Toronto International Film Festival

Overview: The Toronto International Film Festival began in 1976, where it was held at the posh Windsor Arms Hotel in Toronto's Yorkville neighborhood. Originally called the "Festival of Festivals," the original purpose of this event was to show the best international movies from festivals around the world.

This gathering of world cinema enthusiasm (and excuse to party like a rock star) takes place every year in September, and lasts about 10 days.

Today, it has grown to the point where, in many circles, it is viewed second only to the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, which is held in a country where the food is arguably better.

With sponsorship from prominent companies and influence from Hollywood, the Toronto International Film Festival receives over 4,000 submissions a year and selects roughly 350 of them to actually be shown. These films are screened in about 23 separate locations in the downtown Toronto area.

Thousands of industry insiders and film lovers from around the globe attend each year, and the festival is often touted as a major cultural (and marketing) event.

With heavy involvement from Hollywood and big-name corporations like AMC, Diesel, and the Discovery Channel, the Toronto International Film Festival is often criticized for concentrating too much on big-budget, high-value productions rather than truly being a platform to discover unknown artistic talent.

Selection Process: The festival committee instructs all applicants to submit either a Short Film (under 50 minutes) or a Feature Film (over 50 minutes).

If a film is selected (woo-hoo!) out of the pile that floods their mailboxes, the organizing committee decides which category it belongs in.

Major Categories (Programmes)
(The festival committee may decide to add new categories as they see fit)

Gala Presentations: Films shown in this category are high-profile and already have major buzz in film news outlets. They're made by both Canadian and International filmmakers, many of whom are premiering their work for the first time.

Masters: Films showcased here new works made by well-known directors.

Visions: These films are non-mainstream, experimental (weird) films made by either well-known directors or up-and-coming talent.

Special Presentations: These are generally international movies made by major studios and feature well-known directors and actors. Many Hollywood movies will end up in this section.

Canada First!: These movies are made by Canadian filmmakers, both established and unknown.

Short Cuts Canada: These movies are also made by Canadian filmmakers, and are all under 50 minutes. They're shown to well-known directors, and the purpose is to pick out new talent.

Discovery: No, this category doesn't deal with movies about the Space Shuttle (but some of them might). This category focuses on emerging directors.

Real to Reel: Films shown here are non-fiction, and generally include documentaries and reality-based cinema.

Wavelengths: These movies are mainly avant-garde, which has to do with using unorthodox techniques (technical, artistic, etc) of carrying out the filmmaking process.

Midnight Madness: Just about all international film festivals have a section like this, and after doing only a few of these articles I'm getting a little sick of writing about it. But hey, it's all in good fun. Films in this category are meant to be edgy, outrageous, and include over-the-top versions of popular genres (animation, comedy, horror, etc).

Vanguard: From the description on the Toronto International Film Festival's own website, this category doesn't seem too different from the one above (in terms of its written description). But the themes of these films are designed to test the boundaries of social acceptance. Most of them are likely to contain recurring instances of the F-word.

Sprockets Family Zone: These films are for kids, and can be from just about any genre except porn.

Awards: Awards appear to exist for every category (except for retrospective screenings) and are decided by jury.

Prestigious awards include the International Critics Prize, the People's Choice Award (voted on by the audience), Best Canadian Feature Film, and Award for Best Canadian Short Film.

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