Dubai, Asharq Al-Awsat—Audiences at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) will laugh when Woody Allen says “You Know, waitresses share tips” in John Turturro’s The Fading Gigolo. Allen, who plays a bookshop owner, says this to his only employee after receiving a large tip from an attractive woman played by Sharon Stone.
Allen—appearing at TIFF as an actor, and not in his more famous role as a a director—was added to the guest list of the 38th edition of the festival, which will open on September 5. The Fading Gigolo is one of the many divisive films that have been added to the busy line-up of the Canadian festival. While some think the TIFF represents the future of film festivals, others believe that a festival that does not have a judging panel is a strange phenomenon.
TIFF, or the “Festival of Festivals,” as some prefer to call it, used to attract the best of them films screened at festivals around the world, from Berlin, Hong Kong and Moscow to San Sebastian and Cannes. In doing so, the founders of the festival wanted to offer the Canadian audience the best international films in one place.
Eventually, the directors of the Toronto festival decided to welcome directors whose films had little chance of being screened elsewhere. This move made TIFF a chief competitor to Europe’s prestigious festivals, including the Venice Film Festival that usually opens only a days before Toronto.
Directors’ growing interest in TIFF comes down to both the fact that it guarantees a wider distribution for their films in North America, and that TIFF’s presence in the last quarter of the movie industry calendar helps increase the chances that films screened there will win major awards.
The Fifth Estate, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, will open this year’s TIFF.
The Canadian festival will close with the world premiere of Daniel Schechter’s Life of Crime, starring Jennifer Aniston, John Hawkes and Mos Def. The movie, which is based on the novel The Switch by Elmore Leonard, tells the story of two criminals who kidnap a millionaire’s wife for ransom.
Other remarkable films will include Gravity by director Alfonso Cuarón. The techno-thriller features Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as astronauts fighting for life on a damaged spacecraft.
Other world premieres include Joel Hopkins’ Love Punch and The Railway Man, directed by Jonathan Leplitzky, in which Collin Firth stars as a man who was a British prisoner during the Second World War who later goes in pursuit of his captor.
Arab cinema will also feature in this year’s TIFF. Of note is Jehane Noujaim’s The Square, a documentary that centers on the events in Egypt on January 25, 2011. The Egyptian–American film director rose to fame for her documentary Control Room, which tackled the influence of the US Central Command on Al-Jazeera and other media organizations during the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.