Queues, galas and red carpets: dispatches from the TIFF

Preparing for the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is like preparing for your wedding day. Schedules, outfits, food; all should be planned to the nth degree if your festival is to run smoothly. Then again, sometimes the less prepared you are, the more fun it is.

For every screening and event there is a ‘rush line’ (what happened to ‘queue’?) for those who weren’t prepared to get up at the crack of dawn and pre-book tickets. Depending on the screening, turning up at least 2 hours before curtain-up should put you in a good position in line and hopefully guarantee you a seat – or, if you’re very lucky, someone might come down the line looking to sell a spare ticket or two.

If there’s one nation that can beat the British at the art of queueing, it’s Canada. Rather than resembling a scramble for tins during a zombie apocalypse, the rush line is a very civilized, friendly place (and if the TIFF magazine is to be believed, sometimes it can even lead to love). It’s a great place to swap stories of the films you’ve seen and the stars you’ve spotted; people don’t bat an eyelid at your weird accent, as film-lovers flock to TIFF from all over the world.

There are also all sorts of TIFF traditions that can take a newbie by surprise, especially when you’re watching a film in a huge opera house with the audience dressed up to the nines. A favourite is the sudden chorus of Long John Silver-style ‘Y’aaargh’s which accompanies the piracy laws title card (piracy, pirates, get it?). In true North American style, however, there is still popcorn on sale for all the rich people to drop down their fancy clothes.

Waiting in the rush line for a gala screening of a film like Brad Pitt’s new baseball flick Moneyball, you can hear the screams coming from the red carpet not far away. Rush lines may be civilized places, but red carpets are not. Instead they’re fascinating places for psychology students to hang out and observe the madness.

Rumours spread like wildfire as to who’s going to turn up, who isn’t, and who on earth that guy is, before concluding that they must just have a rich uncle. Some fans camp out all day just to catch a glimpse of their favourite stars – or, to be frank, of anyone famous. When Jason Statham turned up, people were rushing forward and still asking, “Who is he?” It seems that some are just attracted to fame. One day a fight broke out between people trying to jostle their way to the front. Of course, it’s hard not to get caught up in all the excitement, especially when Viggo Mortensen is only 3 feet away (come on, it’s Aragorn!).

If you’re lucky enough to sneak into a gala, then you might be treated to a Q&A afterwards, and sometimes these are more entertaining than the film. Case in point: Roland Emmerich’s new film Anonymous, which explores who really wrote Shakespeare’s plays. Between Emmerich talking like a fourteen year old girl (“I’m, like, so excited to be, like, in Toronto”), and a rather merry Rhys Ifans giving a long rambling answer about the Bible, Joely Richardson saved the day with an articulate and interesting answer, although she didn’t altogether avoid the mutual back-slapping that goes on at these things.

So there you have it – against all astronomical logic, your best chance of seeing the stars is to spend hours waiting out in the midday sun with all the mad dogs and Englishmen…

Check back soon for the first instalment of Hannah’s TIFF mini-reviews!

About The Author

Hannah graduated in September 2010 with a Masters in Film and Literature, which is lucky because all she really wants to do is watch films and write about them. At university she was Film and TV Editor, then Deputy Arts Editor of The Yorker, the university's online publication. Don't judge her for the fact that her favourite film is 'The Sound of Music', as she's open to pretty much anything. Now a freelance film journalist, she maintains her own blog and is happy to receive any enquiries about her work.