It’s safe to say that the 2020 edition of the Toronto International Film Festival won’t be like any of the 44 editions that preceded it. We are living in the age of the coronavirus, after all.
Because of this new pandemic reality, this year’s TIFF will be a hybrid of physical screenings and virtual events. It unspools between Sept. 10 through Sept. 19 and will include screenings of roughly 50 films during its initial five days — that plan is subject to approval by city and provincial health officials.
Some of these films include “Ammonite,” directed by Francis Lee of “God’s Own Country” renown; “Another Round,” from Danish auteur Thomas Vinterberg (Denmark); “Concrete Cowboys,” an adaptation of the novel Ghetto Cowboy from director Ricky Staub; “Bruised,” the directorial debut film of Oscar-winner Halle Berry (USA); and “True Mothers” by Japanese filmmaker Naomi Kawase. More titles will be announced over the summer.
TIFF generates more than $200 million in annual economic activity for Toronto and Ontario, which helped spur the festival’s organizers to come up with a plan for operating safely during COVID-19. Other film festivals such as Tribeca or Cannes have been cancelled, postponed or reconstituted as virtual events.
Earlier this week, TIFF laid off 31 full-time staff positions because of closures related to coronavirus. The organization said it expects there to be a 50% reduction in revenue from 2019, putting a severe financial strain on its operations.
For the first time in its history, TIFF will launch a digital platform for the festival. Over the 10 days, the platform will host digital screenings, as well as numerous talks and special events.
“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,” said Cameron Bailey, artistic director and co-head of TIFF. “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.”
For its 45th year, TIFF will be welcoming 50 celebrated filmmakers and actors as TIFF ambassadors. It’s a group that will include Ava DuVernay, Taika Waititi, Anurag Kashyap, Nicole Kidman, Martin Scorsese, Nadine Labaki, Alfonso Cuarón, Riz Ahmed, Rian Johnson, Jason Reitman, Isabelle Huppert and Claire Denis.
“We could never have anticipated the global seismic changes we would be facing in 2020,” said Joana Vicente, executive director and co-head of TIFF. We tapped into the original spirit of the Festival from when it began in 1976 as our guiding light. The distilled edition of TIFF 2020 reflects a deep love of film, passion for our loyal audiences, commitment to the industry and a whole lot of heart.”