Toronto International Film Fest: Poised for a splendid comeback

TIFF 2022 will run from September 8 to 18 without any of the restrictions of the last two years. Prior to the festival, notable works from Satyajit Ray and his contemporaries will be presented between August 4 and 27.
A scene from Satyajit Ray's Shatranj ke Khiladi, which will be screened prior to TIFF 2022
A scene from Satyajit Ray's Shatranj ke Khiladi, which will be screened prior to TIFF 2022
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After a long patch of lockdowns and pandemic-inflicted restrictions, it’s time for Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) fans to get spoiled for choice. While the 47th edition of the film festival is two months away, the organisers have planned a wonderful line-up of events and TIFF looks poised for an opulent comeback this year.

TIFF 2022 will run from September 8 to 18 without any of the restrictions that were in place in the previous two years. It’ll spring back to its previous normal with added surprises to make good for what was lost in the last couple of years. There were only 50 films in 2020 and 150 in 2021, with fewer in-person shows and more hybrid online shows. There were hardly any press or industry guests from other countries. Usually, thousands of guests come over from different parts of the world to celebrate ‘The Festival of Festivals’ in Toronto every year.

“We’re not going to do online screenings like we did in the last two years,” said TIFF’s Chief Executive Cameron Bailey during a press conference in April this year. Although TIFF has five screens on its premises plus around 25 other theatres, most of the films were screened online due to COVID-19 regulations for two years. This time, the authorities have decided to use online platforms only to relay press meets and other non-screening programmes. TIFF’s ticket pricing tiers were announced a month ago, even before the titles of the films were publicised.

Prior to the festival, TIFF has already chalked out its summer screenings where Indian movies are in the limelight. Between August 4 and 27, TIFF will present notable works from Satyajit Ray and his contemporaries. Ray directed 36 works in a span of over 40 years (1950 to early 1990s), which include fiction, documentaries and shorts. He’s the unquestioned leader of India’s parallel cinema movement who dared to portray the post-independence legacy, poverty, patriarchy, corruption and the like. His films are acclaimed worldwide for remaining deeply humanist and hopeful. Although a year late due to the pandemic, it’s encouraging to note that TIFF is celebrating the centenary of one of India’s greatest filmmakers. This series will have extended introductions by its curator, the renowned film critic Meenakshi Shedde.

The series will start with the filmmaker’s personal favourite Charulata (The Lonely Wife, 1964), about a housewife who wipes out her literary faculties in order to save her affair. The other movies are Devi (The Goddess, 1960) about a patriarch’s dreams of turning her daughter-in-law into a goddess incarnate. Nayak (The Hero, 1966) is about a matinee idol’s insecurities. Shatranj ke Khiladi (The Chess Players, 1977) is a historical film in Hindi revolving around the British overthrow of Wajid Ali Shah of Awadh in 1856. Besides these, there are films by four Ray contemporaries – Ritwik Ghatak’s partition masterpiece Subarnarekha (The River – Subarnarekha, 1965), Aparna Sen’s Mr and Mrs Iyer (2002) which deals with communalism through a love story, Mani Kaul’s wonderful avant-garde documentary Siddeshwari (1989), and Amit Dutta’s breath-taking Nainsukh (2010), which drew inspiration from Ray and Kaul. Anik Dutta’s Aparajito (The Undefeated, 2022), a charming primer and tribute to Ray on his filmmaking, is another movie in the summer schedule.

The titles of films that are expected to be screened at the festival this year will be published by the end of July.

Suresh Nellikode has written fiction for Malayalam periodicals like Mathrubhumi and Kalakaumudi. He’s also been a contributor for The New Indian Express and Khaleej Times. He currently lives in Canada.

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