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  • Writer's pictureZachary Zanatta

My TIFF Experience Part 1

TIFF is the cinematic heart of Canada. What started as a standard film festival has skyrocketed into one of, if not the biggest celebration of film in the world. Showcasing over 100 films from all over the world, TIFF is one of the most anticipated annual events in the film community, consumer and creator alike. This year was no different. Coming off the heels of everybody’s favorite pandemic, TIFF 2022 promised a glorious return to form, and sufficed to say, it delivered. I can attest to this because out of 11 days of the festival, I was there for 9.

This year I had both the pleasure of volunteering at the festival as well as attending as a regular festivalgoer. While my volunteer experience was extremely fun and gratifying, I’ll be focusing on the latter experience for this article. My time at the festival was split between exploring the festival street, red carpets, and the actual films themselves. And I’ll discuss them in that order.

Festival street is a portion of King Street in downtown Toronto shut down for the duration of the festival. On that street are 4 of the 6 theaters showing festival screenings: Roy Thomson Hall, Princess Alexandra Theater, The Princess of Wales Theater, and the beating heart of the festival, the TIFF Bell Lightbox. On this street are dozens of activities to engage with in between screenings. There were food trucks right off Simcoe Street with a vast array of separate cultures representing the ethnic mosaic of Toronto’s population. Further down were stations with more specific uses. TikTok, Bell, ____ and more had booths catering to the filmgoers. Activities such as a 360 degree “glam cam”, a clothing pop up shop, and movie trivia always had lines stretching far down the street. With the street being closed, restaurants extended their patios onto the road serving what I imagine to be astonishingly marked up food. Also on the street were art installations, photo-ops, the iconic TIFF signs, and a stage where various local artists would routinely perform. The atmosphere on the street is beyond electric. It’s packed, but not to the point of tedium and the bright city lights coupled with the music creates a vibe of unmatched excitement. Many of my favorite moments from the street came when the security personnel would clear a pathway and a small convoy of black Cadillacs would slowly creep through the crowds. Why would I be so excited about black SUVs? Well, it wasn’t so much the cars as what was inside. Or dare I say, who was inside.

I’ve never been one to get caught up in celebrity news. Marriages, cheating scandals, new houses; celebrity gossip has never, and most likely will never interest me in any way. My indifference to the personal lives of actors and actresses still did not get in the way of my enjoyment of the red-carpet premieres. I believe that seeing celebrities within the context of the festival makes for a very different and fun experience. It’s a celebration of art, not vanity, something that the Oscars or Golden Globes continue to forget. While the glamor is certainly there, I felt as though the focus of these red-carpet events were to unite artists and consumers. It doesn’t feel like we’re supposed to be ogling at them as though they were a beacon of light in dark times, rather they’re just as happy to be here as we are. This year’s lineup was absolutely stacked with dozens of massive names attending, and while I wasn’t bouncing off the walls for each name, the reaction they got surely justified their inclusion.

I believe that a reason for TIFF’s meteoric rise in the cinematic world can be owed to just how fun it is. While Cannes, Sundance, and Venice are prestigious and equally important as TIFF, it seems as though they go for a far different vibe. They focus on the prestige and seem to heighten the divide between artists and the audience rather than try to close that gap. TIFF takes the opposite approach. No matter how prestigious the film, of which TIFF has many, TIFF makes the audience feel included. This allows for films to make a far larger impact on the public and smaller films to find a far larger audience than they might have ever found with an independent release. It’s a celebration of artistry that works in tandem with a critical approach to cinema, making it so audiences of any caliber can find something to watch. In an era where film snobs and MCU stans make it difficult to pick a side, TIFF reminds us that we don’t have to, and that’s the beauty of film.

I loved TIFF 2022, and I will definitely be attending next year, and hopefully every subsequent year for a very long time. I think that’s all the bases covered. All except one.

I had the privilege of catching 7 films at this year’s festival. Ranging from slasher, to biopic, to whodunnit and a plethora of others. To go over each one in this article would make it far too long, so stay tuned for my thoughts and ranking of each of the films I caught at TIFF 2022.

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