TIFF Director Says 2020 Event Is Being Prepared Now As A "Festival Of Festivals" With Potential Online Aspects

SXSW was canceled. Tribeca has been “postponed” (but the outlook isn’t great). And Cannes? Well, the French festival is doing its best to stay alive, but the clock is surely ticking. That leaves the fall film festivals as the next in line to begin to discuss the future in the wake of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. And with that in mind, the organizers of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) have released a video updating film fans on what they’re doing right now and how they’re preparing for the 2020 event.

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In the video, Joana Vicente, Executive Director & Co-Head, and Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director & Co-Head, talked about the current state of TIFF, including the Lightbox theater, as well as how they plan on moving forward with the festival, given that it’s unclear what the world will look like in September.

As Vicente discussed in the video, preparations for TIFF 2020 are now officially underway, even during this uncertain time. However, unlike TIFF installments of the recent past, this year will have a different flavor to it—something more unifying and eclectic. The Executive Director said that the organization is looking to perhaps discuss things with other 2020 film festivals that have either been canceled or postponed, as a way to make TIFF 2020 the “festival of festivals.”

Now, the first question that probably enters everyone’s mind is, “What if COVID-19 isn’t gone by September?”

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Bailey explained, “Of course, we recognize that in planning for the Festival now, there is still uncertainty about what ‘people coming together again’ will look like come September. This is why we are looking at both onsite and digital innovations that will provide options that will deliver for our audiences, support filmmakers and our partners, and bolster the industry.”

Also, it’s important to understand that TIFF doesn’t just earn money from the annual event, but is a non-profit that runs the Lightbox cinema. And because that location has been closed, as with most of the rest of the world, the organization is hoping that virtual screenings will help keep the venue going during this time, while also spreading TIFF’s message of promoting Canadian and international film, in general.

“Given our deep ties to the Canadian and international film community, we’ll concentrate these efforts on providing a platform for diverse artists, raising their voices and profiles while we work to support and promote Canadian and international cinema,” said Vicente.

It appears, at this point at least, that Vicente and Bailey, as well as the rest of TIFF, are banking on everything being back to normal by the September launch of the festival. If the summer plays out as people are expecting, with cinemas remaining closed for most of the season, TIFF (and perhaps Venice) could be the first event that really rallies the film community and ushers in a post-COVID-19 era. Hopefully.