Organizers of the Toronto International Film Festival say they’re still planning to have some type of physical festival this year.
But TIFF executive director and co-head Joana Vicente adds “it’s definitely going to look different.”
Vicente spoke Thursday, along with TIFF artistic director and co-head Cameron Bailey, in a live video conference panel for We Are One: A Global Film Festival.
Tribeca Enterprises and YouTube produced and organized the free digital festival, which starts Friday and runs through June 7 with TIFF as a co-curator.
Vicente said like many festivals during the COVID-19 pandemic, TIFF is developing a digital platform for its annual movie marathon. Her comments echo those TIFF made last month, when it said it was still planning to go ahead with the festival from Sept. 10-21, but was also exploring new ways to screen films.
“We’re developing, of course, as everyone else, a digital platform for the festival and at the same time we’re still planning to have some physical festival,” Vicente said in the We Are One video panel.
“It’s definitely going to look different,” she said. “We’re trying to figure out how we can still deliver incredible experiences to our audience, and that’s really front and centre.”
A total of 21 festivals are co-curating programming for We Are One, which will also allow audiences to donate to COVID-19 relief efforts through a donate button or link on every film page.
TIFF will present Isaac Nabwana’s Ugandan gonzo action flick Crazy World, which debuted in the Toronto festival’s Midnight Madness section last year but hasn’t screened since. Two TIFF Talks will also screen: A 2019 one with Viggo Mortensen and David Cronenberg on Crash, and a 2018 Tantoo Cardinal master class moderated by Danis Goulet. We Are One will also have several Canadian films, including seven works that the National Film Board of Canada either produced or co-produced.
Thursday’s panel discussion had various We Are One participants, including Oscar-winning actor Robert De Niro, co-founder of Tribeca Enterprises.
Solidarity among film festivals
Vicente said the festivals involved in We Are One have “put aside any sort of competition” and shared information.
“We’ve been learning from our colleagues who had to pivot very fast,” Vicente said. “Their festivals were happening in March and April and had to create digital versions.”
Bailey said TIFF also has also learned about “content and community” during the We Are One experience.
“Many festivals don’t make a priority of owning so-called content, but I think it’s important as we go forward that we actually really take care of and archive the things that are important to us — whether those are films we’ve been involved in or talks, in many cases,” Bailey said.
“You have to have some great stuff that you can share with people online. That’s going to be part of the future of any film organization.”
The global crisis has also resulted in solidarity amongst “a very strong community of film festivals,” Bailey added.
“We’re all in this because we love film, we love what filmmakers and artists do, and often we aren’t linking arms and working together as often as maybe we could. And this tells me that there will be other opportunities for us to get together and work collaboratively.”