During opening weekend of TIFFs gone by, a dozen or so parties in one night, as mad as it might sound, would be considered perfectly normal. In just about every hotel, restaurant or dark room with a bar in a two-kilometre radius of the Toronto International Film Festival’s headquarters, a party would either be in full swing, wrapping up or about to ramp up.
TIFF 21 is billed as a hybrid affair, with digital screenings and limited-seating in-person presentations. With social gathering restrictions in place, the usual rush of parties felt more like a trickle. But, after many months of little to no celebrations, even a trickle is worth noting. A handful of real, live parties did take place in Toronto. And while not exactly the bashes of yesteryear, their mere existence is worth celebrating.
Things kicked off after the Canadian premiere of sci-fi epic Dune. Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya, the film’s stars, were not in attendance, but super director Denis Villeneuve was. The film’s party, which followed the screening at the Cinesphere Theatre, was staged by Warner Bros. and Audi Canada, and held at King Street West eatery Patria. Villeneuve held court, alongside his wife, fellow filmmaker Tanya Lapointe. Out, too, was Cameron Bailey, artistic director and TIFF co-head, the film’s producers Niv Fichman and Gary Michael Walters, and actor/model Emma Laird.
That same evening, Sept. 11, uptown at a private home, the Artists for Peace and Justice Festival Gala was in full swing. The gathering was outdoors and slightly scaled back from years past, but the mission remained the same: raising funds for education in Haiti. Co-chaired by PR pro Natasha Koifman and Zoomer magazine editor Suzanne Boyd, the gala, at which musician Geddy Lee and actor Yannick Bisson and his wife Shantelle were honoured, raised an impressive $500,000. Ben Stiller and Susan Sarandon were in attendance virtually, through video messages. Later in the evening, after dinner and a lively auction, Haitian artist Paul Beaubrun performed.
The next night, at Harriet’s, the newly unveiled rooftop retreat at 1 Hotel Toronto, a prepremiere party was held to toast The Eyes of Tammy Faye. The film’s star Jessica Chastain, who plays the disgraced televangelist and camp icon, was in attendance. Director Michael Showalter was on hand, too, as were members of the film’s production team, including producer Rachel Shane and screenwriter Abe Sylvia.
Over at Bisha Hotel, another prepremiere party was under way, this one in celebration of the film Oscar Peterson: Black + White. The film’s director Barry Avrich assembled about 80 guests, many of whom had a connection to Canada’s great jazz musician, or appeared in the film, including opera star Measha Brueggergosman, Peterson’s wife Kelly Peterson, and performer Jackie Richardson. Also out supporting the film was supermodel Yasmin Warsame, Avrich’s fellow executive producers Randy Lennox and Jeffrey Latimer, rapper Kardinal Offishall and singer Jully Black.