More than 200 film-industry professionals, including such Hollywood stars as Mark Ruffalo, Edward Norton, Joaquin Phoenix and Rachel McAdams have signed an open letter calling on the Toronto International Film Festival to sever its ties with Royal Bank of Canada, one of TIFF’s major sponsors.
The filmmakers signed on to the campaign, called RBC Off Screen, because of their concerns over what organizers call RBC’s track record of “enabling projects on Indigenous lands without consent, snubbing of leaders from impacted nations as well as other BIPOC leaders, while leading the world’s banks in its investments in fossil fuels.”
Quebec filmmaker Elza Kephart, who helped initiate the campaign, said in a statement that “filmmakers have spoken: we want oil and gas out of our industry. Now TIFF must decide between one particularly problematic sponsor and its community.”
On his Twitter account, Ruffalo, whose new Netflix series All the Light We Cannot See premiered at TIFF over the weekend, alleged that “RBC is one of the biggest funders of fossil fuels with the worst record of green washing and First Nation abuses through their fossil fuels and extraction projects. They fight against us.”
Other notable signatories of the campaign, addressed to TIFF chief executive Cameron Bailey, include directors Adam McKay (The Big Short) and Cooper Raiff (Cha Cha Real Smooth), as well as such Canadian filmmakers as Vincenzo Natali (Cube), Astra Taylor (What Is Democracy?) and John Greyson (Lillies).
“We appreciate this being brought to our attention by members of our filmmaking community. We are committed to environmental sustainability and recognize the importance of addressing climate change quickly and collaboratively,” TIFF’s vice-president of public relations and communications Judy Lung said in a statement to The Globe. “We are in active discussions with RBC and welcome their openness to engaging in dialogue as a first step.”
In a statement, RBC spokesperson Stephanie Bannan said, ”When it comes to climate change, we strongly believe that more action and at a faster pace is needed to address it. We are actively engaging with our clients and partners to identify opportunities to do more in delivering on shared objectives. We are also working to engage with Indigenous communities in collectively advancing reconciliation. We appreciate the concern for our climate expressed by members of the film community and would welcome the chance for dialogue.”
Alongside Visa and Bulgari, RBC is one of TIFF’s major sponsors. Last month, it was announced that TIFF’s lead sponsor Bell, which contributes roughly $5-million each year to the not-for-profit arts organization, would be ending its 28-year partnership with the festival after this year’s edition.