A-listers flock to Toronto for TIFF

The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is the epicentre of Hollywood’s culture in Canada, with a reputation for educating and broadening audiences, while “adding the cultural richness of Canada.”

Each September, the general public, along with celebrated movie stars and celebrities of all kinds, flock to downtown Toronto to take part in the festival.

With a yearly screening of over 300 films from 60 countries, Toronto International Film Festival is the leading public film festival in the world.

TIFF was born in 1976 and that year film enthusiasts were privy to 127 films from 30 countries. By 2009, the festival had experienced such monumental growth that a whopping 500,000 people were in attendance.

An appropriate reflection of its popularity and relevance in the industry, TIFF was originally dubbed “The Festival of Festivals” and didn’t adopt it’s current name until the year 1995.

From old school Hollywood red-carpet glamour to gritty and enlightening documentaries highlighting global issues, TIFF has something to offer cinema enthusiasts of all veins.

TIFF 2011

The A-listers at this year’s festival are not in short supply. One of the most sought-after celebrity sightings for festival-goers is Hollywood elite George Clooney, who stars in two movies shown at TIFF this year.

The first, The Ides of March, directed by Clooney himself, follows a staff member of a new presidential candidate who becomes rapidly involved in the dirty politics of the election. The film has an impressive cast, starring Clooney, Ryan Gosling, Paul Giamatti and Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

The second, The Descendants, casts Clooney as a father looking to reconnect with his children.

Highly anticipated at TIFF this year is Madonna, who looks to redeem her horrendous directorial debut Fifth and Wisdom with the film W.E., a thought-provoking piece about the love affair between Wallace Simpson and King Edward VIII.

Brad Pitt provides 2011 TIFF-goers with both supreme aesthetic appeal and drama with his film Moneyball starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Wright and Jonah Hill, and is based on the true story of baseball team the Oakland Athletics and its general manager’s attempt to create a competitive team despite financial woes.

Pitt generated much attention for the film when he and his knockout wife Angelina Jolie attended the Toronto premiere on Sept. 9th.

Funny man and fan favourite Woody Harrelson will be in attendance as well this year, and involved in several different facets of the festival.

Over the summer months, TIFF hosted a series of celebrity one-on-ones, titled “In Conversation With.” Harrelson joined head of film programmes Jesse Wente onstage at the TIFF Bell Lightbox to discuss both prior and future aspects of his prolific and diverse acting career.

Furthermore, Harrelson has generated some early Oscar-buzz with his performance in Rampart, a renegade police film.

Gerard Butler attends this year’s festival to promote Machine Gun Preacher, in which Butler stars as a reformed drug-dealing biker, who becomes a saviour of kidnapped and orphaned children in Sudan.

It isn’t just actors who enjoy big time exposure at the festival; music documentaries are present in a big way at TIFF this year.

Notably, rock elite U2 appear in the documentary From the Sky Down, Canadian export Neil Young is featured in Neil Young Life, and Pearl Jam rocks on the big screen in Pearl Jam Twenty. This element of the festival adds diversity to TIFF 2011.

Furthermore, TIFF 2011 promises some highly entertaining documentaries.

Super Size Me creator Morgan Spurlock premiers Comic-Con: Episode IV – A Fan’s Hope, which looks at the comic book phenomenon and corresponding geek-culture that has become so much more mainstream in recent years.

A second highly anticipated documentary is Sarah Palin – You Betcha! which is a look at American right-wing politician Sarah Palin, set in her hometown of Wasilla, Alaska. Given the comedic takes on Sarah Palin’s public persona in recent years (think Tina Fey on Saturday Night Live), You Betcha! is sure to be wildly entertaining and suitably educational.

New To TIFF

Traditionally, Toronto’s Yorkville region has been host to TIFF festivities, with Bay and Bloor Streets especially flooded with eager fans hoping to spot an A-lister.

This year however, fans will have to venture south, to King Street West, to accomplish a similar feat. This is thanks to the Bell Lightbox that opened last year on King.

For the first time in festival history, only a small number of film screenings will take place in the posh Yorkville neighbourhood. The Varsity Theatre, a main venue in years passed, isn’t being used by the festival this year.

Instead, the Princess of Wales Theatre on King Street will make its TIFF debut.

This year’s events will also be held in more accessible venues such as Ryerson University, the AMC complex, Roy Thompson Hall, Scotiabank Theatre and of course, the TIFF Bell Lightbox. Press events will no longer be held in swanky Bloor St. hotels, but instead, at the Lightbox and its neighbours.

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