Every year as the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) gets more socially and politically “progressive” in its filmic offerings, the more commercialized it’s become as a whole.
There was a time, up until about four years ago, when TIFF was predominantly a place for cinephiles and romantics. Then, the majority of screened films represented distinguished expressions of different cultures around the world (real diversity) or were smaller independent films searching for distribution. Most importantly, TIFF, even if with its varied lineup, was Canada’s leading film festival.
To an extent, TIFF still caters to that niche and those causes (TIFF 2016 is hosting 397 films from 83 countries, a slight increase in the later from last year), but as the festival continues to grow in scope, scale and popularity, it has inevitably inflated into a more or less culturally vacant commercial enterprise that seems to privilege popular taste and fashionable politics.
As Roosh and others have written, Toronto has become a progressive, multicultural nightmare–one that I’ve admittedly grown accustomed to over the years (is it Stockholm Syndrome?).
Now culturally pluralistic, the city is geographically checkered with disparate ethnic groups and subcultures that refuse to assimilate into one primary identity. Without interconnectivity, citizens are expected to seek out a sense of togetherness by participating in mass consumption and collectively accepting ideas of social “equality.”
You can say this about a lot of American cities, too. But Toronto is a special case: as Canada is known to echo American pop culture–which the Left has a monopoly over–Toronto follows suit by souping up the most skewed aspects of leftist propaganda you see south of our border (Black Lives Matter, third-wave feminism, climate change, etc) and implementing it as common sense–or, worse yet, policy.
This foul leftism seems to evaporate in the air and rise north across the border, where the most harebrained aspects of the ideology distill and condense into Toronto’s ethos. And our leaders lay down and accept it.
For instance, Black Lives Matter recently halted Toronto’s Gay Pride Parade by setting off rainbow-coloured smoke bombs (note how the embedded article labels the stunt a “victory”? Our mainstream press is this deluded, too), this only a few weeks after a lunatic stormed in and shot up a gay Orlando nightclub.
Now what is the city of Toronto doing? It plans on giving the domestic terrorist group this year’s race relations award (though I should note that this terrorism has occurred stateside; in Toronto, BLM is more of a “peaceful” nuisance). Further, Pride Toronto apologized today to BLM for “deepening the divisions” in the LGBT community. That’s like the sheep apologizing to the wolf for having a big appetite. You get the picture.
How does this relate to TIFF? TIFF, while it probably means well, reflects all this leftist up-is-down, left-is-right inverted reality. As Toronto’s flagship arts event, it holds itself up as a vanity mirror to Toronto’s prevailing social and political beliefs.
Because Toronto is notoriously progressive, TIFF offers these workshops like “The 4%: Film’s Gender Problem” (which you can watch here) and tagging almost every female-directed TIFF film on its site with “Feminism” or “Female Experience” or “Female Director”. Because It’s 2016.
You also now see Spoiled Children march down a blocked-off King Street screaming for censorship in movies. On the same block, you can witness crazies hoisting placards and judging all “idolaters, homosexuals, fornicators, liars, witches” (basically everyone but themselves) as sinners doomed to Hell. This thorny mixture of zealotry ruins what TIFF used to and should still be about: the intellectual enjoyment of watching culturally diverse movies that your typical multiplex may not show you.
Further, the Politics of Shame progressives know too well takes the fun out of movies. And when you can’t cross the street or enter a ticket line without peddlers trying to sign you up for the newest and hottest streaming service or sample the latest “naturally sweetened” beverage, you cannot help but notice that the festival is less about experiencing art and more about inciting mass consumption.
That mentality defines living in Toronto: you don’t need values or human relationships, just buy, buy, buy and support this company that’s endorsing the most current social justice cause Because It’s 2016.
Toronto, above all, loves “diversity,” thus explaining why Antoine Fuqua’s The Magnificent Seven (which, granted, I have not yet seen) opened the festival this year. A year prior it was Jean-Marc Vallée’s superb Demolition—a movie about a rich white male (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) coping with the death of a loved one.
