A Local’s Guide To TIFF 2020:
A Reimagined Festival

Expect a different look but the same exciting lineups—films, talks and interactive experiences.

Every September, I look forward to drafting my Local’s Guide to the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), which is usually packed with tips on everything from how to navigate RUSH lines to where to get a glimpse of the stars. 

Alas, like all large-scale events around the globe, TIFF 2020 had to be reimagined due to the global pandemic and so, too, did this guide.

While things will certainly look different at TIFF this year, an event that usually attracts hundreds of thousands each fall, the Festival team and local businesses have dreamt up unique ways to celebrate cinema safely! 

As someone who has attended the Festival of Festivals for almost two decades, I’m excited to experience TIFF in a new way and to continue a tradition that’s woven into the fabric of our city. Here’s what I’m looking forward to this year.

Physical and digital TIFF film screenings 

The 45th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival takes place September 10–19 and will showcase 50 new feature films and five programs of short films. This year’s festival will take audiences beyond the movie theatre via both physical and digital screenings. 

For the first time in its history, TIFF will host screenings on a digital platform allowing audiences across Canada to get in on the festival action. I have a few friends who aren’t quite ready for public screenings so I’m looking forward to sharing the new TIFF at-home experience with them. Digital screenings are also a great option for parents who can’t find a babysitter but still want to enjoy the festival!

TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto’s Entertainment District
TIFF Bell Lightbox will offer indoor screenings

Festival-goers will also have the opportunity to enjoy in-person, physically-distanced screenings during the first five days of the festival. Indoor screenings will take place at TIFF Bell Lightbox and Isabel Bader Theatre. 

The drive-ins (Visa Skyline Drive-In at Cityview or RBC Lakeside Drive-In at Ontario Place) and open-air cinema (West Island Open Air Cinema at Ontario Place) are brand new ways to experience TIFF. It will be a popular choice so make sure to grab your tickets before they’re gone. 

My pick: I love international cinema so I’ll be checking out the open-air screening of Memory House on September 11. It’s a rare opportunity to unite under the stars so I’m really looking forward to this experience at Ontario Place.

A few things to note for Festival 2020: all in-person and drive-in screenings have assigned seating (there’s no tiered pricing), individual tickets can only be purchased in singles or pairs (maximum of 2 tickets per account), there will be no RUSH ticketing and masks or face coverings must be worn at all times in TIFF Bell Lightbox, except when seated in-cinema.

TIFF Festival in a Box
Enhance your screening at home with TIFF’s Festival in a Box

Festival In a Box

Want to take your at-home Festival experience to another level? Purchase a Festival in a Box kit, put on your Red Carpet socks, pour a glass of wine in your TIFF branded cups and enjoy some fancy caramel popcorn while catching a digital screening or event. I’ve ordered my box and plan to share it with a friend when we watch Shiva Baby directed by Canadian filmmaker Emma Seligman.

Exciting talks

Featuring candid and intimate sit-downs with some of the film industry’s biggest names, In Conversation With… is one of TIFF’s most exciting programmes. 

Last year, there were sessions featuring Jamie Foxx and Michael B. Jordan, Allison Janney, and Kerry Washington. This year there will be six conversations, including ones with Halle Berry, Saoirse Ronan and Denzel Washington. Many of TIFF’s talks will be presented on TIFF’s platform Bell Digital Talks. You can purchase or reserve tickets

My pick: I’m personally looking forward to the chat with D-Nice (Club Quarantine founder) and Anthony Mandler as they discuss the power of music and film. 

First-ever broadcast of the 2020 TIFF Tribute Awards

This year, television audiences will be able to tune in to the 2020 TIFF Tribute Awards, which will be broadcasted on Tuesday, September 15 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CTV and ctv.ca, and streamed to a global audience by Variety. The one-hour broadcast will feature special messages from honourees like Sir Anthony Hopkins, Kate Winslet and Mira Nair.

The return of the Planet Africa party

Created in 1995 by Cameron Bailey, Planet Africa was a TIFF programme dedicated to cinema from Africa and the African Diaspora. It ran as part of the Festival for a decade and will be celebrated this year at the Planet Africa party. Usually an exclusive event where movie stars mingle with filmmakers, artists and Toronto’s Black community, the velvet ropes have been removed this year so you can celebrate in your own home! The party will be livestreamed from a secret location on September 13th at 10 pm EDT. I know I’ll be tuning in and hope you do too!

Star-worthy staycations, cocktails and meals

One of my favourite things to do during TIFF is to take in all the festival buzz at our beautiful hotels, restaurants and bars. While things look different this year, hospitality heroes still managed to dream up festival-themed offers so we can indulge and treat ourselves like stars. Here are a few experiences on my TIFF 2020 bucket list.

Enjoy a screening in your suite with Fairmont Loves Film

Fairmont Loves Film Package

Available to book Sept 10-19th, this Fairmont Loves Film package includes a one-night stay in Fairmont Gold with full access to the Gold Lounge (which includes breakfast and evening canapes), a CLOCKWORK cocktail kit to enjoy in your room, digital access to the film screening on the date of your stay, two customized robes, and gourmet popcorn from the Toronto Popcorn Company

Special cocktails made specially for the Toronto International Film Festival at the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto
Order an off-menu cocktail inspired by TIFF at the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto

TIFF-Inspired Cocktail at d|bar

Head to Four Seasons Hotel Toronto (one of the city’s most luxe hotels) and order their off-menu cocktail called Lights, Camera, Action. Available exclusively from September 10 to 20, it’s a playful cocktail that promises to be refreshing and tart. TIFF fans will quickly recognize and appreciate its colour!

Spa My Blend by Clarins TIFF Specials

Ranked as one of the best spas in the world by Travel + Leisure, you’ll want to indulge in a star-worthy spa experience at Spa My Blend by Clarins during the festival. They’re offering a range of TIFF specials from Signature Champagne manicures and pedicures to signature facials and body treatments.

Curated Chef Kits & Grocery Boxes By Oliver & Bonacini

Enjoy a special truffle menu while watching The Truffle Hunters or order curated grocery boxes/chef kits to compliment your at-home viewing experiences.

Champagne and caviar at the Ritz Carlton Hotel Toronto
Indulge in an array of Caviar at the Ritz Bar

Champagne and Caviar At Ritz Bar

You’ll know from my previous TIFF guides that The Ritz-Carlton Toronto is usually the spot for celeb watching. Although most A-listers won’t be flying in for the festival this year, you may catch a glimpse of a few since small, intimate TIFF events are still taking place across the city. The Ritz Bar will be serving Moët & Chandon mini bottles and an array of Caviar on liquid nitrogen and dry ice so grab a friend in your bubble and head over for some bubbly!

About the Author

Solmaz, also known as The Curious Creature, is a full-time food and travel blogger based in Toronto. She has travelled to more than 35 countries and is a firm believer that food plays an essential role in exploring a new destination.

See it. Snap it. Share it. In every neighbourhood, around every corner, through every door there's something that begs to be discovered in Toronto.

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