DailyXY’s TIFFtown blog is sponsored by the Alliance film, Warrior.
The Toronto International Film Festival, or TIFF, begins today and runs through September 18. One of TIFF’s most popular regular series is the cult-forum Midnight Madness. But for journalists covering the larger filmic feast, the madness begins much, much earlier. An early morning jolt of caffeine is essential to kick-start a day full of mad dashes between screenings, press conferences and story filings.
Welcome to my world; good thing I like coffee. TIFF 2011 marks my 32nd festival (it’s now in its 36th year), but I’d never claim that I’ve seen it all. The festival is as frenetic as ever and, if anything, the celebrity media coverage has ramped up markedly in recent years. In a sign of the times, a front-page Toronto Star story that ran the day before this year’s fest opened announced that Canadian actor/director Sarah Polley is pregnant. The fact that her promising new film, Take This Waltz, receives its world premiere as a gala at TIFF came across as a footnote. That’s not my kind of coverage. Not that I’m immune to the odd gossipy tidbit. If I spy Zach Galifianakis crashed out in a sleazy bar (or Kristin Stewart, or Zach Galifianakis and Kristin Stewart), you’ll be the second to know.
On the other hand, if you’re seeking a rigorously intellectual critique of the latest wrenching portrait of life in the slums of Rio, you may also need to look elsewhere. My approach lies between these extremes, and will hopefully both entertain and inform. I’ll report back from the trenches of the press conferences and screening rooms, as well as the odd party (all things in moderation!). The search for free cocktails is a time-honored pursuit for those covering TIFF, and it has become a lot more difficult now in the festival’s far more relaxed and intimate infancy. Won’t deter me, mind you.
My schedule is a work-in-progress as I mull options and await the fate of various interview requests. At time of writing, I have just learned I’ve received much-coveted access to the press conference for the new U2 documentary, From the Sky Down, on Friday afternoon. This has been given the honor of Opening Night Gala status, the first time ever that a documentary has scored said coveted slot. Bono and The Edge are flying in for the world premiere, along with the film’s Academy Award-winning director Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth).
Also jetting into town is punk rock icon John Lydon, better known as Sex Pistols frontman Johnny Rotten. (Amusing to imagine him sitting next to Bono in first class.) Lydon is executive producer of new Norwegian coming-of-age story Sons of Norway, a film in which he also plays a pivotal acting role. Word is the classic Pistols album Never Mind the Bollocks is also integral. Perhaps I’ll investigate this afternoon, to see whether it’s a load of bollocks or whether there’s something Rotten in the state of Norwegian cinema.
TIFF 2011 is enjoying its highest-profile music component to date. Pearl Jam are in town for the world premiere of their new film, Pearl Jam Twenty, a documentary portrait of the band’s 20-year-long career directed by Cameron Crowe (Almost Famous). Between media rounds, Seattle’s favourites are playing two nights at the Air Canada Centre (Sept. 11 and 12). Last, and likely least, Madonna brings her new film, W.E., to the festival. The early reviews, from W.E.’s Venice Film Festival premiere, were not pretty, and I’ll likely give it, and Madge, a miss.
They say beware the ides of March, but George Clooney’s new directorial effort of that name is boasting strong advance buzz. A political drama, it features one of the best ensemble casts at this year’s TIFF. Those appearing in The Ides of March include Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giammati, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood, and Jeffrey Wright. Whew! We’ve got that one pencilled in, along with its press conference tomorrow.
So, stay tuned for more on these, and plenty others. I’ll be posting daily, and I’ll be curious to hear your feedback if you’re joining me for the ride, and feel free to tell me where you think I should be heading. Time to slug that third cup of coffee and head into the anarchy, both with and without John Lydon.
Main image, The Ides of March, courtesy of TIFF.