The backdrop for parties in Toronto come TIFF time may seem dull when compared with the seaside vistas of Cannes – or even the rugged mountainous setting at Telluride. But the parties that spread across this glorious city pack a unique punch all their own, becoming as much a part of the festival as even the films themselves. This year will be no exception. With nearly 300 features being screened between Sept. 8 and 18, all vying for positive promotion, the film parties and fundraisers that their leading actors attend have become a conduit in which to gain invaluable traction – and the celebrations are bigger and buzzier every year.
The Toronto International Film Festival continues to be a time for big giving; on the eve of the festival's official start, two big events will be taking place in the same vicinity. The TIFF Soirée at the TIFF Bell Lightbox will see actor Michael Fassbender take to the stage for a conversation in support of the festival's charitable initiatives, while down the street at the Ritz-Carlton, the AMBI Gala will be in full swing for the second year. Earth, Wind and Fire are set to headline the sit-down do, which is being honorarily co-chaired by actor James Franco and Prince Albert II of Monaco, with a chunk of the proceeds heading to the Children's Aid Foundation and UforChange.
The festival's packed first weekend, meanwhile, will see the annual Canadian Film Centre BBQ take place on Sept. 11, with funds being raised for young homegrown filmmakers. Later that night, Artists for Peace and Justice will host a big-time gala in support of communities in Haiti. The event takes place at Casa Loma and will honour actor Sean Penn, while those expected to attend include foundation founder Paul Haggis and actors Maria Bello and Catherine Keener. And on Sept. 12, Telefilm Canada and Birks will hold their annual tribute to women in film with a glitzy cocktail party at the Shangri-La Hotel – the event will celebrate Canadian women of note in the film industry, and the dozen or so being honoured this year include director Ann Marie Fleming and actors Amanda Crew and Sandra Oh.
Mongrel Media and Mongrel International are set to take over the history-filled Campbell House Museum on Queen West again this year – dubbed Mongrel House for the occasion – where seven consecutive nights of star-filled happenings will be presided over by Hussain Amarshi, president and founder of Mongrel Media. Such films as Personal Shopper from director Olivier Assayas, Ken Loach's Palme d'Or-winning I, Daniel Blake and Jim Jarmusch's Paterson starring Adam Driver will be among the titles feted.
Of the many pre- and postpremiere parties that will take over the festival, Nespresso is presenting two of the biggies: one for Oliver Stone's Snowden at Lavelle on King Street West, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scott Eastwood and Nicolas Cage expected to attend, and later in the week a postpremiere party for Xavier Dolan's latest, It's Only the End of the World, featuring Marion Cotillard, Vincent Cassel, Gaspard Ulliel, Léa Seydoux and Nathalie Baye.
Although festival happenings tend to take place in the city's downtown core, a handful of can't-miss parties will take place uptown, too, back where the festival began. Holt Renfrew will host the Variety Lounge for the seventh consecutive year, where past notables, including Richard Gere, Ryan Gosling and Gerard Butler, have caused a stir on Bloor Street. The fashion retailer will head back downtown, though, to host a dinner at Mongrel House for Maudie, starring Ethan Hawke and Sally Hawkins.
Speaking of fashion, the king of smoulder, designer and director Tom Ford, will be in town to premiere his latest film Nocturnal Animals – and the party to celebrate it, at the Gardiner Museum, will no doubt be a stylish one. (Stars Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal are set to attend.) Around the corner at the Windsor Arms Hotel, Italian fashion line Max Mara will present the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and InStyle magazine's annual festival bash, with Felicity Jones, Gabrielle Union, Rooney Mara, Elisabeth Moss and Charlotte Le Bon just a handful of industry heavyweights set to flock for a bit of postscreening schmooze.
The Globe and Mail's man on the scene Nolan Bryant will be tackling the TIFF16 social circuit all festival long. Follow him on Twitter @NolanBryant.