I have been going to the Toronto International Film Festival since 1983 and I’ve never missed a year. It’s my favourite event in Toronto, but to get the most out of it involves some planning.
First, go to your boss and tell him you’ve developed a suspicious hacking cough and you’ll need some time off, for, oh, about 10 days (the length of the festival).
Then, buy a copy of the 300-page program book (about $30) and read it cover to cover. You’ll skim through descriptions of films you have no interest in, so it won’t take as long as you think. Attach post-it notes to the movies that interest you. Then go back and reread your highlighted films, and write down the film title and movie times (available from a second, smaller program book, available everywhere) on the stick-it notes. Now take all the little yellow notes and arrange them on a grid chronologically. (I use my dining room table)
Time for film triage, the hardest part of this process. If two films are playing at the same time, you have to choose one. Now you have your own festival program, as light or heavy as your time allows. I find I can see about five movies a day; after that my eyes and brain go blurry.
Try to have a good mix of genres — a few comedies, some documentaries, some foreign films from countries you like (I’m partial to films from South Korea and Argentina), throw in a little animation and don’t be ashamed to include a Hollywood blockbuster or two. A little glamour may be a necessary antidote to all those depressing Afghan war stories you’ve chosen.
Now go on the excellent TIFF website; it will tell you the different ways of ordering your tickets. You won’t get all your choices — some movies sell out incredibly quickly — so have your second-choice stick-it notes handy.