I’m not exactly sure what I was hoping for as I walked up the subway steps towards the Scotia Bank Theatre on Richmond St. for the 36th annual Toronto International Film Festival, but I was both excited and nervous at the same time.
The film I had scheduled to see at TIFF was called The Incident, a film directed by Alexandre Courtes, who, until recently had only been known for directing music videos for bands like U2 and The White Stripes.
Having seen a few films at TIFF before, I knew what to expect- a decent film from a newbie indie director.
Before I start to sound like a seasoned TIFF veteran though, I think it’s important for me to say that I’ve only been to the festival once before and it was as a volunteer. I know being a TIFF volunteer sounds pretty cool, perhaps glamourous even, but don’t let the title fool you, most of the volunteers are just glorified ticket rippers and door holders.
The only difference between TIFF volunteers and the people that actually work at the movie theatre is that the TIFF volunteers don’t get paid. Don’t get me wrong, I love TIFF. I like the idea that in the eleven-day festival you have the chance to see a movie from every continent, you can usually speak to the director first-hand, and perhaps you can even get a picture with an A-list celebrity, if you’re lucky. I love every part of it. But being a ticket ripper and door holder is something that I will never volunteer for again.
Because of the disastrously painful time I had as a volunteer last year at TIFF, I’m considering this year my first “official” one at the festival. And if you’re wondering if there are celebrities simply littered over the streets of Toronto during the festival like everyone says there is, you’d be wrong.
Or so I thought, until I turned around in the ticket line to see Canada’s newest and extremely media weary golden boy, The Weeknd. Being a huge fan of the unsigned singer didn’t help my usual shyness as I decided to approach him for an interview. You know, for the sake of the article. And sure, maybe, possibly, a little because I absolutely love the singer and went completely star struck. I needed to speak to him!
Although as I began stuttering my name in an awkward introduction and asking him if he would answer a few quick questions about TIFF for a student journalist, it soon became pretty clear that he was not going to speak. His all-clad-in-black posse surrounded him and waved me away saying “No interviews.” Feeling slightly confused about their reason behind not wanting to answer my questions, especially since The Weeknd was politely smiling at me, I gave up and begin to walk towards our theatre with my friends to find good seats for the film. Moral of that portion of the story: Don’t approach celebrities at TIFF. They came to see a movie, not to be bothered.
As we took our seats, Colin Geddes, a programmer for TIFF began the usual introduction that all TIFF films have.
“Thank you for coming out to enter the madhouse that is The Incident,” Geddes said. “This film played earlier in the week at the Ryerson Theatre and it was so well received that we actually had two passouts during the film. The director was delighted afterwards to get his picture taken with flashing ambulances behind him. What a badge of honour.”
As Geddes said this, the audience laughed, and my guests and I looked at each other nervously. Two people had fainted during this film? Just exactly what were we seeing? Before we could contemplate any further, the lights were dimming and we were now locked into our ride “to enter the madhouse.”
Roughly 80 minutes later the lights came back on, and to my knowledge no one in our theatre had fainted. Although I can see why it would be possible. I had watched the last scene in the film with my hands almost covering my eyes as a mental patient at the asylum graphically bites off his own finger and menacingly chews it for fun.
My first official year at TIFF had been good. I was able to see a film that left me squeamish and creeped out, I practically interviewed a celebrity (sort of) and I didn’t have to rip any tickets or hold any doors. All good signs that I will definitely go back next year. And this time I’ve set the bar even higher by seeing more than one film, and hopefully being able to snap a photo with a star – although I’m sure it won’t be The Weeknd, if his posse has anything to say about it.