From September 10 to 19, this city becomes a vast and multifaceted movie studio as the cinematic world arrives for the Toronto International Film Festival. During these 10 days, hundreds of movies draw all manner of people—industry insiders, media personalities, tinseltown stars and, of course, local and visiting film buffs. What role will you play? Whether you’re scoping out celebrities or hunting for the next sleeper hit, our guide to the festival is sure to help you fit right in.
The professional filmgoer has seen it all—from the 124-minute restored print of Metropolis to the most recent summer blockbusters. Notepad at the ready, she’s looking to get the word out on world premieres, and maybe catch something she missed at this year’s Cannes festival.
WHAT TO SEE Sibling auteurs the Coen brothers are back to debut A Serious Man, their black-comedy follow up to last year’s Burn After Reading and TIFF ’07 favourite No Country for Old Men, while actor/director and sometime Coen compadre Tim Blake Nelson offers his own darkly amusing thriller, Leaves of Grass, starring Edward Norton as identical twin brothers ensnared in a scheme against a local drug lord. The media, too, will be clamouring for seats at this year’s opening-night gala, Creation. The British biopic tells the story of famed naturalist Charles Darwin in this, the 200th anniversary of his birth.
WHERE TO REFUEL There isn’t much time to eat between viewing—and reviewing—multiple movies each day, but don’t settle for fast food just because you’re in a hurry. Quick and affordable alternatives abound: in Yorkville, consider gourmet sandwiches from Le Pain Quotidien and one of the city’s best burgers at The Pilot Tavern. Or, after a screening at Toronto Life Square’s AMC theatres, commiserate with colleagues over a pint at the nearby Queen and Beaver.
HOW TO DRESS Show that you’re all business by sporting a chic Linda Lundström pantsuit from Eleven or find various international labels at Holt Renfrew. Roger Ebert wannabes can suit up for that Werner Herzog Q&A by heading to Harry Rosen.
iPhone camera at the ready, the celebrity seeker has a permanent spot alongside TIFF’s multitudinous red carpets, and gets into glitzy after-parties by any means necessary.
WHAT TO SEE Matt Damon was a hot sighting at the 2008 festival—and he didn’t even have a film to promote. This year he makes a scene as the bipolar title character in Steven Soderbergh’s The Informant! Damon’s chum George Clooney is also onscreen at TIFF: he plays a downtrodden “career transition counsellor” in Up in the Air, helmed by Canadian director Jason Reitman.
WHERE TO REFUEL High-end hotel restos like One—with its sizeable patio—are reliably star studded during the film fest, as are other Yorkville-area stalwarts like Sassafraz, Trattoria Sotto Sotto and Bistro 990. Entertainment District hot spots including Spice Route (page 86) and Ultra have hosted TIFF-related bashes in the past, too.
HOW TO DRESS Vintage frocks always seem to be in style among budding starlets, and timeless designer finds are de rigeur at boutiques like The Cat’s Meow and The Paper Bag Princess. For a more casual look, sashay into Over the Rainbow or TNT (Hazelton Lanes, 416-975-1960) and grab some Hollywood-approved denim.
THE GENRE GEEK
Still riding high after attending the Iron Man 2 panel at July’s Comic-Con in San Diego, this swarthy film fan comes to TIFF anticipating an array of movies, but is particularly stocked for the outré offerings of the Midnight Madness program.
WHAT TO SEE Films of the snarky, sexy, (blood) splattery persuasion are preferred by this type of moviegoer, and Jennifer’s Body, scripted by Diablo Cody, offers up all three in spades. The vampire genre also gets an intriguing sci-fi twist in Daybreakers, which depicts a future where bloodlust has become a way of life for much of humanity. High-flying Asian action flicks get the adrenalin pumping, too: try Hong Kong helmer Johnnie To’s noirish Vengeance, about an assassin seeking to punish the gangsters who killed his children; or Ong Bak 2, featuring ridiculous displays of muay thai martial arts by star Tony Jaa.
