Over the years, TIFF's earned a reputation for spurring distribution deals and awards-season buzz (hello, Slumdog Millionaire). But the 10-day bonanza of screenings and celebrity sightings is also proven ground for charity fundraising.
Best Buddies and ONEXONE have long been the go-to galas for anyone wanting a sprinkling of star power alongside their catered dinners and silent auctions. Last year, even under the recession's dark cloud, two new charitable events made their debut: Artists for Peace and Justice (APJ), and Cinema Against AIDS Toronto.
All four are back again for TIFF 2010. James Franco is the co-chair of APJ, and Peter Fonda is the guest of honour at Best Buddies. This year's early prize for glitterati, though, goes to Cinema Against AIDS Toronto in support of amfAR and Dignitas International, both AIDS research and prevention organizations.
Among the event chairs for Sunday's black-tie bash are Martin Sheen, Julian Schnabel, Stanley Tucci, Linda Evangelista and socially conscious fashion designer Kenneth Cole.
Then there's the sizzling host committee. Graydon Carter, Bruce Mau, Belinda Stronach, Alan Cumming, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Susur Lee, Dean and Dan Caten of DSquared2, George Stroumboulopoulis, Michael Ondaatje, Rosalie Sharp (wife of Four Seasons Hotels founder Issy), Doug Coupland and TIFF's Cameron Bailey are just some of the 50-plus attendees.
One can only dream about the potential dinner-table chitchat.
The eclectic mix of boldface names was intentional according to Ciara Hunt, the outgoing editor of Hello! Canada magazine and one of the three host-committee chairs. "This year, we're definitely going to get wow factor," she says.
James Orbinski, co-founder of Dignitas International, says: "What they're bringing is their notoriety, legitimacy and status as artists and they bring that to bear on an issue that can easily be forgotten. They're consciously choosing to do that, and it's an act of artistic choice, and really a way of using their celebrity to advance a good cause ... They know that our financial capacities are down relative to the recession and therefore we need greater support."
While the Cinema Against AIDS charity is only in its sophomore year here in Toronto, the event was first introduced in Cannes 17 years ago and has since expanded to the Sundance, Venice, Dubai and Rome film festivals.
Last year's fundraiser brought in upwards of $700,000; on Sunday, the goal is to top the million-dollar mark, which by Toronto standards positions it midway between the Brazilian Ball and Bridgepoint Health's Fandango! gala, both well-attended local fundraisers. (APJ raised $60,000 last year, by comparison.)
Arguably one of the biggest draws of Cinema Against AIDS is the high ratio of out-of-towners to Torontonians. "It came into the city with a certain brand value in terms of fundraisers," says society columnist Shinan Govani, another host committee chair (the third is art patron Elisa Nuyten). "It actually wasn't our desire to have that many hosts but we took them. So that was a good problem."
But did all the talent listed on the various committees actually convene for party-planning powwows? Not exactly, says Govani. In many cases, their names represent contributions in the form of donations or commitments to attend.
Although participating is not for the shallow of pocket - individual tickets cost $1,025 and tables of 10 are priced at $10,000 and $25,000 - the 400-guest affair is already sold out.
Orbinski, for one, is ecstatic. "We've had enormous support and success so far," he says by phone. "It's a success before it's even happened."