Jagged | Courtesy of TIFF

TIFF 2021 Returns by Celebrating Alanises Obomsawin and Morissette

TIFF announces plans for 2021 festival with expanded hybrid event.

6 mins read

The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is rolling out the red carpets again this year! TIFF unveiled its plans for the 2021 edition of the festival, which expands upon last year’s hybrid edition by opening more of the favourite premium venues that add glitz and glamour to the event. TIFF’s comeback marks a return to normal of sorts for the city of Toronto, which hasn’t had its movie theatres open since fall 2020. TIFF 2021 will feature a mix of in-person and virtual events with an anticipated slate of 100 films—roughly half the number of selections from previous years, but an expansion from 2020’s slate.

The big news for TIFF 2021 is an IMAX world premiere of Denis Villeneuve’s hotly anticipated adventure Dune. The film will enjoy a world exclusive IMAX special event at the Cinesphere Theatre at Ontario Place to mark a thunderous return to big screen moviegoing. The festival announced a dozen additional titles for this year’s festival. On the doc front is HBO’s Jagged, a portrait of Canadian music icon Alanis Morissette directed by Alison Klayman (The Brink). Musical legend Dionne Warwick also receives a doc portrait in TIFF selection Dionne Warwick: Don’t Make Me Over, directed by Dave Wooley and David Heilbroner.

TIFF celebrates another Alanis at the 2021 festival by screening the films of Alanis Obomsawin. This overdue retrospective will feature highlights from the career of the 87-year-old Abenaki filmmaker whose credits as a director span more than 50 films. Obomsawin is best known for her landmark 1993 documentary Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance, which enjoyed renewed attention last year upon the 30th anniversary of the Oka Crisis it chronicles. Many of Obomsawin’s NFB films have screened at the festival with TIFF finally elevating her to the Masters section in recent years when screening works like We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice and Our People Will Be Healed.

“Alanis is one of the most important figures in Canadian film, documentary film, and Indigenous film,” said TIFF co-head and artistic director Cameron Bailey in a statement from the festival. “Curated by Jason Ryle, one of the world’s leading Indigenous curators, this retrospective captures a national moment when Canadians are looking for ways to better understand and access how central Indigenous history and culture are to this nation.”

On the dramatic front, TIFF announced ten additional titles for this year’s selection. Most notable among them is Danis Goulet’s Night Raiders, from Elevation Pictures and Samuel Goldwyn Films, which had an acclaimed premiere at Berlin earlier this year and stars current POV cover subject Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers. Also among the selections are: Le Bal des Folles directed by Mélanie Laurent (France) from Amazon Studios, Benediction, directed by Terence Davies (United Kingdom) from Bankside Films, Belfast, from director Kenneth Branagh (United Kingdom) from Focus Features, Charlotte, directed by Eric Warin and Tahir Rana (Canada/Belgium/France) from Elevation Pictures and MK2 Mile End, The Guilty by director Antoine Fuqua (USA) from Netflix, Lakewood, directed by Philip Noyce (Canada), Last Night in Soho, directed by Edgar Wright (United Kingdom) from Focus Features, Petite Maman, directed by Céline Sciamma (France) from Elevation Pictures and NEON, and The Starling by director Theodore Melfi (USA) from Netflix.

TIFF will roll out additional programming announcements over the summer. TIFF Docs titles will be announced July 28 with the Contemporary World Cinema and Discovery films. Galas and Special Presentations will kick off the announcements on July 20 with Short Cuts announced August 11 along with the return of TIFF’s competitive Platform programme.

Although the festival doesn’t specify whether proof of vaccination will be required for attendance, today’s announcement does note that audiences should expect to wear masks for in-person screenings, which will have higher attendance numbers this year in accordance with health and safety measures. TIFF-goers can make their masks red carpet chic by outfitting them with bling for screenings at Roy Thomson Hall and the Visa Screening Room at the Princess of Wales Theatre, which join TIFF Bell Lightbox and Cinesphere as indoor venues. Outdoor screenings will occur at Ontario Place Festival Village, Visa Skyline Drive-In, RBC Lakeside Drive-In and the West Island Open Air Cinema. Virtual screenings will also take place while details about in-person access/events for the press and industry components of the festival (currently virtual) will be announced in accordance with Ontario’s reopening plans.

TIFF 2021 runs September 9 to 18.

Pat Mullen is the publisher of POV Magazine. He holds a Master’s in Film Studies from Carleton University where his research focused on adaptation and Canadian cinema. Pat has also contributed to outlets including The Canadian Encyclopedia, Paste, That Shelf, Sharp, and Complex. He is the vice president of the Toronto Film Critics Association.

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