Toronto: A festival city

Home to diverse productions and star-studded celebrity sightings


After the Cannes International Film Festival, TIFF is the single most important public film festival worldwide. Blockbusters, independents, shorts, foreign films and more draw big movie stars, directors, worldwide press and travellers who descend on Toronto for the illustrious event.

With the star wattage turning the city into a glitzy affair for 11 days every September, neighbourhoods like Yorkville are still bustling, but the entertainment district along King Street is now the place to be. To see movie stars up close, stake out Roy Thomson Hall’s red carpet.

In 2011, at the Moneyball gala premiere, photographers shouted anything and everything at Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie from the scrum, just to get a good photo. Meanwhile, hysterical fans thrust posters, digital cameras, magazines and any paper surface to collect signatures from just about anyone who looked slightly famous.

It’s TIFF’s ability to satisfy the spectrum of celebrity worshippers and cineastes with appetites for truly interesting films that makes it such a great festival. Attending a Midnight Madness screening at the Ryerson Theatre is an experience unto itself. Total strangers share their film picks in a lineup that loops around the entire block and, once inside, beach balls are tossed around while the crowd hoots and hollers for the directors and producers.

TIFF may put Toronto on the map, but the film industry in the city spans beyond the festival. The industry spent $1.13 billion filming on location in the city in 2011. Pinewood Toronto Studios, on Toronto’s waterfront, has been home to productions as diverse as the Michael Cera flick Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and the Total Recall remake with Colin Farrell. Oftentimes, the skyline stands in for New York, Chicago or London. But in Atom Egoyan’s provocative thriller, Chloe, and Sarah Polley’s comedy/drama, Take this Waltz, the cityscapes are proudly Toronto, not standing in for another city.

Movies that get the TIFF touch are hugely successful—just look at The Wrestler, Ray, 127 Hours and The King’s Speech, all of which premiered at the festival, some going on to win Oscars.

September in Toronto is definitely star season, so bring on the VIP parties, red carpet madness and more than 300 movies to watch across the city.

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