This article was originally published in the 2019 Fall issue of Invest In Style Magazine.


Business as usual? Perhaps, to the casual observer. But for those who’ve charted the Toronto International Film Festival’s arc from a civic platform to drum up attention for Canada’s film industry to, arguably, the most important film festival in the world, 2019 TIFF-goers no doubt experienced what its recent 44th annual festival really represented: a year of transformation.


2019 was the year that women behind the camera finally took centre stage. Forty-five per cent of the gala films that debuted at TIFF were directed by women, and 36 per cent of films overall. That’s the highest percentage in the festival’s history, a triumph only amplified by the fact that TIFF also achieved gender parity amongst their programmers.



2019 was the year that works of Indigenous filmmakers and artists got their long-overdue closeup. Legendary documentarian Alanis Obomsawin premiered Jordan River Anderson, The Messenger, her 53rd film, an exposé of blatant governmental disregard in the matter of the short life of a young boy from Norway House Cree Nation. Relative newcomer Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers debuted The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open, which explores love, motherhood and the damage of child removal policies on Indigenous families. These entries joined lauded efforts from prolific filmmaker Zacharias Kunuk and Mi’gmaq writer-director Jeff Barnaby, in addition to several others.


2019 was the year that the Contemporary World Cinema slate presented a global snapshot through storytelling. It was the year the avant-garde Wavelengths programme spotlighted more politically-charged fare, including examinations of both the end of Josef Stalin’s regime and the Spanish Civil War. It was the year 23 examples of compelling LGBTQ+ tales were told, and 87 languages and dialects were represented.


But the more things changed, thankfully, some stayed the same. The good things, at least. The fun and buzzed-about things. The things that have helped turn TIFF into one of the most prestigious — the largest, the most influential, the most inclusive — events of its kind.


The stars descended upon Toronto en masse, and you’d need a broom to sweep up all the names.


Matt Damon lunched at LOUIX LOUIS. Christopher Plummer and Gary Oldman were spotted at Sotto Sotto. Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Kerry Washington, Kristen Stewart, Nicole Kidman and Shailene Woodley all turned out for the Chanel dinner at La Banane. Joaquin Phoenix, Timothée Chalamet and The Weeknd threw down at Arcane. Martin Scorsese burned the midnight oil at Gusto 101. Jamie Foxx toasted his new film with Michael B. Jordan in the Distillery District, before performing a surprise show on King West until the wee hours.




The prizes honoured the movies that left audiences inspired, awestruck and excited for the future of cinema.


The Best Canadian Short Film went to Chloé Robichaud for Delphine, which boldly utilized an original narrative device to convey a refreshing twist on the coming-of-age genre. The Best Canadian First Feature Film went to Matthew Rankin’s The Twentieth Century, called one of the most creative, visual, and compelling experiences of the festival. Tackling contemporary realities of immigration in Canada through the framework of Greek tragedy, the Best Canadian Feature Film went to Sophie Deraspe’s Antigone. The coveted Grolsch People’s Choice Award went to Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit, an anti-hate satire that blends irreverent humour with serious ideas.


As much as the 44th annual Toronto International Film Festival represented the year of transformation, it was in many respects another year of celebrating all the elements that make TIFF, well, TIFF: films that look to innovate, challenge and transcend the medium, and the principals who embody everything the seventh art has to offer.

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