By Marc Glassman
Ol’ Blue Eyes was right: TIFF 2010 at 35 had a very good year for blue-blooded girls. Like all aristocrats, it has a palatial home now, with its own name, Bell Lightbox. Tastemakers and cultural viziers flocked to the new digs on King Street and were properly impressed by the five cinemas, art gallery, vast atrium, restaurant, bar and shop.
Piers Handling, TIFF’s CEO, was right when he mentioned right away at Sunday’s Awards Ceremony that the festival’s “move south” capped a trend in the city for the past decade. No longer is Yorkville and the Yonge-Bloor nexus the playground for Toronto.
The festival’s main venues now are Bell Lightbox, Roy Thomson Hall, the Elgin-Winter Garden, the Ryerson Theatre, the AMC at Dundas Square and the Scotiabank Theatre at Richmond and John. Essentially, the festival’s northern border is at Ryerson and ends at Bell Lightbox at King and John. That’s a huge change for an event that used to be defined by such defunct palaces as the Uptown and the University near Yonge and Bloor and the still extant but ignored Cumberland and—with two exceptions–Varsity Cinemas.
Bell Lightbox has ignited King Street and whole downtown Entertainment District. It’s the catalyst that will make Roy Thomson Hall, the Royal Alexandra Theatre, the Princess of Wales Theatre, the former Metro Hall, the CBC, the Hyatt Regency Hotel, other niche hotels, over thirty restaurants and a lot of condos mesh into an exciting, coherent cultural hub. In the process, TIFF has matured from a 10-day festival into a major institution, with its own mandates and building, like the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Royal Ontario Museum.
The atmosphere around the festival was buoyant, fully in keeping with the launch of Bell Lightbox. But it was more than that: this year’s crop of films was simply better than in the past few festivals. That’s no knock on previous editions of TIFF: like a veteran vintner, a good film curator can only react to what s/he sees and tastes. And this past year has produced some fine films.
Among my favourites were: the jazzy animation feature Chico & Rita, a wonderfully circuitous Israeli drama The Human Resources Manager, the Danish doc Armadillo, the sexy, existential character study The Brownian Movement, the rightly heralded adaptation of Mordecai Richler’s Barney’s Version, the resurrection of comic genius Jacques Tati in Sylvain Chomet’s The Illusionist and the brilliant if willfully obscure feature by Jean-Luc Godard Film Socialism.
But forget about me: what did the juries and the public have to say about TIFF 2010?
Denis Villeneuve’s Incendies artfully enmeshes the viewer into the lives of a wildly dysfunctional extended family. It won the City of Toronto Award, worth $35,000, for Best Canadian Feature. Garnering the sister prize for Best Canadian First Prize, worth $15,000 was Deborah Chow’s The High Cost of Living, which depicts the emotional relationship between an American drug dealer and the pregnant Quebec woman, whom he hits while driving—and then racing away.
Chow got a laugh from the audience by thanking the jury for saving her from “working at Starbucks next week,” while Villeneuve trumped her by saying that the $35,000 would save him from being “thrown in prison” for tax evasion.
Sturla Gunnarsson completed a hat trick for Canadian feature filmmakers with Force of Nature: the David Suzuki Movie, which won the Cadillac People’s Choice Documentary Award.
The big Cadillac People’s Choice Award, worth $15, 000 went to Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech. Oscar buzz is being generated for the Colin Firth—Geoffrey Rush film. It successfully dramatizes how Britain’s King George VI (Firth) learned how to control his pronounced stammer thanks to the professional intervention of an Australian therapist (Rush).