The Toronto International Film Festival says it remains committed to art-house and international cinema as it cuts two programs that featured such fare and reduces the overall number of titles it will screen for this year’s edition by 20 per cent.
On Thursday, TIFF announced it will trim the overall number of films in the 2017 lineup and scrap the Vanguard and City to City sections.
The Vanguard program featured “dark and edgy films that twist genre and art house conventions together in a new way.” City to City showcased filmmakers living and working in a selected city, regardless of where their films are set.
“We’re committed to art-house cinema, we’re committed to international film, we’re a global film festival. We have programmers who are looking for movies all over the world. That will continue,” Cameron Bailey, artistic director of TIFF, said in a phone interview from Los Angeles.
“The trims will be for the most part across the board but we are definitely committed to maintaining a very strong international lineup. That’s one of the main things our audience comes to us for, so that will continue.”
Bailey said with Vanguard, organizers found there was overlap between the films that were in that section and those in Special Presentations and Midnight Madness. Among the Vanguard movies at TIFF 2016 was Colossal, starring Anne Hathaway. The Canadian production, due in theatres in April of this year, also stars Jason Sudeikis. Hathaway plays Gloria, who discovers that a monster currently terrorizing Seoul might somehow be connected to her.
“We just wanted to be a bit clearer about the identity of the sections,” Bailey said.
City to City has featured filmmakers from cities including Tel Aviv, Istanbul and Lagos, Nigeria.
“Now I think it’s time to integrate that programming into the festival as a whole,” said Bailey.
The festival spent a long time thinking through and mapping out the changes, which are in response to feedback from audiences, the industry and the media, he added.
“What we’ve heard is that people love the selection but it can be overwhelming, if you’re trying to do the festival fully, especially as a working professional,” Bailey said.
“It’s really hard to cover everything that we have and we thought we can find a way to bring a tighter curation to the festival, to really go after the films we love the most and to make it a little bit easier to navigate.”
TIFF also announced it’s cutting two venues from its festival — the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema and the Isabel Bader Theatre. Bailey said the move will bring things closer to the area around the festival’s main downtown hub, the TIFF Bell Lightbox.
Bailey also said the festival isn’t planning on making any significant new investments in other areas or making any more cuts.
“What we are going to make sure we do is not reduce the volume of available seats very much,” he said. “We’re going to try to keep as many seats as possible open for people.
“So although we’ll be cutting the number of films, there’s not a direct correlation with how much less revenue is going to be coming in or how much expenses are going to be reduced.”
Overall, Bailey said organizers are addressing a “refinement of the festival that was necessary.”
“What I think people will see in September is a stronger festival with films that they know will be some of the best films of the year, some that will go on to awards season — as we saw this past year — and it will just be easier to navigate.”
This year’s festival will run Sept. 7 to 17.