Travel Diaries

Three Days at TIFF

by Joy Pecknold

You never forget your first TIFF, or Toronto International Film Festival for those not tracking acronyms. First times aren’t often the greatest of times, but I got lucky. Tagging along with one of the event’s sponsors meant skipping the line at screenings and scoring after party invites. Though in the case of Toronto-based outerwear brand Canada Goose it also includes a generous helping of local knowledge. Three days at the fest flew by, here’s a taste.

TIFF Michael Fassbender

Arriving in muggy weather during rush hour traffic means the first order of business is a cocktail (it also primes the liver for what’s to come). Following that, the onslaught of events starts with the TIFF Soiree, a sort of Inside the Actors Studio evening wherein an A-lister sits down for an extended Q&A. This year it was Oscar nominee Michael Fassbender. The costume piece that most influences his feel for a character: “Shoes. It starts with the shoes, from the ground up,” he says. Funny thing, that’s a woman’s answer to surviving TIFF, just insert “comfortable” in there.

After checking out Canada Goose’s factory, I take a private sightseeing tour of the city aboard a double-decker bus where it’s pick of the litter for seats. Bus tours may be considered the tacky tourist thing to do, but they’re actually a superb way to get the lay of land when visiting a new city.

Drake fans will want to hit up Fring’s for dinner. The King Street West restaurant is his first foray into the dining biz, and apparently it’s not unheard of for him and his entourage to drop by when in “The Six.” If he doesn’t show, there’s a bar cart that makes the rounds to aid in the drowning of any sorrows.

Antoine Fuqua’s The Magnificent 7 opened the festival and that brought serious star power. Before the two-hour Western remake screened, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke (who couldn’t seem to stop cracking each other up), Denzel Washington and other cast members, lined up firing squad style on the stage. The lone female star, Haley Bennett, out-dressed the dark-suited gents in white Dior.

The Thompson is a popular hotel base and party hub. It pays to be a guest and use the rooftop pool on a scorching hot morning. On this particular day, comedian Mike Birbiglia had rolled up his suit pants to cool his heels.

In support of homegrown talent, Canada Goose sponsors the award for Best Canadian Feature Film, and threw a cocktail party at The Ritz-Carlton to toast the country’s auteurs. TIFF Artistic Director’s Cameron Bailey addressed the crowd, noting the next Ryan Gosling could be in the crowd. Unfortunately, the current Ryan Gosling hadn’t yet arrived in town.

While the drinks are free-flowing at parties, it’s worth it to hop off the circuit every once and awhile. A stroll through Trinity Bellwoods Park with a pit stop at 416 Snack Bar makes for a swell break. Located at Bathurst and Queen Street West, the bar doesn’t look like much from the outside, and it’s similarly low-key on the inside, but the Korean Fried Chicken alone is a showstopper.

With more than 300 films to see, one can become numb to all that flickers on the silver screen. But Garth Davis’ Lion, starring Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman and Rooney Mara, made a dent. Based on the true story of an adopted boy who later finds his birth family via Google Maps, it elicited teary eyes and a standing ovation from the crowd. There may be an Oscar nod or two coming for this one.

And with that, I was going. The only mistake I made with this inaugural TIFF was not staying longer.