags at envelope pick up this year is that all the contents were ready to go, but the bags themselves were held up in customs at the border. No word on exactly when the bags might be available.

The Whistleblower

While scheduling films, my friend noticed that the Rachel Weisz film, The Whistleblower, is listed on the website and the Official Film Schedule, but is not in the programme book. So if you're strictly looking at the programme book when picking films, don't forget to look this one film up off of the website.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Actors, Directors, and Others Attending TIFF 2010

The list of actors, directors, and others attending or expected to attend the festival has been announced. The full list can be found here.

Some highlights below:

  • Ben Affleck
  • Malin Akerman
  • Woody Allen
  • Darren Aronofsky
  • Gemma Arterton
  • Javier Bardem
  • Jay Baruchel
  • Maria Bello
  • Danny Boyle
  • Zach Braff
  • Catherine Breillat
  • Abigail Breslin
  • Jim Broadbent
  • James Caan
  • John Carpenter
  • Vincent Cassel
  • Thomas Haden Church
  • Jennifer Connelly
  • Steve Coogan
  • Paolo Costanzo
  • Denis Côté
  • Marion Cotillard
  • Matt Damon
  • William B. Davis
  • Robert De Niro
  • Catherine Deneuve
  • Kat Dennings
  • Laura Dern
  • Garrett Dillahunt
  • Xavier Dolan
  • Minnie Driver
  • Clint Eastwood
  • Aaron Eckhart
  • Atom Egoyan
  • Emilio Estevez
  • Vera Farmiga
  • Will Ferrell
  • Colin Firth
  • Megan Fox
  • James Franco
  • Stephen Frears
  • Vincent Gallo
  • Ed Gass-Donnelly
  • Bill Gates
  • Zach Galifianakis
  • Paul Giamatti
  • Amos Gitai
  • Ryan Gosling
  • Bruce Greenwood
  • José Luis Guerin
  • Davis Guggenheim
  • Sturla Gunnarsson
  • Michael C. Hall
  • Rebecca Hall
  • Jon Hamm
  • Woody Harrelson
  • Josh Hartnett
  • Amber Heard
  • Jill Hennessy
  • Werner Herzog
  • George Hickenlooper
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman
  • Bob Hoskins
  • Alejandro González Iñárritu
  • Irène Jacob
  • Jason Jones
  • Milla Jovovich
  • Catherine Keener
  • Harvey Keitel
  • Nicole Kidman
  • Rachelle Lefevre
  • Mike Leigh
  • Blake Lively
  • Ken Loach
  • Jon Lovitz
  • Josh Lucas
  • William H. Macy
  • Guy Maddin
  • Amy Madigan
  • Bruce McDonald
  • Helen Mirren
  • Michael Moore
  • Errol Morris
  • Temuera Morrison
  • Carey Mulligan
  • Bill Murray
  • Steve Nash
  • Olivia Newton-John
  • Alessandro Nivola
  • Edward Norton
  • Jonathan Nossiter
  • Clive Owen
  • François Ozon
  • Ellen Page
  • Molly Parker
  • Ron Perlman
  • Ryan Phillippe
  • Rosamund Pike
  • Freida Pinto
  • Amanda Plummer
  • Christopher Plummer
  • Natalie Portman
  • Kelly Preston
  • Bill Pullman
  • Om Puri
  • Charlotte Rampling
  • Robert Redford
  • Keanu Reeves
  • Jeremy Renner
  • Ryan Reynolds
  • Miranda Richardson
  • Emma Roberts
  • Sam Rockwell
  • Stephen Root
  • Mickey Rourke
  • Geoffrey Rush
  • Amy Ryan
  • Ludivine Sagnier
  • John Sayles
  • Julian Schnabel
  • David Schwimmer
  • Kristin Scott-Thomas
  • Martin Sheen
  • Michael Sheen
  • Sarah Silverman
  • Kevin Spacey
  • Scott Speedman
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • Mary Steenburgen
  • Fisher Stevens
  • Emma Stone
  • David Suzuki
  • Hilary Swank
  • Juno Temple
  • Uma Thurman
  • John Turturro
  • Tom Tykwer
  • Liv Tyler
  • Ingrid Veninger
  • Denis Villeneuve
  • Apichatpong Weerasethakul
  • Rachel Weisz
  • Lambert Wilson
  • Rainn Wilson
  • Ray Winstone
  • Michael Winterbottom
  • Dwight Yoakam

