TIFF drops Top 10 fest, adds year-round Canadian film series

The festival will announce its list of the top 10 essential Canadian films of 2018 in December, and then offer each film the opportunity to have a full theatrical run at the TIFF Bell Lightbox throughout the year.
TIFF Bell Lightbox

The Toronto International Film Festival is switching up how it recognizes Canadian film.

The organization announced Wednesday that it will launch a new screening series for Canadian film, which will replace its annual Canada’s Top Ten Film Festival.

Instead, TIFF will announce its list of the top 10 essential Canadian films of 2018 in December, and then offer each film the opportunity to have a full theatrical run at the TIFF Bell Lightbox throughout the year.

The top 10 Canadian shorts will be presented in a winter screening, while the top 10 Canadian student shorts will be screened as part of the TIFF Next Wave Film Festival, held annually in February.

In a statement, TIFF artistic director and co-head Cameron Bailey said the decision was made as part of TIFF’s five-year strategic plan and revaluation of its programming that “puts audiences’ needs at its heart.”

“The new Canada’s Top Ten Theatrical Series personifies the goals of our organization: to promote current Canadian films and filmmakers, to protect our rich film heritage, and to champion the critical importance of film as an art form. We believe this kind of support will allow creators to benefit from being part of the overall Canada’s Top Ten list, while also receiving individual attention through a full theatrical release at TIFF Bell Lightbox,” he said.

There are also changes afoot in TIFF’s kids programming. The longstanding annual TIFF Kids International Film Festival will be retired after 21 years and digiPlaySpace, TIFF’s interactive playground for kids, will be rebranded and relaunched for a 14+ audience (it was previously directed at kids aged three to 13). More details about the new exhibition will be announced in the coming months.

On the changes to its kids programming, Bailey said TIFF is responding to an audience desire for unique experiences and more variety. “This pivot means we can invest greater energy and resources into better serving our family and youth audiences — a new generation of film lovers who are incredibly passionate about culture and the discovery of film.”

The programming rejig comes amidst a changing of the guard at the 43-year-old festival, with director and CEO Piers Handling stepping down in September. As well, executive director and COO Michèle Maheux announced her retirement in August. She stepped down from her role at the start of this month and will focus on “organizational effectiveness and transition” before departing in summer 2019. TIFF appointed Joana Vicente as its new executive director and co-head, with the film producer and exec assuming the post on Nov. 1, alongside co-head Bailey.

With files from Jordan Pinto