What do you love most about TIFF and Toronto? We ask three festival attendees

Last year, the city noticeably lacked the electric buzz usually created by cinephiles and stars coming together at the Toronto International Film Festival, as the pandemic pushed most of the screenings and events online. This year, TIFF (which runs until Saturday) welcomes locals and visitors back to traditional in-person viewings, following COVID protocols. As movie buffs enthusiastically return to Toronto, three international TIFF veterans explain what they love most about the city.

JENNA CATO BASS; filmmaker, “My God [Good Madam]”; Cape Town, South Africa

“Firstly, getting to see my friend and frequent collaborator, Chinelo Onwualu, in person! Chinelo is an incredible sci-fi and fantasy writer based in Toronto, and for the first decade of knowing her, we had never met physically. So I will always associate Toronto with finally getting to be in the same space with her — and admire her considerable book collection. And then, Chinelo introduced me to Bakka-Phoenix (84 Harbord St.), an independent bookstore that specializes in speculative fiction from all over the world. Going there is beyond a treat, and makes my return-baggage considerably heavier. On my last visit, I was really thrilled to be able to learn more about Indigenous spec-fiction authors and pick up books I’d never be able to get hold of back home. It’s a bit overwhelming, but the staff there are extremely knowledgeable.”

DAN LOEWY; executive vice-president, Americas, international distribution, Entertainment One; Los Angeles

“Toronto is a world-class city. I love the instant kindness you feel the moment you step off the plane. Whether it’s a quick bite of the freshest sushi at standing-only Tachi (11 Richmond St. W.), the forever-great Bar Isabel (797 College St.), the best chocolate chip cookie from Le Gourmand (152 Spadina Ave.) or anything from Forno Cultura (609 King St.), Toronto really has it all.”

Kenny Santana caught Julia Roberts's eye when he wore a Be Love T-shirt to her event.

KENNY SANTANA; travel bloggers; Jakarta, Indonesia

“When I first arrived at TIFF in 2015, the first thing that struck me were the people. I didn’t know how to get my bus ticket from the airport and didn’t have spare change, and I remember vividly the bus driver telling me to just hop in, aware that I was a first-timer to the city. TIFF is always about the people, and also how accessible everything is for the audience. From the ticketing to the choice of accommodation, food, walking distance to festival venues, public transportation — it seems the whole city was built to make everyone have a good time, not only at the movies, but also outside them. I was lucky I got one of the biggest moments in my life at TIFF in 2018, when I was hugged by Julia Roberts on stage. But that memory was made even better by the warmth of the audience. I remember fondly walking out of the theatre on that evening, the audience asking about my T-shirt (from Be Love apparel) that was recognized by Julia, offering to send their photos and videos of the moment for me, or just simply congratulating me or just saying hi. Being almost always by myself at TIFF has never been an issue, because Torontonians, year after year, always make me feel like I’m right at home.”


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What do you love most about TIFF and Toronto? We ask three festival attendees