By John H. Foote
For several months I worried TIFF might not even happen, but the brilliant minds that run the festival found a way.
I cannot imagine my life without TIFF, that festival has become such an integral part of my existence. Beyond the memories of great films I have experienced, there are the memories of my wife bringing my two girls in for the weekend, from Friday through Sunday to visit me, shop, dine with me and star watch. Usually I was busy at the movies, which they knew would happen, but Saturday night was set aside for dinner together. I loved those days; they are among the warmest memories I have. Having been at the movies all day, I would return to my room at the Delta to find three suitcases having exploded across the room, clothes everywhere, bags of recently bought items littering the room, and a note, “join us at the pool” where I would find their smiling faces, giddy with delight.
Sadly, just memories.
TIFF is a reminder of several things to me – my family, a celebration of world cinema, a chance to see Canadian films, the memories of great performances discovered in the dark, the many American friends and fellow critics from around the globe that embraced friendship with me, interviewing so many actors and directors, the extraordinary volunteer staff of Tiff, Roger Ebert, and a bittersweet reminder that my wife died eight years ago.
Will it be the same this year? Hardly.
COVID has forced TIFF organizers to shut down all press and industry screenings in the usual form, packed showings at the Scotiabank Theatre, the Princess of Wales Theatre and the TIFF Screening rooms. This year I will enjoy the films in the comfort of my home as the movies will be shown virtually, via computer or in my case on a 70-inch smart TV. Not the perfect setting for films but better than nothing. My understanding is I will be given a username, password and then can select the films I want to see.
Usually TIFF screens more than 300 films, and the two programs I cover religiously are the Galas and the Special Presentations, loaded with bait for the Academy Awards.
This year there just over 50 films.50.
What shocked me this year is the complete absence of Netflix, who so dominated the festival last year! They have an exceptional slate of films this year and are expected to again dominate the Academy Awards, but are absent at TIFF? Why? I cannot imagine they did not submit or were not invited so I can only assume they chose not to come due to COVID.
Absent too are some filmmakers usually here with new films – Sofia Coppola, George Clooney, and many other. Again why?
To be clear, glancing over the list it is surprisingly light in heft. That said, I will work my way through the films, writing daily to keep you up to speed on what rocked my world and what did not. It is going to be fun, just very different than ever before.
Not a fan of change … nope.
John H. Foote is a well-recognized Canadian film critic/historian who has been an active critic for 30 years. His deep love for the movies began at a very young age. He began his career as co-host of the popular TV show Reel to Real where he remained for nine years. While on TV he began dabbling in education, eventually ascending to Director of the Toronto Film School, where he also taught film history. After leaving the college to care for his wife, he returned to teaching at Humber College where he taught both Film History and Method Acting Theory. John has written two books: “Clint Eastwood – Evolution of a Filmmaker” and the upcoming “Spielberg – American Film Visionary”. He is currently working on two books, one about the films of the seventies and another on the films of Martin Scorsese. Through his career he has worked in TV, radio, print and the web. John has interviewed everyone in the industry (more than 300 interviews) except Jack Nicholson, he says sadly. Highlights include Martin Scorsese, Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep Robert Duvall, Jane Fonda, Francis Ford Coppola and Kathryn Bigelow.