A return to a fully in-person Toronto International Film Festival means a return to fully in-person parties, including all the red-carpet premieres, cocktail-fuelled deal-making, and frantic award-season campaigning that are essential elements of the festival. Parties, it seems so far, will be slower to return to the calibre they once were, but what’s coming feels like a step in the right direction.
The announcement of an in-person festival some months back by TIFF CEO Cameron Bailey surely set off a collective sigh of relief from the hospitality industry, which benefits so greatly from the goings on during the festival. Hotels will once again hum with activity, including the new Ace Hotel, just a stone’s throw from the Lightbox, and the reopened Park Hyatt uptown, a mainstay of festivals past (Jennifer Aniston and Tilda Swinton are among the celebrities who’ve spent time in the Hyatt’s 17th-floor Writers Room lounge). And of course there’s the Four Seasons, the perennially booked and buzzing spot that has been the backdrop for countless TIFF parties and dinners, including the 2019 Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) party.
The HFPA, which is responsible for handing out the Golden Globe Awards, hasn’t announced plans yet for this year’s festival as the organization emerges from a scandal that highlighted its lack of diverse members (resulting in a nontelevised Golden Globes ceremony). But with everyone from Harry Styles (My Policeman) to Viola Davis (The Woman King) to Eddie Redmayne (The Good Nurse) set to be in town, the HFPA would certainly have ample famous faces to fill the room.
Still, with invites out for a number of happenings, you never know just how buzzy a party will be until the biggest star shows up – or rather who’s contractually obligated to make an appearance. It’s worth noting that many TIFF parties, which are in essence a toast to a completed project and the people who made it happen, have increasingly become more transactional.
With big names come big contracts. The location, alcohol served and the logos that appear in the background of photos that go out on the wire services – not to mention the car that one arrives in, and the clothes and jewellery worn – is all business. For guests and reporters, attending a party can involve an NDA alongside your RSVP.
This year, the realities of travel, namely the persistent delays at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport and how to circumnavigate them, are top of mind and will indeed affect who comes to town and for just how long. “If you have the means, consider private plane charter options”: that’s a line offered on the TIFF website under its General Travel Tips section. Also noted for those arriving via commercial flights: pack any important items in your carry-on. While not specifically noted, it’s probably best practice to keep that gown or tuxedo in the overhead compartment.
If stars do manage to get to Toronto on time, the fashion industry is ready to host them. Hugo Boss, a long-time festival sponsor, is confirmed to fête J.D. Dillard’s Korean War thriller Devotion, with much of the cast, including Jonathan Majors, Joe Jonas and Top Gun: Maverick’s Glen Powell set to attend.
Party pop-up spaces will emerge again, among them the Jaguar Supper Suite, which will take over restaurant MARBL to serve a series of post-premiere parties and a splashy Sony Pictures Classics four-film reception that will see Tanya Tucker and Brandi Carlile (The Return of Tanya Tucker: Featuring Brandi Carlile), director Benjamin Millepied (Carmen), Bill Nighy (Living) and Léa Seydoux (One Fine Morning) all in attendance.
Back in-person, too, are the TIFF Tribute Awards, the organization’s star-packed gala presented by Bvlgari that will take place on Sunday at Fairmont Royal York. The event serves as TIFF’s largest fundraiser, with money going mostly to TIFF’s Every Story fund promoting diversity, equity, inclusion – though the evening has also quickly become a launching pad of sorts for Oscar campaigns. This year, award-recipients include Brendan Fraser (who stars in Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale), director Sam Mendes (Empire of Light), and Michelle Yeoh, who will be honoured with the inaugural Groundbreaker Award.
Other events on the fundraising front include the Artists for Peace and Justice gala, which raises money for education initiatives in Haiti (supported by such stars as Ben Stiller and Susan Sarandon), which will take place Saturday at a private residence, and recognize actor Eric McCormack and entrepreneur Dax Dasilva for their philanthropic work. Also confirmed: the Canadian Film Centre’s annual BBQ is back, but this time with a new name, CFC Homecoming. The aim remains the same: raise funds for the centre, celebrate alumni and the screen-based industry at large.
Mostly, though, this year’s social circuit is still a wait-and-see situation. But with in-person screenings back at prepandemic levels, the parties are expected to follow suit.
Special to The Globe and Mail
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