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Home / World Cinema / How the Toronto International Film Festival is adapting to the new normal, via drive-in screenings and open air theatres

How the Toronto International Film Festival is adapting to the new normal, via drive-in screenings and open air theatres

Unlike previous years stars will be unable to visit Toronto in person due to mandatory quarantine requirements but they will make appearances to interact with audiences on the digital platform.

world-cinema Updated: Sep 10, 2020 14:14 IST
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Hindustan Times
A still from African-American director Spike Lee’s filmed version of David Byrne’s Broadway special American Utopia which will be the opening film for the 45th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival.
A still from African-American director Spike Lee’s filmed version of David Byrne’s Broadway special American Utopia which will be the opening film for the 45th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival. (TIFF)

Given the ongoing restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, hosting a major film festival under such circumstances presents a novel challenge. The 2020 version of the Toronto International Film Festival or TIFF has rejigged itself into a “hybrid” offering that includes physically distanced screenings, as well as those at an open-air venue plus drive-ins and its maiden foray onto a digital platform.

The 45th edition of North America’s largest movie event will still span ten days, starting Thursday, but with the changes forced upon it by the coronavirus crisis. As TIFF’s Artistic Director and Co-Head Cameron Bailey said, “We began this year planning for a 45th Festival much like our previous editions, but along the way we had to rethink just about everything. This year’s lineup reflects that tumult.”

Along with Cannes and Venice, TIFF is considered among the three premier film festivals in the world, and it has usually featured the largest selection, close to 400 films. However, 2020 will witness a pared down slate, with 61 features, 36 shorts and another 30 films that will be restricted to the industry to keep its marketplace buzzing.

Among the novelties for regular festival-goers will be the “outdoor experience” with screenings at two drive-in venues and at an open-air cinema in Toronto. The online platform will also make its debut this year and feature all the films available to the public, though they will be geo-limited to Canada.

Unlike previous years stars will be unable to visit Toronto in person due to mandatory quarantine requirements but they will make appearances to interact with audiences on the digital platform. Given the backdrop, TIFF is also partnering healthcare company for the festival, even as physical screenings will be limited to a maximum of 50 persons in the theatre.

Also read: Toronto Film Fest is going hybrid as show must go on during pandemic

The festival will open with African-American director Spike Lee filmed version of David Byrne’s American Utopia, a Broadway from the founder and frontman of the classic band Talking Heads. India will be represented at TIFF this year by The Disciple, a film from Mumbai-based director Chaitanya Tamhane. In addition, the closing night gala presentation will feature episodes of Indian-American director Mira Nair’s TV adaptation of Vikram Seth’s novel A Suitable Boy.

“We could never have anticipated the global seismic changes we would be facing in 2020,” TIFF’s Executive Director and Co-Head Joana Vicente said. And while TIFF 2020 will miss the adulatory crowds swarming around stars for selfies, organisers hope it will be a memorable experience in a year of duress.

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