[W]e begin at the very end. A line of people before us climbs around the corner of the TIFF Bell Lightbox building, some of them huddling around volunteers in orange shirts. We are all itching to get inside. Men in their grey suits stand in front of us under the miserable heat of the city. We see our reflections in their shoes and pretend we’re not listening to their conversations. They brag to each other about how many films they’ll be seeing.
“Should be good this year,” one man says. “I’m seeing eight films.”
Eight. A small part of our souls die from jealousy. But then another part of us only clings even more to our single tickets. This is what the festival is about.
The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) has been around since 1976. Originally named the “Festival of Festivals,” TIFF is famous for collecting films from around the world and showing them to a Toronto audience.
About 500,000 people enjoy these films each year. To be just one of those people is magical.
We love TIFF. We wait in long lines outside theatres scattered across Toronto just to be a part of it. We listen closely for the screams of fans echoing through the venues. This is our cue to the butterflies in our stomachs. We squeeze our friend’s hand with the realization that in just a few minutes, we’ll be sitting in the same room as the director. Not just a director, but the director that has inspired so much of our creativity. The line shuffles forward. TIFF is just a few steps within reach.
The greatest part of TIFF is that it’s a celebration of art and ideas. The festival gives Toronto an entire collection of new perspectives that reflect our world past and present. It’s a chance for filmmakers to debut their thoughts about pain, humour, horror, and love. TIFF is a collection of scores, languages, silent films that go on to win Oscars, and endless hours of thought and creativity. It’s this lifelong experience that’s perfectly packaged into 11 days.
It shouldn’t matter how many films we see during TIFF, because the memory of one film is enough to last an entire lifetime. TIFF is not just a festival. It’s a feeling. This festival means so many things to different people, to the point where we get carried away in its wonderfulness. There’s just something about TIFF that drives us to the depths of emotional extremes. It’s both fantastic and scary.
When the films end, and the screens fade to black, there’s this sense of panic that the experience is ending all too soon – and maybe it does. A handful of us have the courage to raise our hands with questions for the cast. Some of us are lucky enough to have them answered. We soon empty our seats and leave the theatre with the realization that this film was unlike any other. It was a TIFF film. We leave the theatre, but our TIFF experience hardly finishes.
We begin at the very end – and we get to do it all again next year.