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How to Watch TIFF and NYFF Films at Home, from ‘David Byrne’s American Utopia’ to ‘Nomadland’

Dozens of films are streaming throughout September in the U.S. and Canada, but you'll have to carefully plan out your viewing thanks to a complex set of restrictions.

"American Utopia"

“American Utopia”

HBO

The pandemic may have forced fall festivals to drastically scale back their in-person offerings, with indoor theater screenings largely off the table for many who would normally flock to the Toronto International Film Festival and New York Film Festival this time of year. But the pivot to virtual programming has some pluses: This year, all you need is an internet connection and computer to watch the latest movies screening this month at the two festivals.

There are, however, some major caveats to consider. The general public can buy tickets to stream TIFF selections September 10-19, but only in Canada. (Those outside Canada can still purchase tickets for live Q&As and other events.) Likewise, NYFF’s online program is available only in the U.S. and U.S. territories September 17-October 11. And attendees at each event are at the mercy of a variety of rental windows and price points.

Luckily, overlap at the two festivals means U.S. audiences can watch 11 TIFF selections that are also screening online at NYFF, including the Spike Lee-directed “David Byrne’s American Utopia,” the acclaimed documentary “The Truffle Hunters,” and Chloé Zhao’s Frances McDormand-starring “Nomadland.”

For those who live near New York or Toronto, each festival is also offering limited in-person screenings, including at drive-ins.

Here’s a rundown of everything you need to know about each festival’s online programming. And if you’re looking for recommendations on what to watch, check out IndieWire’s list of 20 must-see fall festival films.

TIFF

North America’s largest festival is significantly smaller this year. Fifty films will be available, down from last year’s 250, starting September 10 on the festival’s Bell Digital Cinema platform. Click that link to create an account and buy individual tickets for each film. Cost is $19 or $26, depending on the title. Ticket sales for digital screenings resume September 10.

Digital screenings are not live, but rather are similar to renting a movie on iTunes. However, each film is available to rent only within a fixed 24-hour window. Movies become available to rent at 6 p.m. on various days throughout the festival’s nine-day run. For example, you can rent Francis Lee’s Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan love story “Ammonite” at any point between 6 p.m. September 12 and 6 p.m. the following day. Once you click play, you have 12 hours to watch the movie.

Given the restrictions, it will definitely be helpful to plan out your viewing. A full schedule with rental windows is available here. Whether you sort the schedule by date or navigate by title, look for the time listed under “Online at Bell Digital Cinema” to determine when the rental window begins for a given movie.

Films are available to stream on Macs and PCs through the Digital Cinema website or through iOS and Android apps. TIFF has instructions here on how you can watch on your TV using a computer and HDMI cord, Chromecast, Apple TV, or smart TV. (Sorry, Firestick and Roku users, you’re out of luck!)

NYFF

For its 58th edition, NYFF has streamlined its selections into four sections in addition to its Main Slate. Tickets are available for individual online screenings, ranging in price from $12 to $25, or as curated discount packages that start at $75 for 11 films. Tickets go on sale to the general public on September 11.

Online screenings are through Film at Lincoln Center Virtual Cinema. Click the link to create an account and then browse the lineup here for details on how to purchase tickets.

Digital screenings are not live, but rather are similar to renting a movie on iTunes. However, each film is available to rent only within specific windows. Some films have a rental window that lasts several days, others are as short as four hours. For example, you can rent Indian director Chaitanya Tamhane’s “The Disciple” at any point from September 29 at 8 p.m. through October 4 at 8 p.m. Once you click play, you have 24 hours to watch the movie.

A full schedule with rental windows is available here. Information about renting is listed at the top of each film’s page.

Films are available to stream on Macs and PCs and iOS and Android devices through the Virtual Cinema website. NYFF has instructions here on how you can watch on your TV using a computer and HDMI cord, Chromecast, or Apple TV. (No-go for Firestick and Roku users.)

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