Why TIFF Is Important
REEL CANADA's Kat Gligorijevic reflects on her time at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival and why TIFF is important to Canada.
This year's Toronto International Film Festival was a pretty busy, action-packed time for the REEL CANADA team. We each had our own paths to follow through the fest, and we all saw very different things, but the consensus really has been that it was a great year, especially for Canadian films.
TIFF is certainly the biggest film festival in Canada, but it's also one of the largest, most prestigious and most important festivals in the entire world. It's a big deal to premiere a film here, and it's an annual chance for us to see some of the best cinematic works produced all over the world. For me, the best thing about TIFF is the fact that it's a truly public festival. While there's lots of programming at the Festival for members of the film industry, members of the public can buy tickets to anything playing there. You can't say the same about Cannes, Sundance, or many of the other big festivals around the world. Here, it's all about the film fans, and they come out in full force. It's a real pleasure to watch films with an audience of people who are really into it, who laugh, cry and react with enthusiasm to what's happening on screen. It reminds me of why seeing films in a theatre is so much better than watching them in my living room.
For REEL CANADA, TIFF is a chance to catch up with the cream of the crop of Canadian films as well as enjoying some international cinema. Our process for selecting films for our catalogue is extensive, and involves testing contenders with high school teachers and students, to ensure films are not only appropriate but also really fun for the audience. We find those contenders by attending TIFF, as well as some other local film festivals, and occasionally accepting submissions directly from filmmakers. TIFF, however, is the big one. We not only get to see some of the best Canadian features, docs and shorts made over the past year, we also get to see them with big, enthusiastic crowds, and we get to hear the filmmakers speak at Q&As and industry panels. It's an amazing opportunity to get to know the local industry and feel its pulse. We spot trends and get to know emerging talents all by being careful observers at TIFF - not just watching the films, but everything else that goes on at the Festival as well.
My own TIFF path this year included a lot of smaller Canadian films by first time directors and emerging talents. I loved I DECLARE WAR, by Jason Lapeyre and Robert Wilson, an amazingly clever film about a group of pre-teens playing a game of war in the woods (a game which they take very, very seriously). I also loved PICTURE DAY, a pretty audacious coming of age comedy/drama about a young girl with a bad reputation who's got to repeat her senior year of high school, and gets some very unlikely help from a geeky freshman she used to babysit. Writer-director Kate Melville really nails the good and bad sides of what it's like to be a teenage girl. I didn't see as many docs as I wanted to this year, but I thought REVOLUTION (the new doc by SHARKWATER director Rob Stewart) was very inspiring, and really hammered home the urgency of getting involved in the environmental movement. Or, as Rob Stewart called it, the "human" movement, because our own survival depends on the survival of the forest, oceans, and ecosystems around us.
Of course, the rest of the REEL CANADA team also had some grand adventures during TIFF. Our Senior Production Coordinator, Mark Meeks, also saw and loved I DECLARE WAR, and was impressed by ANTIVIRAL (a film that probably won't be appropriate for REEL CANADA, but is definitely on my personal "to see" list). Our Administrative Director Deanna Wong saw Sudz Sutherland's latest film, HOME AGAIN and has been singing its praises in the office. Our Artistic Director Sharon Corder (she's in charge of programming our catalogue and festivals, so she's got to see a lot of films!) saw and really enjoyed ALL THAT YOU POSSESS, INESCAPABLE and Deepa Mehta's MIDNIGHT'S CHILDREN. Several members of the team highly recommended Sarah Polley's STORIES WE TELL, which I'm still kicking myself for missing. In a couple of days, we're having a team lunch together so that we can talk more about the films we loved, both Canadian and international. I can't wait to expand my "to see" list even further.