tiff 2020

In a normal year, the Toronto International Film Festival kicks off in September. But 2020 is not a normal year by any stretch of the imagination, and TIFF is now facing a big decision. Due to the coronavirus, many of this year’s film festivals have already been canceled, or at the very least delayed. With September fast-approaching, the TIFF organizers are holding fast, and refusing to postpone. But they also realize that even if all coronavirus restrictions are somehow lifted by September, there will still be a hesitation for some to venture out into a crowded metropolis for a packed film festival.

So what’s the solution? A digital component.

Variety has a big exclusive regarding the fate of this year’s TIFF, and the bottom line is this: no one wants to postpone. Per TIFF executive director and co-head Joana Vicente: “Postponing is definitely not a possibility on the table right now. [Based on] everything that we are learning, things might get worse in October or November if there is a second wave.”

And despite the circumstances, TIFF artistic director Cameron Bailey says that “studios and filmmakers eager to premiere their work remain highly motivated for their films to be considered,” and that “Everyone’s being really cooperative in making sure we get to see the films we need to see.”

Vicente adds: “It’s going to be a modified version of the festival. We’re going to look at doing some kind of social distancing. Maybe it’s not six feet [of separation], but maybe there’s a seat in between.”

And then there’s the digital component. Vicente says TIFF will be a “hybrid festival” this year, and that there will “definitely” be some sort of digital component. “How big that digital component is and what it looks like, we’re still working on that,” Vicente adds.

I honestly think having any sort of public version of the fest is probably a bad idea, and would probably prefer an all-digital fest. But I know that’s not in the cards. As Bailey says: “We are absolutely planning for a public festival and a strong industry component. We are going to follow what happens with public health guidelines, of course, and that will determine more. We hope that by the middle of June, say, we’ll be able to make a call [as to] which way we are leaning. But we will deliver a festival this year.”

I’ve been attending TIFF for several years now, and I love it. It’s my favorite film festival, without a doubt. Still, I don’t know how eager I’ll be to hop on a plane and head to Toronto by September – unless some sort of miracle happens and every medical expert in the world agrees that things are safe again. Still, I look forward to seeing what happens, and hope I can experience some form of TIFF this year.

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