There is always a first time for everything. And after five years of writing about Films and TV, I finally attended my first Film Fest, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). I’ve tried a few times to get media accredited to other Festivals but for some reason, it never happened. But thanks to TIFF’s Media Inclusion Initiative, I had my first opportunity to cover one of the major Film Festivals in the world. TIFF 2020 took place between September 10 to 19 as a limited physical event and an online experience. Yes, you read it right, TIFF went online.
We all know that the pandemic hit the entertainment industry hard and film festivals were particularly affected by it. Gathering a large number of people in the same room is not a possibility at the moment, making things very difficult for films fests. But TIFF responded accordingly to this challenge by going digital. This alternative solution brought something fresh and interesting to the table. Also, I’m not going to lie, watching online screenings from the comfort of my home was very convenient.
I know, a film festival experience has to include more than only films. Red carpets, post-screening talks, after parties, master classes are also very important and fun activities. But TIFF online also offered all of these things. I took part in amazing Q&A sessions with filmmakers, actors, and writers. Watched Master Classes of successful artists such as Viola Davis and Julius Tennon, Luca Guadagnino, Ted Hope, and Dream Hampton. And also had a chance to network with media peers on Twitter round tables. Twitter was actually a very important tool for the Festival and TIFF’s social media team did a great job using the platform to keep everyone taking part in the Festival engaged.
But even though I enjoyed all these activities, my main interest as a cinephile was to watch as many films as I could. And the TIFF 2020 program did not disappoint me. So many great options. I spent 10 days watching outstanding films from all over the world. Good times!
Unfortunately, nothing good lasts forever. TIFF 2020 was an extraordinary experience and I’m very grateful for the opportunity of taking part in this incredible event. Thanks to everyone that worked so hard to make it possible and hopefully I will see you again next year. But this time in person.
And now that the party is over I decided to wrap up my TIFF experience with my 10 favorite films from the festival. But before we get to the list, it should be mentioned that some films like American Utopia, Ammonite, I Care a Lot, and the TIFF People's Choice Award 2020 Nomadland, were not available for me due to my location. And that’s the reason they are not on this list. But trust me, the films below are all amazing and most of them will win multiple awards next year.
Director’s Thomas Vinterberg celebration of alcohol and friendship. This tackles midlife crises and alcoholism in a way that I have never seen before in a film. All performances are great but Mads Mikkelsen really shines here. Also, I hope my midlife crises have a dance number too.
This is a beautiful story of a difficult relationship between father and son. But it is also about an interesting sub-culture that I had no idea even existed, black cowboys training horses in the streets of Philadelphia. Idris Elba killed it as a cowboy (not a surprise) and Caleb McLaughlin is all grown up and ready to become a movie star.
Michel Franco’s New Order is brutal, upsetting, and very difficult to watch at times. But it is also a chilling reminder of what happens when a political system collapses. You definitely don’t want that happening in your country.
One Night in Miami
Regina King’s directorial debut is such an amazing film. Seriously, this woman can do no wrong. Based on Kemp Powers’ play, One Night in Miami is a fictionalized account of a 1964 meeting between Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Sam Cooke, and Jim Brown. Although the film is pretty much set in one location and has a lot of dialogue, it will still keep you engaged until the very end.
Pieces of a Woman
Yes, the first act of Pieces of a Woman is intense. But what follows it’s even more brutal. A married couple spiraling into depression and helplessness while dealing with grief. The performances of Vanessa Kirby and Ellen Burstyn are a force to be reckoned with and Kirby is definitely a frontrunner for the Oscars.
Shadow in The Cloud
Chloë Grace Moretz stars as a WWII pilot in a mission to transport some top-secret documents. The first two acts of this film are full of anxiety and thrills. And the third act is completely bonkers. But bonkers in the best possible way. It is over the top but also really fun! Moretz is great, as always and director/writer Roseanne Liang delivers a very entertaining film. I hope they work together again soon.
Emma Seligman's debut feature is such a funny and impressive character study. The film follows a young Jewish college student played by Rachel Sennott going through a series of awkward situations at a family shiva. Shiva Baby has a stellar ensemble cast led by Sennott and is very well directed by Seligman. These two have a very bright career in front of them.
Sing Me a Lullaby
Director Tiffany Hsiung goes on a mission to find her mother's birth parents and give her some closure. She travels to Taiwan looking to recover her family history but she also finds out a lot about her heritage culture. This short doc hit me hard and I cried like a baby watching it. Hsiung crafted a beautiful story about family bonds and I’m really happy the film won the TIFF's Share Her Journey Award this year.
The Price of Cheap Rent
This short film was the funniest thing I’ve watched at the Festival. As someone who lived in a very unfordable city, I totally relate to the film. I also found the lead (Amina Sutton) hilarious and the writing super tight and sharp. I’m looking forward to seeing more films from directors Amina Sutton and Maya Tanaka.
A great documentary that examines gender inequality in the EDM scene. Underplayed gives voice to some very talented women seeking for change in an industry dominated by male DJs. The horror stories told by these artists are heart-wrenching and only proves how important inclusion is. The Film has also impressive cinematography and I’m excited to see what filmmaker Stacey Lee will create next.