How Do I Buy Tickets for TIFF 2010 - Part 4

This is the fourth in a series of posts on how to buy tickets for the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). In this post, we'll look at ways you can purchase tickets while the festival is underway.

You can purchase tickets in advance (i.e. not on the same day of the screening) by the following methods:

Online at, starting September 3, 2010 at 7:00 AM

At the Festival Box Office at 363 King Street West (King and Peter Streets) or by phone at (416) 968-FILM or 1-877-968-FILM:

  • September 3: 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM
  • September 4 to September 8: 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM
  • September 9 to September 18: 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM
  • September 19: 7:00 AM to 5:00 PM

On the day of the screening, in addition to the above methods you can also purchase tickets at the venue box office; i.e. the box office located at each theatre showing films for the festival. Venue box offices usually open one hour before the first scheduled screening of the day at that theatre, and close 30 minutes after the last scheduled screening of the day at that theatre.

In 2009, ticket prices were as follows:

  • Regular Public Screenings - $19.76, Student/Senior - $17.14 (in person only, same-day sales only)
  • Premium Public Screenings - $38.33, Student/Senior - $19.05 (in person only, same-day sales only)
  • Children’s Tickets for Sprockets Family Zone programming only - Child (12 and under) - $12.86

Prices do not include HST, building-fund fee, or service charges. You can pay by cash, debit, or Visa.

You can usually purchase a maximum of 4 tickets to a single screening. All sales are final; to exchange tickets, there is a $2.50 fee per ticket, and you can only do exchanges up to the day before the screening (i.e. no same day exchanges allowed). Exchanges can usually only be performed at the Festival Box Office.

For Student and Senior (+65) discounts, you need to present your ID with your ticket when entering the screening.

If a particular screening is marked as Off Sale, i.e. sold out, then keeping trying throughout the festival. People may exchange their tickets for other movies, and those originals are then released back for sale.

Additional tickets may also be made available the day of the screening, so try checking then. The TIFF website will list their "best bets" for same day tickets available on the following day, on the website, and through e-mail if you subscribe to their TIFF Alerts.

Try a different screening. Screenings early in the week tend to sell out faster than those later in the festival.

Try checking the forums at TIFF Reviews, at People will often post if they are looking to trade their tickets.

If all else fails, you can try the rush line outside the theatre screening your film. If any last minute seats open up, because someone doesn't show up for their screening, or seats reserved for people associated with the film aren't all filled, the theatre may release those seats. People in the rush line will get first crack at purchasing any seats that come available (sales are usually cash only, so make sure you have enough on you). Note there is no guarantee anyone in the rush line will be able to get in.

On occasion, ticket holders that don't want to see the film or that have extra tickets, may go down the rush line offering their extras; I've been on both ends of this before, where I've sold my ticket to someone in the line, or been in the line and bought a ticket off of someone looking to sell.

