The Greek capital was unveiled as this year's choice by TIFF artistic director Cameron Bailey and TIFF international programmer Dimitri Eipides on Wednesday.
"We want to introduce our audience to new generations of filmmakers unafraid to rewrite the rules. When we started thinking about the startlingly original films emerging recently from this ancient and contemporary city, the perfect choice for us this year was Athens," Bailey said in a statement.
"After a long period of hibernation, Greek cinema has finally found its way back to the forefront," said Eipides, a film programmer, lecturer and festival director who has worked with film organizations worldwide.
"A number of young filmmakers — most of them fresh out of film school or, at best, with a couple of shorts to their name — turned things around. Where others saw devastation, they saw inspiration."
Greece has been grappling with complex cultural, financial and societal challenges amid its current recession and the government's severe economic reforms and austerity measures.
Recent, strong, innovative films a priority
City to City typically features about 10 titles and though this year's exact selections won't be announced until July, Bailey and Eipides shed some light on what they're considering during an afternoon conference call.
Recently made films will be a priority, as opposed to Greek movies and filmmakers of the past.
"We may go back a little while [e.g. three or four years] but not that far," Bailey said.
"We'll be looking for a diversity in the selection," he added.
And while there has been a wave of "quite stylized art house dramas" emerging from Greece, "we'll be looking at a range" of styles and genres, from strong fiction tales to documentaries.
The country's film industry has been remarkably active in the last few years, with many movies being made or in progress despite the economic crisis, according to Athens-based Eipides, whose 26 years with TIFF makes him the festival's longest serving programmer.
Today's new batch of Greek filmmakers are a determined group, he said. They share resources, take multiple roles on a production, sometimes work without getting paid and produce films despite limited means — all so they can share their cinematic stories, some of which naturally explore current economic conditions in Greece.
"Wherever there is enthusiasm and desire to make good cinema, people will succeed," he said. "We've had wonderful, active, vibrant film productions coming out of very difficult circumstances. I think Greece is going through something similar [now]."
Athens is the fifth city chosen for the annual program, which screens movies by filmmakers currently at work in the selected city during the Toronto International Film Festival in September. Past cities have included Tel Aviv, Istanbul, Buenos Aires and Mumbai.