41st Toronto International Film Festival
Canada, September 8 - September 18 2016
This year marked the 41st edition of the Toronto International Film Festival. Once known as the Festival of Festivals – a signal that its previous role primarily consisted of culling the best films from the international festival circuit and affording them their North American premiere – TIFF has evolved into one of the most significant film festivals in the world, and one of the most diverse. Although popular coverage of TIFF now fixates on one of its higher profile duties – the launching of many key studio and “prestige” films that will factor into the Oscar race – this is also a festival that includes small-gauge experimental film, first-time features from the two-thirds world, and of course a concentrated look at the year’s offerings from the too-often-overlooked Canadian film industry.
In recent years TIFF has undergone significant changes. Since opening its official home base, the TIFF Bell Lightbox, in 2010, the festival venues have generally become more centralized around the southern end of downtown Toronto. What this move has sacrificed in grit and funkiness (the outdated charm of the Varsity Theatre or the vast but ramshackle Uptown Theatre), it more than makes up for in consistent presentation standards and very few scheduling snafus. In fact, the “big news” of TIFF 2016 was the fact that the long, tall escalator at the Scotiabank Theatre broke down early in the fest, forcing out-of-shape film critics to hoof it up three sadistic flights of stairs. Suffice to say, TIFF 2016 came off without any real crises to speak of.
As far as the programming goes, no new sections were introduced, but some relatively new ones demonstrated their continued worth. After 39 years as one of the world’s only major festivals with no competitive section, TIFF introduced the Platform section last year, a 12-film slate focusing on new works by recognized and emergent auteurs. This year the section thrived, with the inclusion of new films by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Bertrand Bonello, Zacharias Kunuk, and Barry Jenkins. The Platform prize – selected by a jury consisting of Brian De Palma, Zhang Ziyi, and Mahamet Salah-Haroun – was awarded to Pablo Larraín for his film Jackie, starring Natalie Portman.
Also in its second year, TIFF’s Prime Time program developed as well. Its charge is to bring television into the purview of the festival, a somewhat controversial move given the fundamental distinctions between the mediums of cinema and TV. However the curators of Prime Time have integrated series television into TIFF with success, primarily by focusing on what we might call “auteur TV.” This year’s section included previews of the new seasons of Transparent, Black Mirror, and the Canadian comedy series nirvana: the band the show, produced by the creative team behind the hit Canadian indie Operation Avalanche.
The short film awards were selected by a jury comprised of Abteen Bagheri (U.S.), Eva Husson (France), and Jeff Barnaby (Canada).The Short Cuts Award for Best Canadian Short Film went to Alexandre Dostie’s Mutants. The Short Cuts Award for Best Short Film (international) went to Raymund Ribay Gutierrez’s Imago.
The Canadian awards were selected by a jury comprised of producers Luc Déry (Incendies, Monsieur Lazhar) and Anita Lee (Stories We Tell, Invention), filmmaker Mina Shum (Double Happiness, Ninth Floor), and cultural critic and novelist Hal Niedzviecki.he City of Toronto Award for Best Canadian First Feature Film went to Johnny Ma’s Old Stone (Lao shi). he Canada Goose Award for Best Canadian Feature Film went to Mathieu Denis and Simon Lavoie for Those Who Make Revolution Halfway Only Dig Their Own Graves (Ceux qui font les révolutions à moitién’ont fait que se creuser un tombeau).
The NETPAC Award for World or International Asian Film Premiere went to Maysaloun Hamoud’s In Between (Bar Bahar). NETPAC Jury members included jury chairperson Jeannette Paulson Hereniko (USA), Bina Paul (India), and Sabrina Baracetti (Italy).
The members of this year’s Fipresci jury were Steffan Moestrup (Denmark, Jury President), Neta Alexander (Israel), Diego Faraone (Uruguay), Jake Howell (Canada), Louis-Paul Rioux (Canada), and Michael Sicinski (U.S.) The Fipresci jury gave the Special Presentations prize toI Am Not Madame Bovary (Feng Xiaogang, China), and the Discover prize to Kati Kati (Mbithi Masya, Kenya). (Michael Sicinski)
Toronto International Film Festival: www.tiff.net