With a newly appointed co-director and lofty plans for a new headquarters, the Toronto International Film Festival is poised to raise the festival experience to new heights.
Noah Cowan was welcomed aboard by TIFF Group director and CEO Piers Handling in mid-December. Cowan is no stranger to the festival (he left his post as TIFF associate director of programming in 2001 to join the now defunct New York-based distrib Cowboy Pictures), and his plans for the event are not revolutionary. They are, however, significant. ‘We’ve always acknowledged changes in the film world, but we’ve resisted novelty and novelty programming,’ he explains, hinting that this will no longer be the case. ‘We need to acknowledge that [certain innovations] are happening and have an opinion about them, then we’ll see if they’re appropriate for the film festival.’ Specifically, Cowan cites the merger of art and film, including installation and computer-generated audio-visual work.
The impact of digital cinema in the developing world is also on Cowan’s radar: ‘The means of production have been put back in the hands of the people, particularly in Africa, which should be really interesting for a festival like Toronto.’
Handling will co-direct the festival for three years, but his top priority is raising the more than CDN$150 million (US$113 million) needed to realize the Festival Centre, TIFF’s new HQ, which should debut in 2006. Handling hopes the centre will become a destination for cinephiles from around the world and projects TIFF’s annual economic impact, which is currently about $67 million (US$50 million), will triple once it opens. Year-round programming, says Handling, will embrace docs: ‘The success of the doc program [Real to Reel] is such that, both as part of the festival and in the new building, there will be a very strong documentary strand.’