WHERE TO REFUEL There’s nothing horrific about the cuisine at O. Noir, but you will have to eat it in the dark. And, of course, Asian flair abounds in this city—check out Mengrai Gourmet Thai and Bangkok Garden for Thai food with a kick, or Lai Wah Heen for dim sum that’s as elegant as a Wong Kar-Wai film.
HOW TO DRESS Ironic screen-printed t-shirts are a staple of the hip geek’s wardrobe. Stock up at Black Market Vintage (256A Queen St. W., 416-599-5858) and its sister shop, The Public Butter (1290 Queen St. W., 416-535-4343).
THE FOREIGN-FILM FAN
Dismissing the gauzy, rose-tinted lens through which Hollywood sometimes portrays the world, the international cinema enthusiast has historically sought out different visual languages—from the French new wave to Soviet realism—to gain new perspectives on life.
WHAT TO SEE Among the subtitled offerings at TIFF ‘09 are the North American premieres of notorious French filmmaker Gaspar Noe’s Enter the Void—about the spirit of a small-time drug dealer who refuses to forsake our mortal plane—and Pedro Almodovar’s Broken Embraces, a labyrinthine tale of love and jealousy starring the Spanish director’s long-time muse, Penelope Cruz. The Japanese epic Kamui also makes for an appealing international option. One of the most expensive pictures ever produced in that country, it stars Kenichi Matsuyma as a low-caste ninja fighting for freedom from his clan.
WHERE TO REFUEL You don’t have to be a linguistic savant to order off the menus at Toronto’s numerous ethnic restaurants. For a taste of Spain, try the tapas options at Cava—Serrano ham, salt cod cakes with chipotle crema, beef tripe Basquaise and more. Kaiseki Sakura presents Japanese cuisine that’s artful enough to please any Kurosawa connoisseur. Adventurous eaters can also find satisfaction at Banu—the Iranian kabob vodka bar specializes in such items as char-grilled cow’s heart and vodka-marinated lamb’s testicles.
HOW TO DRESS Many of this city’s top boutiques showcase globally conceived couture in “Westernized” and more exotic styles. Head to Bloor Street for easy access to Italian fashion house Gucci, and accessorize with fine French leather goods from Hermès. Glamorous getups from farther afield are available at Indiva, which offers colourful contemporary and traditional women’s garments by sought-after Indian designers.
THE CAN-CON NUT
The made-in-Canada cineaste is humble, low-maintenance and possesses a certain self-deprecating wit—just like his favoured films.
WHAT TO SEE Throughout its 34-year history, the Toronto International Film Festival has earned a reputation as a keen advocate of this country’s movie industry. Its 2009 edition continues that tradition by premiering such films as Chloe—the latest directorial effort by Atom Egoyan, in which a successful doctor (Julianne Moore) tests the fidelity of her husband (Liam Neeson)—and Night Mayor, a new dramatic short by Guy Maddin, Winnipeg’s most inventive auteur. Quebec director Jean-Marc Vallée’s The Young Victoria closes the festival with a chronicle of the iconic British monarch’s early life.
WHERE TO REFUEL In recent years Canadian cuisine has become increasingly refined—nowhere more so than at Canoe, where chef Anthony Walsh plates such specialties as Alberta lamb loin, Ontario prime rib-eye and scallops from B.C. Quebecois fare like tourtiere gets the star treatment at Le Papillon on Front. And for a truly local welcome, tuck in at the communal tables of Oddfellows and Victor to enjoy comfort-food favourites with friends new and old.
HOW TO DRESS The stores of beaver-emblazoned brand Roots are first-stop shops for anyone eager to look the part of a true Canuck. A plethora of premier Canadian-couture labels can also be found here, from sharply tailored sportswear by Bustle—available at über-popular Gotstyle and Anti-Hero—to Joeffer Caoc’s strikingly silhouetted designs, found at Options for Her among other chic boutiques.
TIP! Single tickets for TIFF screenings ($19.87, or $38.50 for gala presentations) are available starting September 4. To purchase, visit the festival’s Nathan Phillips Square box office (100 Queen St. W), call 416-968-3456 or see the festival’s official website.