Farsi Cinema Center poster during TIFF’18

Beyond the Glitz and Glam of TIFF’s Red Carpet

It is easy to separate a newbie, an industry veteran, and general attendees from a crowd at the Toronto International Film Festival. First-time festival-goers look forward to movie days and nights, where they are able to get a glimpse of their favorite stars and soak up the festival vibe. Industry doyens, however, vouch for the fact that there’s so much more to TIFF than meets the eye.

The nature of the festival, which is attended by nearly five million people every year, encompasses not just red carpet events and movie premieres, but also offers emerging filmmakers and industry delegates the opportunity to network and attend a plethora of masterclasses conducted by legendary film icons. The industry’s old and wise have mastered the art of getting front-row seats at the most buzzworthy events, prepared with back-ups in the rare case they miss the queue amid the hustle and bustle of all the events happening in parallel.

From left: Javier Bardem, Asghar Farhadi, and Penelope Cruz walk the red carpet at TIFF 2018 for Everybody Knows. Source: LaineyGossip

Clearly, a lot of work goes into making the 11-day festival a wholesome experience for the wide range of filmmakers, industry participants, and cinephiles in attendance. TIFF’s ability to cater to each attendee is evidenced by the selection of experts invited to conduct brainstorming sessions, workshops, and masterclasses. In addition to learning from industry veterans, networking is a huge reason why film delegates travel across the world to the festival.

Farsi Cinema Center not only attended these events, but was the organizer of one. By introducing our mission to industry delegates at TIFF last year, FCC sparked a dialogue among members of various cinematic communities – including, but not limited to, members of the Arab, Farsi, Canadian, American, Asian, and French film industries – about the power of cross-cultural collaboration and the potential to make Toronto a production hub for international independent cinema and Farsi content.

FCC live at the industry conference on ‘Why Cinemas Matter’. Photographed by Juhi Dhingra

Since 1976, TIFF has been the thread that binds all of the world’s cinemas. Serving as the birthplace of many co-productions and long-term creative alliances, the festival has brought together different film industries and enabled much-desired creative exchanges. Taking center stage, diversity has always been heavily promoted to festival goers and industry delegates. Every year, the focus on diversity and inclusion is reflected by the thematic relevance of various talks and conferences, such as ‘Tokenizing the Film Industry’ (sponsored by Telefilm), ‘Going to the Movies: Why Cinemas Matter’ (Sponsored by Ontario Creates and the National Association of Theatre Owners), ‘Diversity of Film Criticism’ by Dr. Stacy L. Smith, and ‘Crewing Up and Breaking Through’, all of which took place last year. These conferences address issues such as mitigation and innovation strategies on diversifying content, patterns of diversity in film criticism, and the lack of marginalized communities working behind the camera and on set.

Outside of the festival, TIFF offers year-long programming that continues to advance its mission and relevant themes, i.e., through allowing the programming committee to highlight specific industries or genres, and cater to a variety of audiences. One industry that has been heavily explored is that of the Farsi region. TIFF has had a long-standing love affair with the Farsi community, primarily highlighting films from Iran. In 1992, TIFF’s active commitment to Farsi cinema grew exponentially, when it presented a special program of 18 Iranian features, the first series of its kind anywhere outside Iran.

In Conversation with Abbas Kiarostami at TIFF in November, 2015, Source: Tiff Originals (YouTube) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-1CCPg5UY-E

In 2015, TIFF furthered this commitment by hosting a career retrospective on the late Abbas Kiarostami, where he was given a two-hour “In Conversation With” slot. The Taste of Cherry helmer joined then TIFF Director & CEO Piers Handling for an intimate onstage conversation. The public has since accepted the beauty and poetry of a national cinema that was, up until recently, almost totally unknown in North America. These are only a few examples of the cross-cultural influencing TIFF pursues on a yearly basis.

As we gear up for TIFF in under a month, FCC aims to further advance the conversations surrounding diversity and act as a link between Farsi, Tajik, and Afghan filmmakers worldwide. Some exciting developments are in the works; stay tuned for further announcements about FCC’s presence at the festival this year.

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