Film Scouts Diaries

1997 Toronto Film Festival Diaries
Day -3

by Henri Béhar

Toronto, Sept. 1, 1997

It's early morning's rush hour, yet the city is still in golden slumber, the cab driver is relaxed and we spot a total of three - no, four - cars on the highway from the airport. Labor Day. The 22nd Toronto International Film Festival is three days away but if you know what's good for you, you get into town ahead of time.

Why? Because attending, let alone covering, the Toronto Film Festival is like a marathon. 283 films in 11 days, that's almost too rich for one's health. You have to prime yourself up mentally (keep those brain cells nimble) and physically (drink more, eat more, sleep less). Besides, press screenings started a couple of weeks ago.

Why? Because that's the only time you'll be able to see your Torontonian friends before the madness begins. You'll be moving into a hotel the day the Festival begins; meanwhile, you stay at a friend's house - a mini-manor complete with swimming pool and guest cottage in the back. As usual, Château-Helga is turning into Camp-Helga since several friends from out-of-continent have had the same idea. There are suitcases and beds everywhere, and damsel Rachel, the young lady of the manor (and its true reigning queen) is taking it all in with utmost philosophy. You see, in a couple of days she'll be going to school for the first time - and in comparison, a film bash is but an epiphenomenon. Ah, normal life.

Why? Because it's a great time to meet with journalists, producers and directors from South East Asia who, what with non-daily flights from their home countries, must get here early if they don't want to miss their first screening.

Why? Because it's great to catch the organizers in their home run before the Festival begins. It's like watching Baryshnikov preparing for one of his legendary, breathtaking leaps. In his temporary office at the Sheraton Hotel (the Festival's head-quarters), general delegate Piers Handling looks happy but frazzled - meaning he doesn't wear a tie. Director of communications MichËle Maheux is pregnant up to here; the baby is due on Opening Day. We're all betting she'll order the kid to hold off. ´ At least until the first weekend is over, ª she deadpans.

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