TIFF for tat…

Alone in the darkThis time of year people always ask me if I am going to the “Festival”.  I love movies, but I stay well away from downtown when the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is unravelling. 

Back in the late 70’s and through the 80’s the festival – known then as “Festival of Festivals” – was a relatively minor blip on the international film community’s radar.  Galas tended to be either esoteric foreign films or Hollywood dreck.  The real meat of the festival were the hundreds of interesting films from around the world.  For the true film lover it was a once a year orgy of cinematic delight.

I knew lots of people who planned their holidays around the festival.  And when they returned to work, instead of a beach glow, they had a mushroom pallor from sitting in the dark for days on end. 

And it wasn’t just the film fans who loved the  festival it was also the industry who were attracted by Toronto’s laid back  atmosphere.  Big name Hollywood stars found that they could wander the streets unmolested in a weird semblance of “normal life”. 

Then in the 90’s something began to happen.  Suddenly it was all about corporate sponsorship, private parties, long line ups, movie star whims and making the scene.  The dynamic had changed.  Perhaps it was the timing of the festival – just as the “serious” movie season kicks off.  Or perhaps it was Toronto’s location – eight hours from Europe, five from L.A. 

Suddenly the festival was about the Galas, the stars and the parties.  It had become the official start of Oscar season. 

Tickets became harder and harder to get as blocks of seats were given over the corporate types who needed to make this scene.  These, of course, are the same folks who sit by the boards at the Leaf’s games or inhabit the sky boxes at Skydome (pardon me, the Rogers Centre).

And then, like camp followers, came the hangers-on such as Paris Hilton and the autograph stalkeratzi.

And the true dedicated film lovers find themselves being pushed farther and farther out to the margins.  Many just stay away altogether preferring to catch the more obscure films when they are inevitably released on DVD.

I remember fondly the days when you could see a great film at the festival and quite often get to mingle with the filmmaker afterward.  Those were the days of fights with the Ontario Censor Board, desperate directors setting projectors up on the sidewalks to screen their work, major movie stars browsing for books in Britnell’s, drunken producers walking naked down Yorkville and secret festival speakeasies that operated all night long.

Now it’s a machine, a glittering monster that ravishes Toronto for ten days each fall and puts Hollywood on the front page of the local papers instead of the ghetto of the arts and entertainment section. 

I guess, sadly, that TIFF has become an, sigh, institution.

One Response to “TIFF for tat…”

  1. Taylor says:

    Hi Ho

    and thus we all become old men

    and see the loss of those golden old days

    and so those who fest now shall in 30 years blog as do you

    of the earlier simpler more familial times that they experience now

    Imagine what shit shall fly on screens by then

    Thank god we’ll both be dead, or at least in some home

    semi-comatic…drooling pablum

    Hallelujah! Hi ho…….

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