Some tips for the festival:

  • Make sure you are in the right line. Ask festival volunteers (the ones with the headsets or festival t-shirts) what line you should be in. Multiplexes like the AMC will have multiple films lining up at the same time, so you want to make sure you are in the right one. Plus, each theatre has a rush line as well, which is for people who still want to buy tickets, not those who already have one.
  • Be at the theatre at least 15 minutes before the start of the screening, otherwise you are not guaranteed a seat, even if you have a ticket. If you arrive more than 10 minutes after the scheduled start of a movie, they may not let you in.
  • Not all theatres allow food and/or drink. The Varsity, AMC, and Scotiabank theatres allow food/drink since they are all part of the big theatre chains, but other theatres like Ryerson do not. So don't buy take-out or a big coffee right before you go into one of those.
  • Don't leave empty seats next to you. Squeeze in, because generally speaking, every film will be playing to a packed house. Note the festival also says you aren't allowed to save seats in the theatre.
  • Be aware of where you sit if you are watching a subtitled movie. Not all theaters have good sight lines to the bottom of the screen.
  • If you have limited time between screenings, don't forget all the factors that might affect you: many screenings will have a Q&A after the movie, and the time for any Q&A is not factored into the screening time in the schedule (you're not obliged to stick around for the Q&A, though); films will occasionally start late for a variety of reasons; some theatres are far apart from one another.
  • If you're watching a Midnight Madness film at midnight, don't forget that the subway may not be running by the time the film ends, so plan accordingly.
  • Speaking of Q&As, if you're going to speak up, make sure you actually have a question or keep it short. No one else wants to hear you gush over the director or cast for 5 minutes, no matter how good the film was. If you want to do that, try to catch them after the Q&A is over. In a similar vein, it generally does not go over well if you want to spend your question severely criticizing the director without anything constructive to say or ask.
  • Don't forget to turn off your cell phone, and for pete's sake, don't text or talk through the movie (especially if you're in the industry; the rest of us don't care how much of a Hollywood bigshot you are :-))
  • It should go without saying that you shouldn't be taping movies, but in case that's not obvious, I've been at a number of films where they've had people scanning the audience during the screening, with and without night-vision goggles. Also note that taping movies is now a criminal offense that could net you 2 years in prison.
  • Be nice to the volunteers; they don't get paid for this (other than getting a ticket from whatever is still available after having worked for several hours in a row). Just think about how much *more* expensive the festival would be without them. :-)

If you want a really detailed breakdown of tips of what to do during the festival, check out Larry Richman's series of posts, the first of which is linked below:

How Do I Buy Tickets for TIFF 2010 - Part 3

This is the third in a series of posts on how to buy tickets for the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). This post describes some strategies and considerations for selecting which films to see.

There's no one right way to pick which films to see at the festival; it's a very personal choice based on your own interests and personality. This post provides some different ways you can wrangle the huge number of films into something more manageable that appeals to you.

Ways of Selecting Films

Some of the ways you can focus in on particular films include:

  • Director
  • Actor
  • Writer
  • Genre
  • Country
  • Festival programme
  • Festival programmer
  • Story, plot, or characters
  • Timeslot
  • Theatre

Director, actor, and writer are fairly self-explanatory. I've met people who will jump at the chance to see the latest Werner Herzog film, for instance. Others want to see Brad Pitt or Patricia Clarkson.

Some people like to focus on a particular genre or span genres. For example, I usually try to see a dramatic film, a documentary, something comedic, something animated, something character-driven, and something with some action at a minimum (but not necessarily in one single film). I don't generally go out of my way to watch something historical, but I do usually seek out something contemporary.

I also like to see films from a number of different countries. At a minimum, I usually see something from Canada, France, Japan, and Scandinavia. I then usually end up with others from the US, South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa.

