Celebrating its 46th year, the Toronto International Film Festival will be making its return to the city from September 9 – 18, 2021. This industry leading film festival endeavours to showcase a diverse offering of cinematic experiences from under-represented groups of creators and share important stories from Canada and around the world. 

Throughout the course of the festival, in-person screenings, industry panels and other events take place at multiple locations around the city, including at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, Roy Thomson Hall and Festival Village at Ontario Place, with COVID-19 protocols in place. Digital screenings and the In Conversation With” series – digital, interactive discussions and Q&A sessions with film creators and actors – stretch the borders of this year’s festival even further, opening up access to screenings across Canada and virtual experiences worldwide. 

True North

True stories provide, for better or for worse, some of the most fascinating subject matter in cinema and during TIFF 2021 documentaries will, as always, play an integral role in the festival’s programming. This year’s Canadian documentaries will examine everything from social justice to human narratives and the life and times of famous Canadians. The consequences of British Columbia’s controversial Site C hydro dam project in northern BC’s Peace River are explored in depth in Heather Hatch’s documentary Wochiigii lo: End of the Peace. The life and times of Canada’s beloved jazz great Oscar Peterson are told by Barry Avrich’s film Oscar Peterson: Black + White, which features appearances by major music industry players like Billy Joel and Quincy Jones. 

The Canadian Landscape

Canada’s rich landscape is so much more than just aesthetic; its scenery and neighbourhoods set the stage for and the natural elements contribute to some of the most compelling Canadian tales that will be shared at this year’s festival. To name a few: Ste. Anne, the debut feature film from Canadian director Rhayne Vermette, is set in Treaty 1 territory, including Sainte-Anne-des-Chênes, the town for which the film is named, and Winnipeg. Maria Chapdelaine, the film adaptation by Sébastien Pilote of the classic 1913 novel authored by Louis Hémon comes to life in rural northern Québec. The Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia, in traditional Mi’kmaq territory, lays the foundation for Wildhood, written and directed by award-winning Canadian filmmaker Bretten Hannam.

An Historical Homage

The landmark film Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner, which was originally released in 2001, will be screened in a new 2k version in celebration of its 20th anniversary. This iconic film was filmed in Igloolik, an Inuit hamlet in Foxe Basin in the Qikiqtaaluk Region of Nunavut and was the first feature film written and directed by Inuit filmmakers and performed entirely in the Inuktitut language”. Based on an ancient legend, this Inuit tale is one that explores the universal themes of love, betrayal and revenge and this incredible adaptation has won multiple awards, including the famed Caméra d’Or at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival.

Seeing Stars

Throughout the course of the festival, the streets of Toronto are peppered with famous, familiar faces, and this year will be no different. Guests of the 2021 festival include such world-renowned stars as Jessica Chastain, Benedict Cumberbatch, Andrew Garfield, Keira Knightley, Dionne Warwick and Stephen Soderbergh. Canadian celebrity attendees are also rumoured to include Toronto-born actor Alison Pill, acclaimed author Miriam Toews, theatre and film actor Thomas Antony Olajide and award-winning director Danis Goulet, whose thriller Night Raiders will be screened at this year’s festival.

Though it’s certainly the biggest film industry event held in the country, TIFF isn’t the only major nod to the cinema scene in Canada. You may be surprised to find out how many critically acclaimed and beloved movies and tv shows have been filmed in Cambridge, Ontario and across Nova Scotia. And while you’re in town enjoying the festival, be sure to explore Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area and experience some of the best restaurants, cafes and attractions in the area.

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