Now it’s a modern Western directed by a black man and starring an ethnically-mixed cast, none of whom hail from Canada (Vallée, meanwhile, is French-Canadian, as is Denis Villeneuve, whose new film Arrival screened at the festival to favourable reviews).
Diversity of skin colour can’t hide the fact that The Magnificent Seven is also TIFF ’16’s most commercial film—minus, perhaps, Arrival, which stars big-name actors like Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and Forest Whitaker. Fuqua has outspokenly rejected the diversity argument applied to his film, insisting the varied casting of the picture “wasn’t to make a statement […] [he] just wanted to see Denzel Washington on a horse.”
Opening the festival with The Magnificent Seven falsely suggests one thing while truthfully demonstrating another: as TIFF claims to support the crusade against Hollywood’s diversity problem, it’s become more predisposed to populism and commerce—the two very things that drive Hollywood’s assembly line and perceived racial bias.
Take Nate Parker’s Birth of a Nation, probably the most interesting film to play at the festival. Not because it’s that good—I’ve seen it and it is merely decent—but because of the director’s history. Parker, a black man, was accused in 1999 of raping a white woman, but was found not guilty in 2001. Eleven years later, the alleged victim tragically committed suicide, putting Parker’s feet back in the SJW fire.
The American Film Institute promptly cancelled a screening of Parker’s new movie, and with TIFF only a few weeks away heads tilted northward in anticipation. TIFF’s organizers declared they would screen the film as planned since it told an “important story,” meaning one with a left-leaning bias.
Meanwhile, a documentary like Vaxxed presents an inconvenient argument about the MMR vaccine and gets bullied out of the Tribeca Film Festival, whereas a film that uses nineteenth-century slavery—a time of true oppression against blacks—to comment on today’s racial tensions brought on by misunderstood notions of institutional racism is fair game.
There is also a point to be made about Parker. If he had been wrongfully accused of rape, but was white and his movie did not reflect SJW fashion, I guarantee you, reader, TIFF would have cancelled the screening. Don’t get me wrong: I commend TIFF for keeping Birth of a Nation in its lineup, but not for why. TIFF is not doing this out of integrity, free speech, or belief in due process—it’s because the film confirms progressive thought, which is what festival organizers mean by “important.”
There is more to be said about Birth of a Nation (wait for my upcoming review when it releases this October) and Oliver Stone’s Snowden for that matter, which had its World Premiere at the festival and is now in wide release.
Snowden is the antithesis of social justice propaganda; while topical, Stone’s film is driven by tight dramatic structure and controlled pacing that lets the movie stand on its own as a compelling work of popular art taking a very unpopular stance. Snowden transcends partisan politics and the liberal grandstanding that is so commonplace in today’s Hollywood product.
Snowden shows that TIFF is not all progressive posturing and that there is, to some extent, a diversity of ideas on display at this eleven-day event, which ran this year from September 8-18th. Nevertheless, there is plenty cause for concern as the festival takes a noticeable nosedive toward promoting Hollywood product and corporate gadgetry, crowding out the intellectual space with an excess of ad space.
If that ends up the case, well, there is always Cannes.
Post-script: A reader accurately points out that film festivals like TIFF charge premium prices for tickets. This is another irksome aspect of TIFF’s aggressive commercialism that must be addressed. While premium charges have been a thing for awhile at TIFF, this year it added Uber-like surge prices to high-demand screenings.
So in addition to minimum ticket prices going up (which is to be expected as the festival increases in popularity), you have to pay sometimes 7 dollars over the minimum, per ticket, to secure a seat. And if you want to exchange tickets and your original purchase was done through Ticketmaster, the service charges an additional 7-dollar exchange fee! Check your pockets; are they empty yet? God knows how TIFF will pilfer its customers next year.