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From left: 76 Days, about life inside Wuhan at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak; Emma Seligman's Shiva Baby; and Halle Berry’s directorial debut Bruised.

Handout

The 45th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival opened on Thursday, Sept. 10, with a drive-in screening of the Spike-Lee directed concert documentary David Byrne’s American Utopia – see our photo gallery for images of TIFF’s unusual opening day. The pandemic-era festival continued to Saturday, Sept. 19, although without the usual galas, parties and celebrity red carpet sightings. Check out our critics' reviews of this year’s films, their best, worst and weirdest moments of the festival and the lessons learned after this unprecedented event.


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How it worked

TIFF has spent the past six months since closing its five-screen Lightbox planning for how to pull off this year’s festival. The result is a scaled-back hybrid in-person and online event with more than 50 premieres. (By comparison, the 2019 festival saw 245 films premiere.) Toronto saw physically distanced in-cinema and drive-in events, while virtual screenings brought films to home audiences across Canada.

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On Sept. 15, the second annual TIFF Tribute Awards was broadcast in a novel 37-minute ceremony that virtually trotted out performers such as Kate Winslet and Anthony Hopkins in pretaped segments.

What to watch

With the release of many films being put off into 2021, the Oscar bait that usually populates TIFF’s programming wasn’t available, nor were films produced by Netflix as the streaming service takes a year off from the festival circuit. That makes it a great time to focus on long-time TIFF strengths – documentaries, Canadian film and under-the-radar international fare. Here’s our list of all the films premiering this year, and our critics’ picks of the ones they’re most excited to watch. The opening night film is Spike Lee’s filmed version of David Byrne’s Broadway theatrical concert American Utopia.

TIFF 2020: The Globe’s reviews of this year’s films

Other premieres included Francis Lee’s 1800s-set British drama Ammonite starring Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan; Thomas Vinterberg’s Another Round starring Mads Mikkelsen, which was set to premiere at this past spring’s Cannes film festival, before it was cancelled; Ricky Staub’s coming-of-age drama Concrete Cowboys starring Idris Elba and Caleb McLaughlin; the Canadian-Mexican drama Fauna from TIFF regular Nicolas Pereda; Reinaldo Marcus Green’s inspirational drama Good Joe Bell starring Mark Wahlberg; French filmmaker Suzanne Lindon’s directorial debut Spring Blossom; Halle Berry’s directorial debut Bruised; and Naomi Kawase’s Japanese drama True Mothers. Canadian festival selections include writer-director Charles Officer’s Akilla’s Escape, The New Corporation: An Unfortunately Necessary Sequel, Tracey Deer’s Beans, Emma Seligman’s comedy Shiva Baby, the documentary No Ordinary Man about jazz pianist Billy Tipton and two projects from Michelle Latimer: her documentary adaptation of Thomas King’s The Inconvenient Indian and episodes of her forthcoming CBC series Trickster.

This year’s Short Cuts lineup featured a strong contingent of Canadian short films that bode well for the future of Canadian cinema.

After TIFF’s first weekend the buzz was harder to gauge though some films were gathering acclaim online, including Pieces of a Woman starring Vanessa Kirby, The Father starring Anthony Hopkins and Halle Berry’s mixed-martial arts drama Bruised. Chloé Zhao’s recession-era road-trip drama Nomadland was voted as the People’s Choice Award winner.

Making the most of it

Plan your viewing party with our TIFF-at-home guide to food, drinks and how to make your screening special (in a pandemic-friendly way), whether you’re watching from home or at an outdoor viewing. Bonus: The Globe’s ultimate festival bingo game for pandemic times.

More reading

Compiled by Lori Fazari with reports from Barry Hertz, Sierra Bein, Josie Kao, Johanna Schneller, Kate Taylor, Brad Wheeler and wire services.

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