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Fans wait in the rush line for tickets to see movies during the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 11, 2015.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

The Toronto International Film Festival is almost here, which means: so are the complaints.

TIFF is too long. TIFF is too busy. TIFF is too complicated. TIFF is closing down King Street. “TIFF” is annoying to type over and over again. TIFF is bankrupting me! TIFF stole my wife! And so forth. But TIFF doesn’t have to be such a maddening endeavour. Navigating the festival − I’m not going to say “surviving,” because there are actual wars going on, people − simply takes patience, creativity and all the advice and tips detailed below.

TIFF 2019: Updated – The Globe’s latest ratings and reviews of movies screening at the festival


If you’ve already purchased a festival ticket package, then congratulations − I don’t even know why you’re reading this, as you know how to work the system far better than any mere film journalist. If you haven’t purchased a ticket package, well, it’s too late because they’re sold out. But don’t cry or do anything drastic like burn Piers Handling in effigy.

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First, because Handling has stepped down from the festival, so you’d simply be wasting good fire. Second, because if you’re reading this ahead of Aug. 31, and if you happen to already be a TIFF member, then all is not lost. Starting that day at 10 a.m., individual-ticket presales become open to all members (those who’ve paid an annual fee for perks such as this, ranging in price from $59 to $99). Tickets for individual movies are available by phone (1-888-258-8433), in-person (at the festival’s Lightbox headquarters, and at the Members Box Office at 225 King St. W., starting Sept. 5), or online (

This year, prices for single tickets range from $11 (for under-25 weekday daytime screenings) to $83 (that’d be premium reserved-seating screenings, and no, I’m not sure who pays this amount of money).

If you aren’t a member, and those numbers haven’t already scared you off, then individual-ticket presales for the general public open Sept. 2 at 10 a.m. through Sept. 3 at 10 p.m. That’s also typically when you can wander online and find all sorts of Twitter vitriol directed at TIFF’s website. It’s the best Labour Day tradition of all.

During the fest itself, individual tickets can be purchased at the festival and member box offices daily from 8 a.m. through 7 p.m. And if your selection is off-sale, then don’t despair and immediately grab that Handling effigy. Take a deep breath, walk over to the screening’s venue and live a little by taking a chance on the “rush” lines, where last-minute tickets can be had about 10 minutes before a film starts if there are no-shows. Rush tickets range from $25 to $45 each, and are cash only.

Finally, absolutely any questions you might have about ticketing and film demand should be answered on, your best resource for gossip, grumbling and grousing.


For the first time, TIFF is going (mostly) paperless, in what the festival says is an effort to go green. Take comfort in the fact that you’re protecting Mother Earth, as you desperately search King Street for an outlet to charge your phone to read TIFF’s online schedule. Or think of future generations’ access to clean air and water as you greedily spy journalists and industry members clutching their printed schedules, which have yet to be phased out. But mostly: Download TIFF’s schedule at home, print it out yourself and thank yourself for your foresight.


According to TIFF, three couples have married since first meeting in festival lineups. Which means that untold hundreds of TIFFers have at least engaged in hot and sweaty cinephile sex after having met in a TIFF queue. Which means that your mother is right: Put your phone down, put yourself out there and meet new people who are just as excited about the new Marco Bellocchio film as you are.

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Oh right, the movies. You could play it easy by catching the big Hollywood productions that will be coming out in three weeks, which would earn you a certain set of bragging rights. But imagine how your friends, family and co-workers will feel once you tell them you saw a movie that no one might ever see again?

To make the most out of your TIFF experience, you want to find the sleepiest of sleepers − the movies that come into Toronto with no distribution attached, and might take months, years, or forever to make their way to the general public.

Some of this year’s best under-the-radar bets include Sarah Gavron’s British schoolgirl docudrama Rocks; American director Darius Marder’s Sound of Metal, which stars Riz Ahmed and details a heavy-metal drummer’s hearing loss; Chiara Malta’s Simple Women, which follows one Italian director’s struggle to make a movie about Romanian actor Elina Lowensohn; Atiq Rahimi’s Our Lady of the Nile, an adaptation of Scholastique Mukasonga’s coming-of-age novel about a group of Rwandan schoolgirls at a Belgian-run Catholic boarding school; and Lijo Jose Pellissery’s Malayalam epic Jallikattu, which those in the know have been praising for its bracing and chaotic energy. (This last one is a bit of a cheat, as it has secured theatrical distribution … but only in the United Arab Emirates.)


As fun as it is to fantasize about gatecrashing the velvet rope, there is simply no way that you’re getting past security unless you are on the list. You can try to sweet-talk your way in (“I was associate programmer for two of the Shortcuts programs in 2004!”), you can try to bribe your way in (“If you tell me which six-inch Subway sandwich you want, I’ll get you a second half price!”), and you can try to blackmail your way in (“If you don’t let me in, I swear I’ll burn Piers Handling in effigy! Again!”). But you will get nowhere.

Best to make your own fun: Buy a bottle of Grey Goose or, say, Iceberg vodka, go to the John Street A&W and order a half-dozen Teen Burgers before cutting them into eighths, flip through a copy of Us Weekly and voila! You’ve essentially recreated the atmosphere of most TIFF parties.

The 44th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival runs Sept. 5-15 (

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