With an introduction to Film Twitter.
As a veteran TIFF attendee, a former employee of the Festival (I once managed the box office at TIFF Bell Lightbox) and big fan of the excitement and energy TIFF brings to the city every year, I’m pleased to provide Torontoist a unique perspective on the #InfiniteViews of the festival. You see, I’m not actually attending the festival this year (I’m a new father and escaping to binge on movies is not an easy proposition for me) but I will be observing the festival closely through social media and providing regular commentary on how it seems to be going. So look out for #protips on how to make the most of your festival.
A Few Words About “Film Twitter”
One of the things you have to know about TIFF and any other Important Film Festival is “Film Twitter.” What is “Film Twitter,” you may ask? It’s a pejorative term to describe the Twitter community that covers the world of film, which is a mixture of professional and aspiring film critics and enthusiasts eager to be the first to weigh in with (often flowery) judgment/opinions. One of the interesting differences between a festival like Cannes and TIFF is the debate over the role Film Twitter plays in coverage of film premieres. At Cannes, the heads of the festival have slammed social media about the effect a quickly written 140-character tweet sent during the closing credits of a premiere can have over more traditional, measured analysis provided by film critics; they are concerned some films’s fates can be damaged by this kind of rush to be first to pronounce judgment. But Cannes is not nearly as public an event as TIFF is, and though TIFF has never criticized Film Twitter and rather works to leverage the power of social media, TIFF 2015 was notable for some insta-responses at public screenings that didn’t do some of the premieres any favours (for example, there were several Twitter reports about walkouts at the premiere of High-Rise, a film that polarized audiences).
Who Needs Tickets?
This is an interesting year for the festival because for the first time ever, attendees are not required to pick up all their tickets for the festival at advance box offices. With the festival’s new ticketing system, attendees are able to print their own tickets at home or have them available for scanning at entry on a mobile device. Festival audiences have wanted this convenience for years to cut down on all the long lineups, although some of the other changes in ticketing this year, including “surge pricing” for some of the most in-demand titles, and per-ticket convenience fees, led to another annual TIFF ritual—articles about how TIFF is no longer “the people’s festival.” As someone who worked in the trenches for the festival’s box offices, I think longtime attendees should be over the moon that TIFF has made the leap to provide print-at-home/mobile tickets, and the fact is there are attendant charges for these service improvements.
Some were also upset that tickets for some sold-out screenings started showing up on StubHub for hundreds of dollars, which is understandable. But I would encourage people to see the benefits: many of those insanely high-priced tickets won’t be purchased ($525 dollars to see the new Ewan McGregor movie?), which is great news for people in the rush line. This year, those rush admissions are priced at a discount, so conceivably a bunch of unsold StubHub tickets means even more people might save money.
What’s Going On At TIFF Today?
It begins! Starting in the late afternoon and running until midnight, the first screenings of the 41st TIFF are rolling out. Today is also the first day of Festival Street, a “public promenade” that spans King Street between several major festival venues (including Roy Thomson Hall, Princess of Wales, and Bell Lightbox, and the Hyatt Regency hotel, home of TIFF’s Industry operations). On the street there will be performances, activations, screenings and patios for some of the strip’s restaurants. Highlights today include a screening of The Man Trap, a classic episode of the original Star Trek TV series (Bell Lightbox will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the venerable sci-fi franchise this fall). As a result of this activity, remember King Street is closed to vehicular traffic between University and Spadina starting today until first thing Monday morning, which will necessitate the 504 streetcars to be re-routed around this zone. This is a source of frustration for Transit Twitter.
The Opening Night Gala is The Magnificent Seven, a remake of the classic 1960 Western (which itself was an Americanized remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. This film reunites director Antoine Fuqua with star Denzel Washington, who deservedly won the Best Actor Oscar for Fuqua’s Training Day; they hit box office paydirt together two years ago with the big screen reboot of the 80s vigilante TV drama The Equalizer. This new version is informed by modern sensibilities (in the tradition of the Neo-Western it uses the past to comment on the present, with a diverse all-star cast). No word yet if Denzel Washington’s gunslinger character guarantees anything in this film, as he almost always does. It has two screenings tonight, the by-invitation-only premiere at Roy Thomson Hall and the public premiere at the Elgin.
Toni Erdmann is one of the top Film Twitter movies of the year. Most of the initial raves about this film from the Film Twitter community have been very light on the details, with most just saying it is a masterpiece and not wanting to ruin anything about it. Perhaps it’s just that the film is impervious to synopsis. It is Germany’s official submission for the Best Foreign Language Oscar, is two and a half hours long, and has its first screening today at 5:30 pm at the Ryerson.
The legendary Midnight Madness programme kicks off tonight at 11:59 pm with English director Ben Wheatley’s follow-up to High-Rise, the Martin Scorsese-produced Free Fire, a seemingly more straight-ahead period thriller starring Cillian Murphy and last year’s Best Actress Oscar winner Brie Larson.
Tomorrow: Some Q-and-A dos and don’ts, and how Film Twitter processed Day 1 of TIFF!