Story by Renee Sylvestre-Williams
TORONTO, ONTARIO — One thing I’ve discovered about the Toronto International Film Festival is that you do a lot of waiting.
There are wonderful films and glamorous celebrities to be seen of course, but experiencing TIFF is mostly about waiting — for various announcements, visiting actors and actresses, the movies you want to see and of course the line to watch the movie.
The downtown streets surrounding the Bell Lightbox Theatre at King and John are usually crowded for the 10 days of the festival, and this final weekend promises to be no different. TIFF is an event that brings fans from all over the planet to see world premieres, documentaries and films made by some of the most talented producers, writers and performers in the business. The beauty of it is that you don’t have to be a member of the media or in the movie industry to participate in the excitement. But you do have to be patient and plan on doing a lot of waiting.
My friends and I made the decision to see The Imitation Game, a film based on heroic British mathematician and cryptographer Alan Turing. Turing’s work during the Second World War was instrumental in breaking coded messages that were created by the Engima Machine, a device used by Nazi Germany to send encrypted messages to its battalions, including their dreaded U-Boat fleet .
The movie had quite a buzz thanks to its cast (Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode and Mark Strong), creating enough demand for the festival to add a third screening. Once we decided to see the movie, I got up at seven in the morning, went online and $75 and 15 minutes later had three tickets to see the movie at 10 pm that night.
We met up at The Friar, a pub up at Richmond and John streets for dinner and drinks. It would be another three hours before the movie started and we had time to kill, which is part of the fun at TIFF — enjoying the restaurants, pubs and bars in bustling downtown Toronto. Reinforced with food and drink (both unremarkable but filling), we slowly wandered down two main streets to the Princess of Wales Theatre. As we walked past Adelaide Street and began to get close to our destination, we saw the tail end of a line and thought it was the rush line — the one you join with the hope of getting a last-minute ticket.
As we passed the start of the rush line and went to the main doors of the theatre on King Street we were told that the line was curving nearly a block around the building. It was a 45-minute wait before the start of the movie, so we hustled back to Adelaide in order to join that long, long line. Not part of the fun.
Once we were in line it was a matter of waiting. We would creep forward a few feet at a time, stop, then creep forward again. It was dark and the temperature was dropping. I was very close to leaving and eating the cost of a $25 ticket but the excitement of my friends and the other movie fans kept me in line. All part of the experience.
Finally, things began to move and soon we were heading up to the warm air and comfy seats of the first balcony. With TIFF, the previews are not like the ones you usually see at movies, but of the sponsors and volunteers who support and work the festival. These scenes are as long as regular movie previews but infinitely more boring. Finally after waiting an hour, the movie began.
The cast of the Imitation Game did a great job but the movie as a whole suffered from a lack of strong storytelling and poor direction. There were competing stories in the script that led to a plot that swung across different moods and tones. After the movie finished, there was yet another long wait to leave.
Was it worth it? It was. Would I recommend the movie? It was okay, like my dinner it was filling yet unremarkable. The film might have been the focal point of the evening but the experience of going to TIFF isn’t just about the movie. Canada’s most significant film festival offers visitors the chance to watch films surrounded by fans who truly love and appreciate the art. It’s a chance to get close to the excitement of Hollywood without leaving the country. It’s a chance to watch outstanding films, although the choices can be hit and miss. And it’s possibly the only time you can watch a movie without having to put up with annoying texters who don’t have the courtesy to turn off their phones.
It’s a festival for people who truly have a passion for film and the people who make them. And for people like me who appreciate movies, it’s certainly worth the wait.
MORE ABOUT 2014 TIFF
Dates: Festival closes September 14, 2014
Telephone: (416) 599-TIFF or (toll-free) 1-888-599-8433
Tickets: Single tickets went on sale on August 31. Rush tickets are released, when available, at the Venue Box Office 10 minutes before the start of the screening.
Prices: New pricing is in effect this year: $20 Regular Screenings; $40 Premium Screenings. Tickets can be purchased online or at the Festival Tower box office, 350 King Street West, Toronto, ON. (see map below)