For festival programme: the films in the festival are divided up amongst a number of different programmes:

  • Canada First!: focuses on new and emerging Canadian filmmakers who are making their first appearance at the festival.
  • Canadian Open Vault: features iconic, recently restored Canadian film.
  • City to City: this programme contains films and documentaries focusing on a single city, this year being Istanbul.
  • Contemporary World Cinema: films from around the world.
  • Discovery: features new and emerging filmmakers from around the world.
  • Gala Presentations: high profile Canadian and international films.
  • Masters: films by established and renowned filmmakers.
  • Mavericks: discussions with people in the film industry. In the past, I've attended panels on Indian cinema, Nick Park discussing Wallace and Gromit, and Larry Charles and Bill Maher talking about Religulous while it was still in production.
  • Midnight Madness: films that are outside the normal festival boundaries, such as thrillers, horror, and cult films.
  • Real to Reel: documentaries.
  • Short Cuts Canada: Canadian short films, all under 50 minutes in length.
  • Special Presentations: films with major stars and/or directors from around the world.
  • Sprockets Family Zone: children's films.
  • Vanguard: films with a younger feel that push social and cultural boundaries.
  • Visions: films that stretch the boundaries of conventional cinema, using new techniques, territory, and/or technologies.
  • Wavelengths: experimental film and video art.

There are some people who just want to see everything in the Midnight Madness or Wavelengths programmes, and others who pick and choose from all over (I'm in the latter category). Note that if you bought one of the "My Choice" packages, you can select films from any of the programmes, provided the screenings are Regular Public screenings and not Premium screenings. Even though there are specific packages for Wavelengths, Midnight Madness, and City to City, you aren't required to have one of those to see the films in those programmes; you can still use your "My Choice" package or buy individual tickets.

There are separate programmers for each programme in the festival, and those people have become quite well-known over the years to regular festival goers. Each person has their own personality, and over time you can grow to like a particular person's style and choices, and dislike those of others. If you read the description of a film in one of the official sources such as the programme book or the festival website, you'll find that each is written by a different programmer.

Some people will see a film based on the person who programmed it. Some people such as myself find that some programmers' descriptions of the films are more representative than those by others. As such, the programmer and their description of the story, plot, or characters can be a factor for some in selecting films.

Selecting by timeslot can be an alternative if you have limited time to attend the festival. For instance, if you're unlike crazy people like myself who take vacation to attend the festival, then you may only have time during weekday evenings or weekends. As a result, you may end up trying to choose from whatever films happen to be screening on a Tuesday evening.

I have a friend who also occasionally considers the theatre when selecting films. If he finds himself already seeing a number of films in a single theatre (e.g. the Scotiabank or the AMC), he will often schedule in other films in that same theatre to eliminate having to travel from theatre to theatre, especially if there is limited time between movies.

Considerations When Selecting Films

Some things to remember when selecting films:

  • Each film usually screens multiple times during the festival. If you can't get into the first screening, try one of the other ones.
  • Films may not start or end on time, so build some contingency into your schedule.
  • Times in the festival schedule do not include time for Q&A sessions after the film if the director or actors are present, and depending on the film, this can last from 15 to 30 minutes.
  • Don't forget to account for travel time between theatres, as some are far apart from one another.
  • If you have children, check the film rating before buying a ticket. The Ontario Film Review Board lists the different film classifications and who can get in. Note that many films are unrated, and as such, you must be over 18 to attend, and that includes infants and toddlers.
  • You are not guaranteed entry if you arrive within 15 minutes of the film start time, and if you are more than 10 minutes late, you definitely won't be let in.

Sources for Film Selection

Some valuable sources that can help you decide which film to see are listed below:

  • Film listing at the official festival website (
  • Festival programme book (can be purchased for $32.00)
  • ( has films sliced and diced by title, director, actor, language, country, programme, classification, and review rating, with links to IMDB, trailers, and critical reviews, and the ability to search cinema sources for more information.

Scheduling Your Festival

If you are participating in the Advance Order Procedure with one of the "My Choice" ticket packages, or just buying individual tickets for multiple films, then choosing films in a given timeslot can make it easier to create your schedule. For example, a friend and I usually attend the festival and see about 60 films between the two of us. We'll see the majority of films together, and some separately depending on our interests. It can get extremely complicated trying to schedule that many films since each screens multiple times on different days.

