TIFF 2016, and My First Time Attending

On September 7th, it was once again time for the Toronto International Film Festival (or TIFF, as it is commonly and affectionately known), which concluded on Sunday. As a resident of Toronto, I felt compelled to share briefly my experiences as a first-timer to a film festival of such scale, prestige, and history.

Despite my feverish desire to explore all things TIFF, I was unable to attend the entire list of films I desired due to limited ticket availability and scheduling conflicts. In a moment of improvisation, I purchased a ticket to Antonio Campus’ Christine, an emotionally absorbing biopic that deals with the epochal sexism of the 1970s newsroom, while also highlighting issues of depression in a shockingly grounded fashion. To the appreciation of the audience, there was a subsequent surprise Q&A with the director, producer, screenwriter/producer, and lead actress Rebecca Hall. Being my first Q&A, I found it to be a rewarding addition to the screening, as it allowed further insight into the creative goals of the filmmakers, and their portrayal of its tragic lead character. After this gratifying experience, I might even finally start watching films with commentary!

On the festival’s final day, then, I had planned to attend a screening of the highly touted Arrival, directed by Canada’s own Denis Villeneuve, though once again, I was foiled by large ticket demands. On this occasion, I opted instead for the free screening of the festival’s People’s Choice Award winner, Damien Chazelle’s musical comedy La La Land.  I cannot sing enough praises about this film (pun very much intended), so I will say only this: Chazelle takes two genres I do not particularly enjoy, jazz and musical, and in two hours brings me to appreciate them in a whole new artistic and dramatic light, which is something truly significant.

As a means of summing up my first TIFF, then, no other film screened at the festival does this better than La La Land. It embodies the broad spectrum of emotions evoked by festival entries this year, while the film’s careful craft mirrors the passion and hard work of the festival’s organisers and volunteers. As the credits rolled in the theatre, I sensed that the crowd’s rapturous applause was not only an acknowledgment of the film’s merits, but also a sentiment of appreciation to all those who made the festival possible. Already, I find myself eagerly awaiting TIFF 2017.

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