Monday, September 05, 2011

The TIFF Rules

A few months ago, when I was covering Hot Docs, I shared five tips for surviving film festivals/movie marathons. Today I want talk about the TIFF rules. I do not mean the rules in regards to how you order TIFF tickets, or the line-up policies for star-studded films at Roy Thomson hall or the Visa Screening Room. I am talking about the five rules that each person attending TIFF has for how they will experience the festival. There are no right or wrong rules, as these rules are unique to each individual person. For some people the rules may consist of only watching Midnight Madness genre films, or only films which feature big name Hollywood starts, etc. The only common aspect to each person’s rule is that at some point at least one rule will get broken. Here are the five rules I have when attending TIFF:

1) No September films: TIFF is notorious for playing a few films (e.g. The Informant!, Never Let Me Go, Buried, and Easy A) that will be released worldwide while the festival is still going on. I generally try to avoid any TIFF film that opens in the month of September as I figure that I can see the same film for far cheaper in regular theatres. Unfortunately this rule inadvertently got broken this year as I got tickets to Gus Van Sant’s Restless not realizing that its release date was the second Friday of TIFF. The funny thing is, breaking rule number one was a result of rule number two.

2) Keep my films close, and my theatre locations closer: There was a time when I use to get a thrill out of running halfway across town to catch a film at TIFF. However, the older I get the less appealing this becomes. I noticed in the last few years I have starting picking films that either play in the same location or at least in near by locations. For example, since I am already seeing Herzog’s Into the Abyss at the Ryerson theatre I opt to see Restless immediately after instead of trying to make it to the TIFF Lightbox theatre in a in a mere five minutes.

3) Allow a few “demon” picks: Sometimes when attending the festival when friends are too, it is a good idea to catch a few films together. Even if this means seeing some films that you initially had no desire to see. For example, in the past I have attended TIFF with my good friend Colleen (a.k.a. demon). While a few of her picks have been less than stellar, both Tuck Everlasting and Colin Firth’s Trauma painfully come to mind, she has pulled out numerous winners that I would have missed otherwise. Some of these films include: In America, The Magdalene Sisters, and A Film with Me in It.

4) At least one Canadian film: I usually aim to see one film from every category (e.g. Special Presentations, Midnight Madness, Discovery, Contemporary World Cinema, etc.), but I make a special point to squeeze in a few Canadian films. Regardless of whether they come from big name Canadian directors, like Cronenberg, or an up and coming Canadian director in the Visions category, I do not feel right attend a festival as big as TIFF and not supporting my country’s homegrown talent. So whether I am seeing 8 films or 32 films, I make sure to incorporate at least one Canadian feature or short.

5) Randomness is good: Every year I pick one or two films at random. I do not even read what the program book has to say on the particular film until my picks are in. I like the idea of going into a film completely blind and possibly discovering something truly magically. This year’s random pick is 11 Flowers, hopefully it will bring the same level of joy that previous random selections (e.g. Kontroll, The Art of the Steal, The Spanish film November, and Treeless Mountain) have brought me.


  1. dEmon1:04 pm

    What can I say? Sometimes you have to see a few crap films in order to appreciate the mediocre and good ones. It's also an opportunity to see your favourite actors do some of their best work trying to sell you on a film afterwards during the Q & A. ;-p Plus, if you don't build a few crap films into your week, when else would you catch up on sleep?

    Let me also point out that "Courtney" picks can also run amuck. I'm reminded of a little film called Ginostra, aka the WORST FILM EVER. ;-p Tuck Everlasting, had I been awake to catch most of it, looked like an Oscar pick after that monstrosity. ;-p

  2. @dEmon - According to my memory, which is impeccable, Ginostra was a “dEmon” pick. Yep, I distinctly remember you saying: “We should check out Ginostra, it sounds awesome and it has Harvey Keitel in it!” :)

    Tuck Everlasting was a snooze fest indeed. That power nap allowed me to recharge for the other three films we saw that day.

  3. dEmon8:59 pm

    Hmm... yeah, that's not how my memory remembers it. That one is all yours, buddy - nuns, volcanoes, crosses, mysterious SUV's and all. Pwn it! ;-p

    That said, I agree, "demon" pics should be adhered to, for better or for worse. I was just thinking about how much I'd like to see A Film With Me In It again. So dark and so very funny. And how 'bout The Trip? So glad it's finally out in theatres. LOVE that film. And what about Beowulf? Okay, maybe not that one, but we all know you went to fawn over Gerard Butler, so the movie isn't what's important there. ;-p


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