Long ago TIFF went from showcasing great movies to premiering great movies that matter. The theme continues this year with an opening-night gala that promises to be a landmark occasion for the film world and society at large.
The Toronto International Film Festival landed the world premiere of The Fifth Estate, a movie about WikiLeaks and its controversial founder Julian Assange. The September 5 premiere will be the first of a handful of showings of the film during the 11-day festival that attracts more than 4,000 film delegates each year.
Cameron Bailey, artistic director of TIFF, underscored the relevance of the film that stars Benedict Cumberbatch and is directed by Bill Condon (Twilight, Chicago). "It deals with one of the most important issues of the day: Information and who controls it," Bailey said at a Tuesday morning press conference announcing the TIFF 2013 lineup at a theatre inside the Bell Lightbox festival headquarters in Toronto.
The Fifth Estate trailer is dramatic and explosive and sure to bring wider attention to the work Assange did to reveal corporate and government secrets to the world. While Assange has been disparaged and is sought by several nations on a range of charges -- including sexual assault in Sweden -- history may very well remember him as the Martin Luther of his time. Condon's film on the work he did with WikiLeaks promises to lead to great debate, an aspect of TIFF that has helped win it plenty of respect and why the festival attracts more than just devoted movie fans and celebrity stalkers each year. A big part of the attraction is the Q&A discussions that take place afterwards and often involve the director and actors.
The Fifth Estate figures to involve lively discussion. The film follows gala showings over the years that have included Michael Moore's provocative documentaries like Fahrenheit 9/11 and last year's Argo, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture.
Along with foreshadowing the Oscars, TIFF has become a blockbuster of its own. In recent years, it has sold more than 500,000 movie tickets annually and the 2012 edition reportedly drove more than $170 million in economic activity for the city, making it one of Canada's most successful tourism initiatives. Hotels, bars, and restaurants clamour for a piece of the action. During the festival, the city government extends drinking hours to 4 a.m. for many bars in the city.
The 18-room Beverly Hotel, which has an underground speakeasy, just opened on Friday and says it anticipates catching TIFF business. The new Four Seasons, unveiled in October, will vie for attention in Yorkville alongside the posh Hazelton Hotel, which was built especially for TIFF. The Trump, Ritz-Carlton, and Shangri-la are all eager for film festival business, as are farther-afield, less-pricey properties like the Gladstone and Drake on Queen Street West.
Best TIFF 2013 Movies
Besides The Fifth Estate, other notable films that will receive the gala treatment this year include:
- Idris Elba plays Nelson Mandela in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, which makes its world premiere at TIFF 2013. (Adrian Brijbassi/Vacay.ca)
- The star-studded August: Osage County starring Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts
- Gravity starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock as astronauts in trouble
- All the Wrong Reasons, featuring Cory Monteith, the Glee TV star who died in a Vancouver hotel on July 13
- Life of Crime, a film adapted from an Elmore Leonard story, and directed by Daniel Schecter and starring Jennifer Aniston. It will be the festival's closing gala film.
Bailey and TIFF CEO Piers Handling said only one-quarter of the nearly 400 films that will be shown at the 38th annual festival were announced on Tuesday.
Read Vacay.ca for more about TIFF 2013 and the Best Canadian Movies for this year.