Film Scouts Diaries

1998 Toronto Film Festival Diaries
Diary #1

by Jason Gorber

Another year, another festival. Ten days of feeling that you are missing films rather then seeing them- there's just too many, and you are bound to miss the big new discovery while you sit through a terrible, mundane screening.

I'm blessed this year with a press pass - no mean feat, I assure you. For the first time I'm able to actually join, in part, the official festival scene. Of course, gaining a small entry into the scene only makes you covet those who are more connected then you. Alas, the mighty cycle, inevitably wanting more. You don't get invited to the parties, you want to be invited. You get invited to a party, you are sure that the -other- party is the one that you should be at. It's sick, really, but then again it's what makes film festivals so much fun in the first place.

Actually, what makes these fests so very cool has everything to do with the people you meet. Forgetting the business end for just a moment, you really can meet some wonderful people who do love films very much. Already on this first day I've had wonderful conversations with strangers on films ranging from BREAKING THE WAVES to THE TOXIC AVENGER. Several thousand people gathering together who actually can list the differences (and similarities!) between Troma and Von Trier is a pretty exciting experience.

Toronto is such a diverse festival, with the best of the European fests (North American premieres straight from Cannes, Berlin and Venice), World Premieres, and specialty programs. Where else could Orson Welles' TOUCH OF EVIL make its renovated return on the same night and same screen as a film written by none other then Edward D. Wood Jr.? Cannes has the beaches and its plague of paparazzi, but Toronto remains, for the most part, a place to worship the gods of cinema in an unfettered way.

A mix between a public and private fest, Toronto sees regular lineups for rush tickets to get into even the most obscure film. Unlike Cannes, the public -can- purchase tickets for a specific film. The gala structure is one way, but for the most part people by books of 10 or so, listing the films they wish to see. Since the assignment of these 10 is based on a lottery system, there is a profitable market in trading tickets amongst fans for films that they unexpectedly received.

For the press, we have our screenings in the newly renovated Varsity cinemas. Nice enough, it does make the press screenings somewhat civilized and centrally located. However, I'm sure that I'll quickly end up sneaking into films, seeing them with a 'real' audience, as it were.

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