What we usually do is rank every film in the festival from 1 to 5, with 1 being something we don't want to see at all, 3 is something I could take or leave, and 5 being something I want to see no matter what. We then start with scheduling all the 5's regardless of whether we both want to see the film or not, then 4's that we have in common, then 3's, and then we fill out the rest individually until we've used up all our tickets.

Every time we schedule a particular screening, we try and find one that doesn't conflict with any choices we've already made. Often times a conflict will occur, in which case we have to find a different time for the film, or reschedule something we've already chosen. This can be a very time consuming process; it usually takes my friend and I anywhere up to 8 hours to complete the process. Often times, we will run into a situation where it is impossible to see a film because there are no screenings available that don't conflict with other films we want to see more.

If you are only picking movies for yourself or are seeing 10 or less, this likely won't be a major problem for you. However, you should always consider backups in case your primary choice is sold out. This is true both if you are buying individual tickets or doing the Advance Order Procedure. It is extremely common for people to go to the box office, try to buy a ticket for a specific film, find out it's sold out, then spend a long time trying to find an alternative movie because they haven't taken the time to figure out what else they might want to see. This has the side effect of tying up the box office and creating long lines, and frustrating every one else. Plus, the longer you take trying to find an alternative choice, the more likely it is that your eventual alternate may be sold out to other people at the box office or buying online. Also note that there is a $2.50 fee to exchange a ticket, so choose wisely.

How Do I Buy Tickets for TIFF 2010? - Part 2

This is the second in a series of posts on how to buy tickets for the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). This post describes how the Advance Order Procedure works. This post has been updated for the 2010 process.

You can participate in the Advance Order Procedure if you buy one of the following "My Choice" ticket packages:

  • 50-Film Pack
  • 30-Film Pack
  • 25-Film Daytime Pack
  • 15-Film Daytime Pack
  • 10-Ticket Flex Pack

When you buy one of these packages, you should receive in the mail an Envelope voucher, a Drop Off voucher and a Pick Up voucher, provided you bought before August 6, 2010 (if you didn't you will have to pick them up from the Festival Box Office). If you bought a Programme Book, you will also receive a voucher for that as well. The Programme Book is a large book with a detailed description and photo for each film in the festival. It is not necessary to buy this book to complete the Advance Order Procedure, as all the information is available in other formats and on the festival web site, but it is convenient to flip through offline, plus it makes a nice souvenir.

A picture of previous Programme Books is below:

And here's what the book looks like inside:

Starting at 7:00 AM on August 24, 2010, you can go to the Festival Box Office at 363 King Street West (King and Peter Streets) to pick up your order form. Note that on the first day there will be a line, and it can take over 45 minutes to get through it, especially if you show up first thing in the morning, so plan your day accordingly. Note you don't actually have to line up first thing on the 24th, as you can pick up your order form at any time after that as long as the completed form is returned before 1:00 PM on August 30, 2010.

If you don't live in Toronto and bought the Courier Film Selection Service, the festival will send everything to you via FedEx; note you must return your completed order by FedEx by August 27, 2010, 5:00 PM local time.

If you go to the box office in person to pick up your order, before getting in any line, track down the festival volunteer usually at the head of the line, and verify that the line is the correct one for you to be in (you can identify the volunteers by their headsets or festival t-shirts). The festival doesn't always have someone at the end of the line telling people what the line is for. There will likely be at least two lines; one for order form pickup, and one for people to buy ticket packages or get their vouchers if they didn't receive them in the mail.

Make sure you have your Envelope voucher (and optionally your Programme Book voucher) with you when you go to pick up the order form. You will not be able to get anything without the vouchers. When you get to the front of the line, turn in those vouchers and make sure you receive an order envelope, the Advance Order Book, and a copy of the Official Film Schedule, as you will need all three to complete your order.

It used to be that if you bought a programme book, then while supplies lasted, you would get a tote bag filled with a number of promotional items and the programme book. This year they were not giving out tote bags, but apparently you get something later in the process (e.g. maybe on ticket pickup), but that's not entirely clear yet. Check this post ( for details on what was in the 2009 tote bag.

