Toronto International Film Festival sets 2020 plans. It won’t look the same


The Toronto International Film Festival has announced a plan for a scaled-down edition this fall in response to the global coronavirus outbreak. This year’s festival, traditionally one of the film year’s most significant launching pads for awards contenders, will showcase 50 feature films, down from more than 300 last year, along with programs of short films, interactive talks, cast reunions and Q&As.

This year’s event is scheduled to run from Sept. 10-19, with plans contingent on guidelines and approval from local health officials.

Over the first five days of the festival, films will premiere as in-person, socially distanced events. Drive-in screenings and outdoor events will also take place. Additionally, TIFF will launch a digital platform for the first time, with screenings, talks and events taking place over the festival’s 10 days.


A handful of titles for the festival were announced, including Halle Berry’s directorial debut, “Bruised,” in which she also stars; Francis Lee’s “Ammonite,” starring Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan, which is also a selection of the canceled Cannes Film Festival; Ricky Staub’s “Concrete Cowboy,” with Idris Elba and Caleb McLaughlin; Thomas Vinterberg’s “Another Round”; Nicolás Pereda’s “Fauna”; Reinaldo Marcus Green’s “Good Joe Bell”; Suzanne Lindon’s “Spring Blossom”; and Naomi Kawase’s “True Mothers,” with more to come over the summer.

The festival in Toronto has long been a vital part of the awards season calendar, along with festivals in Telluride, Venice and New York, which have all already made announcements regarding moving forward with their 2020 editions. It will remain to be seen how the recent changes to the Oscars calendar, with the Academy Awards pushing back to April 25, 2021, and other awards shows adjusting their dates as well, will affect the release plans of potential titles for this year’s fall festival circuit.

“The pandemic has hit TIFF hard, but we’ve responded by going back to our original inspiration — to bring the very best in film to the broadest possible audience,” said Cameron Bailey, artistic director and co-head of TIFF, in a statement. “Our teams have had to rethink everything, and open our minds to new ideas. In countless video calls over the past three months we have rebuilt our Festival for 2020 drawing on our five decades of commitment to strong curation, support for filmmakers and engagement with audiences… We’re excited to present thoughtful, high-impact programming this September that reflects our belief that there’s no stopping great storytelling.”

Joana Vicente, executive director and co-head of TIFF, referred to a “distilled edition” of the festival, also saying in a statement, “TIFF has a proud history of programming award-winning films, expanding the conversation to include a multitude of voices, and in creating boundary-pushing initiatives for the industry. And this year we’ve added new innovations and ways to give back to the community. In doing so, we’re aiming to advance what a film festival is capable of delivering — for audiences and the film industry.”

The TIFF logo at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 6, 2018, in Toronto
The TIFF logo at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 6, 2018, in Toronto.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

The 2019 festival included the first TIFF Tribute Awards, a gala event with honorees including Meryl Streep, Taika Waititi, Mati Diop and Joaquin Phoenix. The festival plans to have another awards event this year, with honorees to be announced in the coming months.

The festival also announced for 2020 a new program of TIFF ambassadors, 50 filmmakers and actors invited to participate in this year’s festival including Waititi, Ava DuVernay, Nicole Kidman, Martin Scorsese, Nadine Labaki, Alfonso Cuarón, Riz Ahmed, Rian Johnson, Isabelle Huppert, Jason Reitman, Claire Denis, Atom Egoyan, Priyanka Chopra, Viggo Mortensen, Zhang Ziyi, David Oyelowo, Lulu Wang, Rosamund Pike, Sarah Gadon and Denis Villeneuve.

The festival’s year-round offices and multi-screen Lightbox cinema facility have been closed since March, and the TIFF organization recently announced that it reduced its full-time staff by 17%, letting go of 31 employees. TIFF also forecasts a 50% reduction in revenue from 2019.

The Academy Awards were pushed to April after the coronavirus outbreak forced production to stop and theater closures. Other awards shows follow suit.

Jan. 5, 2021