Picture this: the Toronto International Film Festival just two years ago. Venues and events spread out all over the biggest  city in Canada. Picture this; Toronto today. After moving last year a great majority of the events and screenings into the newly constructed TIFF Bell Lighthouse film center the 11 day festival has become more centralized than Hollywood itself.

What exactly is the TIFF Bell Lighthouse? An entire city block at King and John Street, downtown Toronto. Four stories that house a three story atrium, five cinemas, two galleries, learning studios, a bistro, a restaurant and plenty more. But while TIFF Bell Lighthouse has consolidated many of the cinemas and hotels it has also shifted the epicenter from the northern tony area of Yorkville to the once funky area that’s now known collectively as the Entertainment District.

TIFF Bell Lighthouse is merely the hub. Right next door is the Hyatt, buzzing with press and industry rooms, a filmmaker’s lounge and more. A block away is the mammoth Roy Thomson Hall where the majority of film red carpet premieres are held. A block from there the new five star Ritz Carlton Hotel, which has usurped the four star Four Seasons as THE place to house a-listers, hold high level press conferences and boast star sightings unparalleled in the city (along with the rooftop patio of the Thompson hotel).

On the very first day of the festival King Street West is packed with fans, patrons queued up for cinemas, patrons waiting for rush tickets and confused tourists probably looking for the old theater district that’s been overrun by cinema goers. Above it all a plethora of large plasma screens displays live coverage from red carpet premieres.

Suddenly there’s a flash mob of black t-shirted teens singing Queen’s “We Will Rock You”.  A hundred strong, they nearly collide with the throng wearing personal sandwich styled walking billboards. Its like a glee club set free merging with the playing card characters from Alice in Wonderland.

Is this anyway to run a film festival? It certainly is. Toronto has long been a favorite destination for those seek out both Hollywood mainstream fare and out of the way gems from all over the world. Boasting 300 plus films, it’s the world’s best ‘all you can eat’ festival.

Artist rendering of the Exterior of Bell Lighthouse in downtown Toronto

Like the Cannes and Sundance film festivals, TIFF is front loaded with big stars and big films. Past tradition was to have opening night be either a Canadian film or something on the nice side. (Past notables include WHALE RIDER and a musical about hockey.)  But following last year’s huge reception for the Bruce Springsteen documentary about recording Darkness on the Edge of Town, they’ve boldly opted to open 2011 with the U2 documentary FROM THE SKY DOWN. Directed by Davis Guggenheim (WAITING FOR SUPERMAN), SKY DOWN looks at U2’s artistic turning point, the recording of 1991’s Achtung Baby.

Naysayers have scoffed saying that a doc on a band is no way to open one of the biggest film festivals on earth. But the gambit pays off. Several members of U2 hit the red carpet, the place goes crazy and suddenly the addition of music docs galore makes more and more sense. The others include Jonathan Demme’s NEIL YOUNG JOURNEYS, Albert Maysles’  THE LOVE WE MAKE, a look at Paul McCartney’s 2001 Concert for New York and Cameron Crowe’s PEARL JAM 20.

The Toronto Star calls it “The biggest opening gala in festival history.” The fans just shriek. But they best save their voices. The opening weekend will also see the gala screenings of Brad Pitt’s MONEYBALL and George Clooney’s IDES OF MARCH.


Click on Link:The year of living musically at the 36th TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

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Article: An introduction to the 36th TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

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