official 2007 poster
The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is a publicly-attended film festival held each September in Toronto, Ontario. The festival begins the Thursday night after Labour Day (the first Monday in September, in Canada) and lasts for ten days. Between 300-400 films are screened at approximately 23 screens in downtown Toronto venues. Annual attendance at TIFF exceeds 300,000 from public and industry audiences. In terms of prestige, it is regularly ranked in the top five alongside Cannes, Berlin, Venice and Sundance.
Founded in 1976, the TIFF is now among the top prestigious film festivals in the world. In 1998, Variety magazine acknowledged that “the Festival is second only to Cannes in terms of high-profile pics, stars and market activity.” Quoted by the National Post in 1999, Roger Ebert claimed “…although Cannes is still larger, Toronto is just as great….” It is the premiere film festival in North America, from which the Oscars race begins.
The festival is centered around the Yorkville neighborhood, an upscale area in the downtown core. The festival is known for the buzz it brings to Yorkville and cameras and media have taken to covering the red carpet with fashion and interviews with the stars. Although the Festival has begun to give more attention to mainstream Hollywood films, it still maintains its independent roots. It features retrospectives of national cinemas and individual directors, highlights of Canadian cinema, and a variety of African, South American, and Asian films.
The festival is considered a launch pad for many studios to begin “Oscar-buzz” for their films; for example, Taylor Hackford’s Ray premiered at the festival and garnered much attention for Jamie Foxx’s portrayal of Ray Charles (for which he ultimately won the Academy Award for Best Actor); and Slumdog Millionaire, that went on to win 8 Oscars at the 2009 Academy Awards.
The Director and CEO of the Toronto International Film Festival, since 1994, is Piers Handling. In 2004, Noah Cowan became Co-Director of the Festival. In late 2007, Cowan was promoted to Artistic Director of Bell Lightbox, the Toronto International Film Festival Group’s (TIFFG) future home, while long-time programmer Cameron Bailey succeeded as Co-Director.
For last year’s 2008 festival, please see: 33rd Annual Toronto International Film Festival.