No proof of vaccine required at TIFF; masks, testing for media, talent mandatory

By The Canadian Press

TORONTO – The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) says proof of COVID-19 vaccination won’t be required to enter its venues, but masks will be mandatory for anyone attending in-person screenings, and talent and media will be tested regularly.

Organizers say actors, filmmakers, TIFF executives and others attending events will need to be tested for COVID-19 every 48 hours, in addition to out-of-country visitors being tested within 72 hours of arriving in Toronto.

Talent will also wear masks at festival venues, except when on stage or on the red carpet. There was no word yet on celebrities who may attend.

TIFF anticipates 4,000 members of the industry will be accredited for this year’s festival, running Sept. 9 to 18, and says more than 1,400 journalists have been accredited.

Reporters invited to cover red carpets and interact with talent will also need to provide proof of negative COVID-19 tests every 48 hours.

TIFF says staff at festival venues who interact with talent – including festival photographers, drivers and backstage teams – will have to take a rapid antigen test every 48 hours and wear a three-layer, non-medical mask.

TIFF says there will be no printed tickets or passes, requiring guests to provide mobile tickets instead, and no concessions will be sold at the festival venues.

TIFF venues include: TIFF Bell Lightbox, the Princess of Wales Theatre and Roy Thomson Hall, Scotiabank Theatre and the Cinesphere IMAX Theatre at Ontario Place. Outdoor screening venues at Ontario Place Festival Village include the Visa Skyline Drive-In, RBC Lakeside Drive-In and the West Island Open Air Cinema.

Red carpets will take place inside Roy Thomson Hall and the Visa Screening Room at the Princess of Wales Theatre, where TIFF says all government-mandated social distancing measures will be in place.

Organizers say public digital screenings will be available on its online platform, digital TIFF Bell Lightbox, but will be limited to Canadian audiences and festival time- and date-release windows.

The festival was altered to virtual platforms and drive-in screenings last year due to the pandemic.
Canada opened its border to non-essential travel from the United States this week and expects to further open to international travellers on Sept. 7.

On Thursday, organizers said Benedict Cumberbatch has been named a recipient of this year’s TIFF Tribute Actor Award, joining previously named honorees Jessica Chastain and Quebec director Denis Villeneuve.

The pre-recorded event will be broadcast nationally by CTV and streamed internationally by Variety.

TIFF adds Diana biopic ‘Spencer’; Riz Ahmed heads Platform jury

A biopic starring Kristen Stewart as Diana, the Princess of Wales, and more Cannes-winning titles are bound for TIFF.

Organizers have added titles to several sections, including the competitive Platform program, where Oscar-nominated “Sound of Metal” star Riz Ahmed will head the jury.

“Spencer” by Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larrain, set during a tumultuous Christmas, will screen in TIFF’s Special Events program after premiering at the Venice Film Festival.

Larrain is well established in depicting historical women onscreen, having also directed the Oscar-nominated 2016 biopic “Jackie,” starring Natalie Portman as Jacqueline Kennedy.

Also in the Special Events section is “Memoria” by acclaimed Thai auteur Apichatpong Weerasethakul, starring Tilda Swinton as an expatriate reeling from mysterious events in Colombia.

“Memoria” shared the Jury Prize with “Ahed’s Knee” by Nadav Lapid at last month’s Cannes Film Festival.

Other buzzy films added to TIFF, which runs online and in-person from Sept. 9 to 18, include the Iranian prisoner drama “A Hero” (“Ghahreman”) by Asghar Farhadi, which shared the Grand Prize at Cannes with Juho Kuosmanen’s “Compartment No. 6.” It will screen as a special event.

Last week TIFF added another Cannes sensation, the Palme d’Or prize-winning horror “Titane,” to the Midnight Madness section.

Films competing in the Platform program include the world premiere of “Drunken Birds” (“Les oiseaux ivres”) by Montreal’s Ivan Grbovic, about “a drug-cartel worker who runs afoul of his boss and migrates to Canada.”

On Wednesday, the festival also revealed it will celebrate the 20th anniversary of Inuk filmmaker Zacharias Kunuk’s Inuktitut-language Canadian drama “Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner,” which won the Camera d’Or award at Cannes in 2001. TIFF Cinematheque will hold a free screening of a digitally remastered version.

Kunuk will also have a film in the newly announced Shorts Cuts lineup: “Angakusajaujuq – The Shaman’s Apprentice.”

Shorts Cuts will have a total of 38 films, including the world premiere of the South Korean-set drama “Together” by Canadian filmmaker Albert Shin, director of acclaimed features “In Her Place” and “Disappearance at Clifton Hill.”

TIFF Cinematheque also announced details of its Alanis Obomsawin retrospective, “Celebrating Alanis,” which will have 19 films from the prolific Abenaki documentary maker. The films include the world premiere of her newest title, “Honour to Senator Murray Sinclair.”

The festival has also outlined the schedule for the IMAX screenings of Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi epic “Dune,” adding one at Cinema Banque Scotia Montreal on Sept. 12.

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