This past week, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) hosted their event both virtually and in-person through social distancing. Though the organization stated that it was going to look and feel different from the previous festivals, this one was going to be just as great. With the help of film buffs and new supporters, TIFF was a major success, bringing in several thousand guests from the Toronto area and around the world.
The Toronto International Film Festival did its best to make the most of the current situation. Instead of cancelling and saving the best for next year, they took the time to plan what they could do for the public and film industry. They decided instead to go through with the idea as well as to stream movies for a fee, as has become popular recently. This was a win-win situation concerning live streaming: TIFF wouldn’t lose ticket sales, and viewers who wouldn’t be able to go see the festival in person would have the opportunity to see in the comfort of their own home. TIFF made it about the experience of seeing new movies.
Here’s another win-win: because viewers are only paying for the ticket to live stream movies, if they didn’t like a movie (or any of the movies shown), they could easily stop watching it and find another one without thinking they wasted their money. The strategy is picking and choosing. For the in-person aspect of the festival, the audience is able to walk around, but at a safe distance. The festival is held outdoors with films projected on drive-in movie screens, so it’s easier for audience members to social distance themselves from other people.
Aside from the complications of planning for the event, the films at the Toronto International Film Festival were poignant, touching poverty, family, coming-of-age and identity. One of the movies that shows this heart is “Concrete Cowboy,” which follows a boy to Philadelphia where he reluctantly connects with his father and learns about what it takes to be an “urban cowboy.” The film is out of the ordinary, but it shows the deeper meaning of being outside of a comfort zone. From watching the sneak peak, the movie brought intensity as two worlds collided, hinting that a broken relationship was about to be healed.
Another highlight was the documentary “No Ordinary Man,” which chronicles the life of Oklahoma’s own Billy Tipton, an iconic jazz pianist. Though it was not public knowledge, Tipton was a trans man, which was made widely-known after his death in 1989. On the subject of the documentary, the film’s co-director, Christ Jonyt says, “this project was a really great chance for us to think out loud with trans culture makers about the significance of Billy Tipton in the contemporary moment.” The documentary certainly feels important right now, as conversations about gender identity increasingly include trans voices. The film festival proved that there are so many wonderful ideas to be explored and to keep an open mind. TIFF also proved that you can still have a great time social distancing or not (streaming movies, of course).
Overall, and despite everything working against the event even taking place this year, the Toronto International Film Festival was a total delight. Here’s hoping next year’s is just as great.