TIFF: A reporter on the scene


Image Courtesy of TIFF

Editor’s Notes: The following article is part of our coverage of the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival. For more information on the festival visit http://tiff.net and follow TIFF on Twitter at @TIFF_NET.

Although I’ve attended the Toronto International Film Festival almost every year since I was eighteen, this is my second year of covering it for Next Projection. This year, I’ve taken on reviewing several films with my press pass and I’ve taken on navigating the insane media schedule that goes along with it. There are films I’ve had to miss due to overlapping screenings, but I’ve managed to see many. Not all of them have blown me away, and I’ve been tempted to walk out in some.

Jacqueline Valencia working on an assignment at the Bell Lightbox

Jacqueline Valencia writing at the Bell Lightbox

The environment of the downtown corridor changes during festival time. Now with the new streetcars and continuing construction, it’s easy to get frustrated commuting or get overwhelmed by the Times Square-like appeal of King Street. The street has been turned into a strolling boulevard with energetic fans on patios waiting to see their favorite movie stars. It can be a little too much for some. Me? I thrive on a combination of the enthusiasm of the crowds, but I balk at the lack of personal space such an environment incurs.

The TIFF press centre is a great resource for powering down your head at your laptop and powering up your mobile devices. However, it’s cave-like unspoken media hierarchy rules are difficult to decipher, or rather I’m just too shy to ask people to find an available power adapter. The volunteers are awesomely accommodating though, often meeting my deer-in-the-headlights look with a warm, “How can I help you?”

Which brings me to complain that there is a lack of gratefulness to the volunteers at the festival this year. I’m used to getting ready to applaud once the screen comes up thanking volunteers for their help, among the thanks for the supporters, members, and sponsors of the festival. It’s strangely missing this year. Without the volunteers, there would be no festival. I’ve never heard them complain and even when some of the public express their impatience in line, a lot of them come up and update the ticket holders of the time remaining. In turn, they’ve responded well with how some of the press and industry already subconsciously know how this all works. We stand in line and wait, tapping away at our laptops, updating our social media sites, until it’s time to start of the screening.

Nobody’s making us watch movies. Movies don’t feed us or shelter us, but they offer an escape, a lesson to learn, tales to expand upon. As a reporter on the scene here, the magic becomes palpable.

It’s been fascinating to watch the press and industry machine at work at TIFF. It’s a well-oiled machine. I’ve even come a bit more out of my shell by interacting with fellow writers (saying an introverted-ly meek “hello” when I gather up the guts), and even scoring an interview or two on my own. I’ve overheard some really film nerdy conversations and some very personal ones. Fodder for a writer like me, but truly more about knowing I’m not alone in this crazy interest in film. What film critics do is something fun and hard work in the fleshing out of it. People read our opinion because they don’t want to shell out hard earned cash on a flop or they do it anyway out of spite for the personality expressing that opinion. I love writing about film for many reasons, but at its core, film writing for me is an extension of book and poetry writing. We observe and relate imagination, emotions, or fictional worlds into words.

Jacqueline Valencia meeting Hal 9000 as part of a TIFF promotion for its Stanley Kubrick exhibit

Jacqueline Valencia meeting Hal 9000 as part of a TIFF promotion for its Stanley Kubrick exhibit

In line for a movie last night, I met a man who teaches at a film school in California. He was proudly pointing out some of his former students’ film critiques in a big time entertainment magazine. He came to Toronto because “it’s one of the finest festivals in the world.” Another couple related their distaste for a film, but then added, “That may have been a waste of film, but inside it is a great story, too bad they didn’t choose to tell that one.”

It’s that diversity of perspective that draws people to film and it’s that choice of three hundred plus films that makes the Toronto International Film Festival such a great joy to be a part of. Nobody’s making us watch movies. Movies don’t feed us or shelter us, but they offer an escape, a lesson to learn, tales to expand upon. As a reporter on the scene here, the magic becomes palpable. As I was riding down to the Bell Lightbox, I spotted Bill Murray cycling in the opposite direction. When I came out of a screening of Wild I caught a glimpse of Reese Witherspoon coming out of a limo. These scenes may read surreal, but really, during the festival it’s a common sight. Among the glitterati and the paparazzi, there are the unnamed talents and the overlooked filmmakers that make the trek to this city for the chance of screening their small films. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing some amazing little films and meeting some great filmmakers.

I met Hal 9000 as part of a TIFF promotion for the Stanley Kubrick exhibit. Hal instructs to you pose so the computer takes your picture. The feelings I felt at hearing’s Hal’s voice in person brought a rush of memories of seeing 2001 when I was a kid and most recently with my family and friends. If something so fictional can elicit such a strong reaction in our brains, it’s a true sign of the power of film.

Many thanks to Next Projection for giving me an opportunity to be here because it’s been a wild ride.

We’re all here for the movies. Long live film.


About Author

I'm a published writer, illustrator, and film critic. Cinema has been a passion of mine since my first viewing of Milius' Conan the Barbarian and my film tastes go from experimental to modern blockbuster.