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Why the Toronto Film Festival is Adding ‘Platform’ Competition Sidebar

Why the Toronto Film Festival is Adding 'Platform' Competition Sidebar

To celebrate the Toronto International Film Festival’s 40th anniversary, in addition to looking back, the festival is not only adding six screening slots for a new international television sidebar, but are recommitting to auteur cinema by launching another program, Platform, of 10-12 top-flight contemporary world cinema films. “We want to provide a platform for special world cinema with strong voices and strong visions,” TIFF Artistic Director Cameron Bailey told me in an interview. “This is a way to give a significantly higher profile to strong films that come to us without big red carpet hoopla.”

TIFF is so sprawling that the press tend to focus on the high-profile fall release titles that come to Toronto with junkets attached, as well as Oscar contenders. The trades pay some attention to the market titles, which is TIFF’s great strength as a world festival. To boost some of these sales titles–from all over the world including the States–and put the spotlight on a competition, films that are strong but struggle to find a place in the festival will be given an opening night with Toronto audiences as well as press and industry at the cavernous Elgin Theatre as well a journalist-moderated Q & A.

Bailey hopes that worthy acquisition titles such as Oren Moverman’s “Time Out of Mind” (which was acquired by Roadside Attractions), Christian Petzold’s “Phoenix” (Sundance Selects) or Mia Hansen-Love’s “Eden” (Broad Green) will gain an advantage. While Pawel Pawlikowski’s “Ida” (Music Box) went on to score critical accolades and boffo art-house box office as well as an Oscar win, it did not register powerfully at TIFF after its Telluride debut. “This puts the media and buyers in the room with the public, which is what everyone seems to want,” said Bailey. “These are all films available for distribution in North America. There will be a cash prize for the filmmaker of $25,000, which is not Abu Dabi, but it’s not bad.” 

As Telluride continues to be a strong festival for exhibitors and tastemakers, especially in the Oscar arena, Toronto is a robust market for buying and selling new titles. The festival has backed off a bit on its public stance about world premieres–the new order of business seems to be transparency all around. No surprises. Bailey and boss Piers Handling checked in with festivals around the world to make sure no feathers were ruffled by the radical addition of a new competition. Until now Toronto gave out awards for home-grown Canadian films as well as its coveted audience prizes, which often go to future awards contenders. (See “12 Years a Slave,” “Precious,” “Silver Linings Playbook,” “Slumdog Millionaire” and “The Imitation Game.”) 
Inaugural jurors Jia Zhang-ke (China, whose film “Platform” inspired the sidebar’s name), Claire Denis (France) and Agnieszka Holland (Poland) will award a prize of $25,000 to the best film in the program, to be announced at the Awards Ceremony on September 20, 2015.

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