So, the next step is to fill out the order. Make sure you have the following:

1. The Official Film Schedule.

2. The Advance Order Book:

3. A highlighter; this is optional, but does help to make your choices more visible to the ticket processors.

Let's consider an example where you want to see the film Windfall on one of the days of the festival, with a couple of friends of yours. The Advance Order Book looks as follows:

First, write the number of tickets you want in the box labeled "Qty" next to the name of the film. In this example, we want 3 tickets (because it will be yourself plus two friends). This will represent your first choice for this timeslot.

Next, highlight the name and time of the film with a highlighter, or circle them (either is fine). Do NOT highlight or obscure the barcode.

Next, find a film around the same time that will be your backup choice if your first choice is already full when they get around to processing your order form. Note this step is optional. If you do not specify a backup film and your first choice is full, you will receive a ticket voucher which you can redeem at a later date for another film at the festival. There is no fee to exchange tickets, provided you are participating in the Advance Order Procedure.

In this example, Poetry will be the backup choice. Below the entry for Windfall, in the 8 boxes next to the "2nd", write the 8-character event code for the 2nd choice film. In this case, the event code for Poetry is is 091018F2 (it's the code next to the film's title). Also write in the name of the backup movie in the "Title" box below the "2nd" boxes. Note that you cannot specify a different number of tickets for the backup; the festival will in this example assume you still want 3 tickets for the 2nd choice. Do not highlight the backup choice or fill in anything in that film's entry.

Your form should look as follows:

Repeat this process until you run out of coupons or choices. For example, if you ordered a 10-ticket Package, and you wanted 2 tickets for each film, you would select 5 1st choice films and optionally, 5 2nd choice backups.

Note the restrictions on your particular package when selecting films, to ensure your order is processed correctly:
  • 50-Film and 30-Film Packs: maximum of 1 ticket per screening.
  • 25-Film and 15-Film Daytime Packs: maximum of 1 ticket per screening beginning before 5:01 PM.
  • 10-Ticket Flex Pack: maximum of 4 tickets per screening, per account.

Note in all cases, you can select only Regular public screenings, not Premium screenings. In the Official Film Schedule, Premium screenings are indicated by 4 stars on the right-hand side of the timeblock for the screening.

In the example below, there are six Premium screenings shown. For old-timers, it is important to note that Premium screenings can now occur in theatres other than Roy Thomson Hall and the Visa Screening Room. In this example, there are Premium screenings at Ryerson and at Isabel Bader.

The Advance Order Book should not contain any listings for Premium screenings, but it's worthwhile double checking as you fill your schedule out.

You can place all your choices in a single Advance Order Book, regardless of how many passes or packages you bought. If you bought 3 10-ticket Packages, then all 30 1st choices and all 30 2nd choices can go in the same book.

For any tickets that you choose not to use in the Advance Order Procedure, or any choices that can't be filled because the film is sold out, you will receive vouchers that you can use towards other films with availability. You can do this alternate selection on September 2 when you pick up your completed order, or during the festival itself.

When selecting films, don't forget to account for the following:

  • Films may not start or end on time.
  • Times in the schedule do not include time for Q&A sessions after the film if the director or actors are present.
  • You should account for travel time between theatres, as some are far apart from one another.

Once you have finished picking your films and filling out the Advance Order Book, ensure you fill out the information on the cover of the Advance Order Book. If you want the festival to call you in the event of any difficulties regardless of the time of day or night, you could place a note on the form, but that's not a guarantee the festival will call. Note they process orders around the clock, so they could call you in the middle of the night if you so note. Ensure you fill out your e-mail address (and make sure it's readable) if you want to receive an e-mail notification once your order is filled.

