Take it from a local who knows - the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is a spectacular time to be in the city, especially if you know your way through the film, event and nightlife scene. Destination Toronto ambassador, Solmaz, gives you the inside scoop on TIFF 2023.
I’ve been attending TIFF since 2005 and think it’s unquestionably the most vibrant and exciting time of year in Toronto. It truly feels special to witness the world’s biggest and brightest public film festival blossom right in front of my eyes.
Yes, TIFF may look different again this year (this time due to the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strikes), but film lovers from around the globe will have plenty of World Premieres, red carpets, special events and activations to look forward to as the festival celebrates its 48th edition.
While you’re bound to create some incredible memories at the festival, navigating TIFF can be a tad overwhelming so here’s a mini local’s guide to help you enjoy the Festivals of Festivals…
Make your film list (and check it twice)
Decisions, decisions. With hundreds of films to choose from, the most challenging task will be narrowing down your wish list for the 11-day festival, which runs from September 7th to 17th this year. Check out the TIFF website or the festival Programme Book (available at the TIFF Shop) to read programmers’ notes about each film along with the list of cast members, length, country and language before making your film selections.
If you’re looking for red-carpet premieres and movie stars, head to Gala Presentations. But if you want to support films that may not be distributed widely, I highly recommend the Centrepiece program (formerly Contemporary World Cinema) where global perspectives are showcased. It may be your only chance to catch these films on the big screen! Insider Tip: after screenings there’s often a Q&A session so stick around and ask the directors, filmmakers and cast members your burning questions!
This year you can also expect a brighter spotlight on Canadian films, with 50 Canadian titles at the festival. I know I’ll be carving out more time to support local talent and hope you do to.
Tickets, tickets: where and how to get them
Tickets to screenings and events go on sale August 24th for TIFF Members and August 28th for the general public. Tickets and packages can be purchased online, by phone if you need accessible seats or technical support via 1.888.258.8433, or in person at the Steve & Rashmi Gupta Box Office inside TIFF Bell Lightbox.
You can purchase individual tickets with assigned seating at Roy Thompson Hall, Visa Screening Room, the Princess of Wales Theatre and Royal Alexandra Theatre. General admission tickets are also available for TIFF Bell Lightbox and Scotiabank Theatre Toronto.
Given TIFF’s popularity, the film you want to see may be “off-sale” (especially high-profile screenings). Don’t fret, not all is lost. They release extra tickets throughout the festival so check their website daily at 7 am and you may just snag a ticket. You can also “rush” films – festival lingo which essentially means lining up at the venue until all ticketholders are inside and empty seats are counted. Typically (although not always), the first dozen-or-so in the rush line get ushered in just before the screening starts. I’ve rushed many films throughout the years and have gotten into all of them. The earlier you arrive, the greater the chances! Note: the rush line is cash-only, you can only purchase one ticket and you can only hold space for one other person in line.
If you’re 24 and under, check out the TIFF Under-25 Free Pass. The free pass includes access to purchase individual tickets to the 2023 festival on Insiders’ Day and allows you to get tickets at affordable prices (starting at $13 for regular screenings) along with other perks! You can also purchase the TIFF Under-25 Festival Rush Pass ($29.00) for unlimited access to rush tickets at festival screenings.
FREE SCREENINGS, MUSICAL PERFORMANCES AND ACTIVATIONS
Festival Street is back for TIFF 2023! This means you can catch free films, musical performances and enjoy interactive activations on Festival Street (King Street West between Peter Street and University Avenue) from September 7-10.
The House of Peroni Nastro Azzurro returns to David Pecaut Square September 7-16th for a second year. Head here to enjoy Italian hospitality, snack on exclusive gourmet bites curated by chef David Rocco, sip on Peroni Nastro Azzurro and get a peek of the red carpet at Roy Thomson Hall. This experience is complementary and open to festival goers who are 19+ on a first-come, first-serve basis.
EXCITING TALKS WITH CELEBS
Featuring intimate sit-downs with some of the film industry’s biggest names, In Conversation With… is one of TIFF’s most exciting programmes. This year there will be conversations with Sylvester Stallone, Pedro Almodóvar, Lee Byung-hun and Park Seo-jun, and Andy Lau.
Star-Worthy Hotels, Cocktails and Meals
One of my favourite things to do during TIFF? Take in all the festival buzz at our world-class hotels, restaurants and bars! Everyone goes the extra mile to sparkle during the festival so it’s a great time to indulge and treat yourself like a star.
Book A Room Where The Celebs Stay
If you want to be in the heart of all the action, The Ritz-Carlton and Shangri-La Toronto and The St. Regis Toronto are great options for a glamorous stay. They’re all minutes away from festival venues and host numerous TIFF events so they’ll be filled with buzz. But if you’re like me and need to recharge after your film marathon, I recommend heading north of the festival hub to Yorkville for a relaxing stay at the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto.
New this year: treat yourself like a star by booking the Red Carpet Glamour TIFF room package at St. Regis Toronto. Your luxurious stay will include a special in-room amenity, a bottle of Laurent-Perrier Champagne, a 90-minute Sothys Red Carpet Facial and an exclusive three-course dinner for two at LOUIX LOUIS Grand Bar & Restaurant.
Sip On Cocktails Inspired By Films
Head to EPOCH Bar + Kitchen Terrace at The Ritz-Carlton Toronto to taste your way through their special TIFF menu, which includes cocktails inspired by classic films like The Godfather. Their premium cocktails promise to be a treat! Tip: book your table September 7-10th to enjoy the live DJ (9 pm to 1 am).
A drink (or two) at d|bar during festival season is always a must in my opinion. This year the talented team has dreamt up cocktails inspired by movie genres we all love. I’m looking forward to trying ACTION (Casamigos Anejo, mezcal, spicy prickly pear juice, lime, simple syrup, black salt), but know you can never go wrong with any of their elevated cocktails. Tip: make sure to check out the celebrity photo exhibit, Festival After Dark, by renowned Toronto Getty photographer Ryan Emberley. You’ll find a collection of his favourite celebrity photo moments in the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto lobby and street-level lounge.
Get A Glimpse Of The Stars
There may be fewer Hollywood stars at the festival due to ongoing strikes, but keep your eyes peeled because many are still attending! Besides the red carpets that dot the city, there’s no better place to get a glimpse of celebrities than at the Ritz Bar and Café (I’ve personally spotted dozens – from Al Pacino and George Clooney to Penelope Cruz and Ryan Gosling). That’s because the bar is conveniently located just south of Roy Thomson Hall where many TIFF Galas are screened. That means you’re almost guaranteed to see stars coming and going from their festival engagements.
Indulge In A Star-Worthy Meal
An official hospitality partner of TIFF, Minami Toronto will be offering a star-worthy menu to festivalgoers. Their entrée feature, The Minami Experience, is as opulent as it gets with Canadian Lobster, Hokkaido Uni, Kalguga Caviar, Miyazaki A5 Wagyu Ribeye, Quebec Foie Gras and Canadian Black Truffle! Tip: don’t leave without capturing your own red carpet moment on their TIFF-Minami branded step-and-repeat.
On September 6, Chef Daniel Boulud will return to Toronto for an exclusive dinner to kick-off TIFF at Café Boulud. Inspired by the opulence of the festival, Chef Daniel will present a five-course menu with each dish incorporating an element of the elegance of pearls.