Roll out the red carpet: A guide to TIFF

It's almost time for TIFF, and whether you're in Toronto or just following along from afar, there's lots to know before Hollywood heads north.

Roll out the red carpet: A guide to TIFF

It's almost time for TIFF, and whether you're in Toronto or just following along from afar, there's lots to know before Hollywood heads north.

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year — and no, we’re not talking about the back-to-school season (though it is nice to finally have some peace and quiet again 😅). 

We’re talking about the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival, where celebrities from all over the world come together on the streets of the #6ix to premiere some of the year’s biggest films. This year’s festival runs from Sept. 5 to Sept. 15, so there’s still time to plan some quality star-gazing into your days. 

And even if you’re nowhere close to Toronto, fans from coast to coast can keep up with all the action (and there’s bound to be lots of action) with our Daily Bullet. (Not subscribed? You can do that here.) 

It’s time for Hollywood to head north, y’all.


TIFF is always jam-packed with the most buzzed-about upcoming releases and recognizable Hollywood stars, and this year is no different.

While the 2019 movie lineup and celebrity guest list does offer something for everyone, it’s perhaps millennials who’ll be catching the most feels with the Mr. Rogers biopic, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, starring Tom Hanks and Matthew Rhys, and celebrity appearances from Harry Potter’s Daniel Radcliffe, Twilight’s Kristen Stewart, 50 Shades of Grey’s Jamie Dornan, Stranger Things‘ Maya Hawke, and Fantastic Beasts‘ Eddie Redmayne.

This year’s festival has a long list of gala presentations sure to make a splash, including:


If you weren’t already proud to live in Canada, you definitely will be after reading this.

This year also marks the fifth annual Platform program, which aims to give “artistically ambitious” but quieter films a boost so they don’t get lost behind the big stars and spotlights.

In past years, a jury of renowned filmmakers has awarded one of the Platform films $25,000, but in 2019, the program is dropping the contenders from 12 down to 10, lowering the prize money to $20,000 (due to losing sponsor Air France), and shuffling the jury so it’s not composed solely of filmmakers. 

This year also marks the fourth time a Canadian entry is being considered in Platform. Toronto filmmaker Kazik Radwanski’s Anne at 13,000 ft. has Canada’s attention as we wait to see if it’ll take home the gold.

Speaking of awards, Meryl Streep and Joaquin Phoenix will be the first-ever recipients of the TIFF Tribute acting award. Both Streep’s The Laundromat (with Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas) and Phoenix’s Joker will have their North American premieres at this year’s TIFF. The festival will also be recognizing Taika Waititi with the TIFF Ebert Director award, and Participant Media will be getting the TIFF Impact award.

Other major awards handed out at the end of the festival include the Mary Pickford Award, which honours emerging female talent, along with the Eurimages Audentia Award for best female director.

There’s also a whole whack of People’s Choice awards, which usually generate quite a bit of Oscar buzz for their winners. For example, last year’s People’s Choice went to Green Book and in 2017, the award went to Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Both films went on be nominated for best picture at the Oscars — in fact, Green Bookwent on to win the award.


Anne at 13,000 ft. might be the only Canadian film in Platform, but TIFF 2019 is toting 26 Canadian feature films, half of which are directed by women. 

Individual states have their own rules for regulations like whether residents can, for instance, carry guns in public. Naturally, the states with more restricted gun control laws have far fewer gun-related deaths. 

All eyes are on Canadian native and Oscar-nominated actress Ellen Page, whose documentary, There’s Something in the Water, explores environmental racism in Nova Scotia.

The other buzzworthy Canadian films are:

  • American Woman, starring Hong Chau, Ellen Burstyn, and David Cubitt
  • Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band, from movie moguls Martin Scorsese, Brian Grazer, and Ron Howard, and starring Scorsese, Bruce Springsteen, and Bob Dylan
  • Guest of Honour, starring David Thewlis, Luke Wilson, and Sima Fisher
  • David Foster: Off the Record, a biopic about the Canadian music icon with appearances by Kristin Chenoweth, Barbra Streisand, and Sara Foster
  • Jordan River Anderson, The Messenger, from celebrated Abenaki director Alanis Obomsawin
  • This Is Not a Movie, where director Yung Chang follows veteran journalist Robert Fisk on the ground as he covers some of the most violent conflicts across the globe


Even if you can’t squeeze in a visit to the theatre to watch a movie amongst its stars, chances are Toronto visitors and residents will bump into a celeb or two anywhere along King St. by the TIFF Bell Lightbox theatre, Roy Thompson Hall, and the Princess of Wales, or along Yonge St. by the Elgin and Winter Garden theatres.

The official TIFF Festival Street runs along King St. between University Ave. and Peter St., so make sure you’ve got your eyes to the skies and not on your phone if you want to spot your favourite movie star.  

There’s also a good chance of spotting a star in Yorkville, which is home to the Four Seasons Hotel and the Hazelton Hotel (both of which are favourites of visiting celebrities) and the Mink Mile, known for its high-end designer shops. 

The Fairmont Royal York is also a hot spot for celebrity action (it’s got Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s stamp of approval!) and will even play host to this year’s TIFF Tribute Gala on Sept. 9. 

There are a few hotels where TIFF members get discounts (not that they need them) and special offers, so check out the Bisha Hotel, the Ritz-Carlton, or the St. Regis.

Also check out Amano Pasta, Liberty Group’s Cibo Wine BarRosewater Room, and Spice Route, and Oliver & Bonacini’s CanteenLuma, and Malaparte for the opportunity to dine alongside the stars.

Don’t forget that Toronto’s very own Drake owns Pick 6ix Sports on Yonge, which might just be the spot to catch a glimpse of Priyanka Chopra and hubs Nick Jonas. (Drake’s ex, J.Lo will probably not be in attendance.)

And if it’s good enough for a duchess, maybe it’s good enough for movie royalty, too? Some of ex-Suits actress Meghan Markle’s other favoured Toronto spots include TerroniFreshLa Société, and Flock.

Save us a seat, would you?


Unsurprisingly, the gun control debate has long been one of the most divisive issues facing U.S. politics, and with an upsurge in violent attacks, it’s become an even more contentious topic.

But it wouldn’t be a star-studded event without a boatload of free stuff for those who don’t need the five-finger discount. While TIFF doesn’t hold a candle to the swag celebrities pick up at major awards shows like the Oscars and the Emmys, there are still quite a few freebies to be had. 

NKPR’s IT House x Producers Ball is back this year, partnering with Property BrothersDrew and Jonathan Scott to offer celebrities, media and influencers the chance to get up close and personal with brands like Swarovski, Hounds Vodka, OGX Beauty, and more. Rolling Stone will also be on hand at the IT House, where renowned NYC-based photographer Leeor Wild will be snapping portraits of all the famous faces that pop by. 

Stars can also stop by The Salon at Stylist Box, presented by NIUCOCO, to get glammed up before walking the red carpet. A slew of Canadian menswear, womenswear and accessory designers are eagerly waiting to offer up their goods to all the VIP guests, and each visitor will get to take home services and products valued at more than $3,000.

And it’s not just celebs who get the royal treatment during TIFF.

Every year, Esther Garnick PR puts together a lounge specifically for the press, where journalists can enjoy a day of pampering before the late nights and intense deadlines that often come with covering the festival. Brands like Aveda, Carolina Herrera New York and Goldwell Kerasilk will all be on hand to get writers ready to take on the 10-day-long event. 

Are you ready? ‘Cause we are. 

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