tiff toronto international film festival 2021 jessica chastain

Festivals worldwide should take notes from TIFF 2021

It was truly a pleasure to be back at the Toronto International Film Festival.

The 46th annual edition of the Toronto International Film Festival is currently underway. TIFF 2021 invites attendees back to the cinemas, albeit under incredibly different circumstances.

Attending the festival has been a tradition of mine for years. TIFF falls on my birthday week and trekking to Toronto ensures a terrific time. As the world’s largest film festival, it provides a unique opportunity for the general public to connect with the world of Hollywood. Film aficionados receive a taste of forthcoming award-buzz, with premieres taking place in breathtaking venues across the city’s Entertainment District.

To stop the spread of COVID-19, a number of restrictions were put in place. Unlike other editions, there were no street festivities. Furthermore, red carpets were exclusive to select members of the media. TIFF offered an at-home option this year, with the majority of films being available to rent via the festival’s website.

For the events that were in-person, theatre capacity was cut in half. Proof of vaccination was a requirement and theatregoers were required to remain masked at all times. To my delight, the festival made it easy for festival attendees from around the world to show a variety of vaccine proof. There was never an issue with my girlfriend and I showing our vaccine passports but it was clear that TIFF would not be taking any chances, either.

Due to pandemic restrictions, a number of celebrities were unavailable to celebrate in the flesh. For example, both Antoine Fuqua and Jake Gyllenhaal were forced to miss the premiere of their new feature, The Guilty, due to contact limitations outside of their personal bubbles while filming their respective new projects. These absences were resolved with virtual, pre-recorded Q&As.

The Toronto Film Festival held several virtual Q&As for this year’s edition.

The festival expanded their lineup dramatically following the reduced, drive-in only live edition in 2020. This included retrospective screenings of many TIFF-debuted classics, such as Best in Show and Training Day.

There were a few exceptions to the no-shows, however. Jessica Chastain received a two-minute standing ovation following the premiere of The Eyes of Tammy Faye. Fans spread out across the Princess of Whales theatre were quick to shoot their hands up with questions for the actress following the film. (I had the pleasure of kicking off the audience portion of the Q&A, asking the sole question that director Michael Showalter received).

Red carpet events at TIFF 2021 were limited to select members of the press.

It was truly a pleasure to be back at the Toronto International Film Festival. While this year’s edition was a radically different experience from other editions, there is still a strong sense of tradition being maintained. Despite very the circumstances of the ongoing pandemic, the physical festival remained a delight. TIFF is important to Toronto culture. The city showed how much it collectively cares about the festival by taking the proper precautions to make this year’s edition a safe and enjoyable event. With no end of the pandemic in near sight, festivals worldwide should take notes from TIFF 2021 on how to do things the right way.

Read our TIFF 2021 coverage here. Check the TIFF website for ticket availabilities for films being screened digitally this year.

For more film and TV coverage, please visit the Film & TV section.