Once you have filled out that information, place the completed Advance Order Book in the envelope you received when you picked up your form:

Fill out the "Total Number of Tickets Requested in this Order" box at the top right of the envelope. If you have 3 10-film packages, then you would write 30 in this box.

Fill out the contact information on the envelope. If you include an e-mail address, then the festival should notify you by e-mail which of your choices were filled and which were not when they have finished processing your order. If you bought the package for someone else, ensure their name is also included on the form in the spot provided.

Take the Drop Off Voucher that you should have received in the mail a while ago and place it in the envelope window. Do NOT include the Pick Up Voucher; you need to keep that to pick up your completed order starting September 2, 2010 at 7:00 AM at the festival box office.

Do NOT seal the envelope; leave the flap open or tuck it in, but do not seal it.

Drop off the envelope at the Festival Box Office before 1:00 PM on August 30, 2010. If you do not turn in your envelope by 1:00 PM, then you will miss the lottery, and your form will be processed after everyone else's.

The festival staff then spends the time from the 30th to the 1st processing orders. You can then line up at the festival box office any time from September 2 at 7:00 AM onwards to pick up your completed forms and see what movies you received. Take your Pick Up vouchers with you to exchange them for your processed orders. If you receive an e-mail from the festival saying you got all your choices, then I would recommend that you do NOT show up first thing in the morning, as there will be long wait (Shannon the Movie Moxie spent 6-1/2 hours in line in 2007 to get her orders and make alternate selections). If you didn't receive all of your picks, then you should line up in the morning, as you will receive ticket vouchers in place of your missed picks. You can then move to another line to immediately use those vouchers to pick other films that are still available; alternatively, you can wait to use those vouchers during the festival.

Now, why don't you need to speed through getting your Advance Order Book completed as soon as possible? Because the festival has a lottery system to determine from what point they start processing orders. Therefore, there is no inherent benefit to getting your order forms returned early. Here's how the system works:

1. The festival starts with a whole bunch of empty boxes, numbered sequentially.

2. As people turn in their order forms, the forms are placed in the lowest numbered box that has room:

Here we can see completed forms being placed in box #1.

3. Once a box is full, forms are placed in the next available box, in this case box #2:

4. And once that box is full, they move to the next one, in this case box #3:

5. Once all forms have been received by the deadline, the festival has a bunch of filled, numbered boxes:

6. They then randomly draw a number from 1 to whatever the highest number box they have, in this example, 80. The number drawn represents the box number from which the festival starts processing orders. Assume for this example that 33 was the number drawn:

The festival starts processing the forms in box #33. Once they have processed all the forms in the box, they move to the next one in numerical order, in this case #34. They continue until they reach the highest numbered box, here #80. Once they finish with that box, they loop back around to box #1 and start moving upwards, until they reach the box one number before the one drawn (#32). The festival usually sends e-mails out letting you know which of your choices you have gotten.

At this point, all advanced orders have been processed and will be ready for pickup. In this example, if you were lucky enough to be in box #33, you would've gotten all your picks. But if you were in box #32, you probably won't get a lot of your picks. In that case, for each pick that wasn't fulfilled you typically receive a voucher which you can use to select a film from whatever still has tickets available. You can use vouchers coupons any time during the duration of the festival.

Festival patrons that donated at least $300 to the festival get processed before the other boxes mentioned above. And even amongst donors, the ones who contributed more money get priority over other donors.

Just for interest, the graph below gives you an idea of when people submitted their order forms in 2006:

The bulk seemed to drop their forms off in the final three hours or so before the deadline. In 2007, box 66 out of 75 was randomly drawn as the starting point. My friend and I had forms in boxes 21 and 49, and we didn't get only 3 out of the 60 films we selected (but then we didn't pick many big name films).

The next post in this series will talk about some of the different ways people pick the films they want to see, and some considerations around scheduling. The post after that will discuss what you actually do during the festival when you get to your screening, along with options if you couldn't get tickets in advance.

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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