Like so many of its festival brethren, this year’s Toronto International Film Festival will look very different than previous incarnations. The annual fall festival has announced a handful of films set to premiere at the festival as well as operational plans “tailored to fit the moment,” including virtual screening options and a reduced number of films.
This year’s TIFF, set to take place September 10 – 19, will exist as a both limited physical festival and an online experience, through a combination of physical screenings and drive-ins, digital screenings, virtual red carpets, press conferences, and industry talks. The lineup will be dramatically reduced from previous editions, with 50 new feature films and five short film programs. By contrast, the 2019 festival hosted over 300 films.
While the full lineup will be announced over the summer, the festival did today announce a handful of films that will be shown at this year’s TIFF, including Francis Lee’s “Ammonite,” Thomas Vinterberg’s “Another Round,” Ricky Staub’s “Concrete Cowboy,” Nicolás Pereda’s “Fauna,” Reinaldo Marcus Green’s “Good Joe Bell,” Suzanne Lindon’s “Spring Blossom,” Halle Berry’s directorial debut “Bruised,” and Naomi Kawase’s “True Mothers.” A number of these titles are part of this year’s announced selection of Cannes 2020 features.
“The pandemic has hit TIFF hard, but we’ve responded by going back to our original inspiration — to bring the very best in film to the broadest possible audience,” Cameron Bailey, Co-Head and Artistic Director, TIFF, said in a statement. “Our teams have had to rethink everything, and open our minds to new ideas. In countless video calls over the past three months we have rebuilt our Festival for 2020 drawing on our five decades of commitment to strong curation, support for filmmakers and engagement with audiences.”
Over its first five days, TIFF’s full slate of films will premiere in Toronto “as physical, socially-distanced screenings,” per today’s announcement. The festival is also programming drive-ins and other “outdoor experiences” for its physical visitors, though today’s announcement adds that the festival is working closely with the Province of Ontario, the City of Toronto, and public health officials on logistics.
Additionally, today’s announcement hastens to add that “this presentation of TIFF’s traditional in-person film festival will be contingent on the province’s reopening framework to ensure that festival venues and workplaces practice, meet and exceed public health guidelines.”
For those unable to travel to Toronto for the festival, TIFF will launch its very first digital platform to host digital screenings, as well as numerous talks and special events.
“TIFF has a proud history of programming award-winning films, expanding the conversation to include a multitude of voices, and in creating boundary-pushing initiatives for the industry. And this year we’ve added new innovations and ways to give back to the community. In doing so, we’re aiming to advance what a film festival is capable of delivering — for audiences and the film industry,” said Joana Vicente, Executive Director and Co-Head, TIFF, in her own statement.
As part of its pivot to what Vicente termed a “distilled edition” of the festival, TIFF will be welcoming a number of “TIFF Ambassadors,” including 50 celebrated filmmakers and actors “invited to help TIFF deliver a strong festival this year for the film industry.” Those names include Ava DuVernay, Taika Waititi, Anurag Kashyap, Nicole Kidman, Martin Scorsese, Nadine Labaki, Alfonso Cuarón, Tantoo Cardinal, Riz Ahmed, Isabelle Huppert, Claire Denis, Atom Egoyan, Priyanka Chopra, Viggo Mortensen, Zhang Ziyi, David Oyelowo, Lulu Wang, Rosamund Pike, Sarah Gadon, and Denis Villeneuve, to name a few.
TIFF will still present its annual TIFF Tribute Awards, acknowledging and celebrating outstanding contributors to the film industry. This tradition will continue for 2020 and audiences worldwide will be able to experience the Awards virtually. Additional information on the awards and 2020 honorees will be announced in the coming months.
Meanwhile, the robust Industry Conference will take place as an online event on the new digital platform. Those delegates who will travel to Toronto will also have access to “in-depth conversations” with actors and filmmakers, and will have access to filmmakers for interviews.
Earlier this week, the festival eliminated 31 full-time staff positions as a response to the financial impact of COVID-19 and the temporary closure of the TIFF Bell Lightbox. The festival estimated that it will lose half of its projected revenue for 2020.
Further information regarding the film lineup, screening venues, ticket sales for both members and the public, accreditation, and TIFF’s Industry Conference will be available in the coming weeks.
Below, watch a video interview with Cameron Bailey, Co-Head and Artistic Director, TIFF and Joana Vicente, Executive Director and Co-Head, TIFF, as they talk about the path forward for this year’s festival.