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TIFF Announces Hybrid In-Theatre/Virtual Fest for 2020

The show will go on. The Toronto International Film Festival unveiled its plans today for its 2020 edition. This year’s TIFF will begin on its previously announced date of September 10 and run through September 19. (One day shorter than the previously announced end date of September 20.) TIFF 2020 will feature a mix of in-theatre screenings and virtual events. There will also be drive-ins, virtual red carpets, press conferences, and industry events. The line-up will offer 50 feature films and five short film programs—a notable reduction compared to TIFF’s usual massive line-up but one that reflects the reality of producing an event of this complexity and scale while adjusting to safety precautions for physical distancing amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

A release from TIFF notes that physical screenings for the 2020 festival are contingent on the advice of public health professionals. This week, Toronto received the green light to enter the second stage of the province’s re-opening plan, although movie theatres remain closed until the next stage. The in-person screenings at TIFF will follow precautions to ensure physical distancing between attendees, while drive-in and outdoor screenings offer additional opportunities to expand the audience while adapting to the situation.

“The pandemic has hit TIFF hard, but we’ve responded by going back to our original inspiration — to bring the very best in film to the broadest possible audience,” said Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director and Co-Head, in a statement from the festival. “Our teams have had to rethink everything, and open our minds to new ideas. In countless video calls over the past three months we have rebuilt our Festival for 2020 drawing on our five decades of commitment to strong curation, support for filmmakers and engagement with audiences. We have listened to this year’s urgent calls for greater representation of underrepresented voices. You’ll see that this year at the Festival. And we have watched as audiences have embraced cinema’s ability to transport them through screens of all sizes. You’ll see that too. We’re excited to present thoughtful, high-impact programming this September that reflects our belief that there’s no stopping great storytelling.”

TIFF also unveiled the first selections for this year’s festival. TIFF 2020 will include Ammonite, directed by Francis Lee (United Kingdom); Another Round, from director Thomas Vinterberg (Denmark); Bruised, Halle Berry’s feature directorial debut (USA); Concrete Cowboy by filmmaker Ricky Staub (USA); Fauna, from director Nicolás Pereda (Mexico/Canada); Good Joe Bell by director Reinaldo Marcus Green (USA); Spring Blossom, the debut film by director Suzanne Lindon (France); and True Mothers by director Naomi Kawase (Japan). The festival added that further releases of official selections will include documentaries, Canadian films, world cinema, and a commitment to normalizing gender parity. The annual Industry Conference is scheduled to return and the TIFF Tribute Awards will return after last year’s inaugural event that fêted talents such as Meryl Streep.

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As part of the festival’s adaptation to the situation with COVID and the larger conversations and representation and access that have amplified in recent weeks, TIFF invites industry peers to gift access to the conference and events to filmmakers from underrepresented groups. Canadian press will have access to filmmakers and talent—with extra safety precautions presumed.

The festival’s update of its activities comes one day after the organization announced the layoff of 31 staff members. Like many arts organizations, TIFF has been hit hard as the uncertainties of COVID that make planning for future large-scale events nearly impossible, and the closure of TIFF Bell Lightbox since March has halted several revenue streams. The festival forecasts a 50% decline in revenue compared to 2019’s fiscal. The plans for 2020’s festival are a result of collaboration and conversations between TIFF and local festivals, as well as international festivals like Venice, Telluride, and New York, which are the big stops on the fall circuit.

TIFF 2020 runs Sept. 10 to 19.
Readers may also support the festival through the For the Love of Film Fund.

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