Toronto Film Fest to Coincide with High Holy Days

Published: August 18th 2010
in News » Local

Barney's Version
Pic: Barney's Version

This year’s 35th anniversary edition of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), one of the most high-profile film festivals in the world, will be held right in the middle of the Jewish High Holy Days.


According to TIFF, the scheduling conflict could not be avoided. Festivals, including the Venice Film Festival and the San Sebastian festival, are scheduled to immediately precede and follow the Toronto Film Festival.


Unfortunately, observant Jewish filmgoers will be ringing in the New Year as TIFF rings in theirs. On the second-last day of TIFF, observant Jews will be breaking their fast at sundown. All of the TIFF’s Jewish patrons, directors, and supporters will have to choose between their faith and their films.


Martin Knelman at discussed this sticky situation for TIFF’s Jewish supporters. He wrote, “Observant Jews will be absent from TIFF on four key days of the 10-day festival. A very large proportion of the festival’s key supporters, its Gold Patrons, are Jewish. So are many of the industry players. Ditto many of the buyers, sellers, agents, publicists and producers who come to TIFF from L.A. and New York.”


Usually, TIFF opens annually on the first Thursday following Labour Day and comes to an end the following Saturday. According to a letter written by Cameron Bailey, Co-director of TIFF, this is not the first time TIFF has conflicted with the High Holy Days. As Bailey explains in his letter sent to Bernie Farber, Canadian Jewish Congress CEO, TIFF must accommodate the scheduling of two other local and international film festivals. This, he said, was his reasoning behind why TIFF would regretfully not be able to change their dates.


 Is it TIFF’s responsibility to ensure a conflict-free schedule for its Jewish supporters? Jay Gobuty, a young film fest enthusiast, told Shalom Toronto, “I think it should be a consideration but there are also many more things a large festival has to think about when coming to a major city, including, permits, venue availability, etc.”


After a meeting between TIFF and CJC that was described as “cordial and welcoming,” Farber explained that he understands TIFF’s stringent scheduling with other international festivals. He told Shalom Toronto, “The dates are really cast in stone because there are international rules that center around international festivals… they don’t have a choice.” He echoes Gobuty, saying “The world can’t plan around the Jewish calendar.”


In spite of TIFF’s inability to change the festival’s dates, Farber said TIFF has “reassured the community that it would work to mitigate the problems short of changing the dates.” In order to mitigate the problem, TIFF has decided upon offering accommodative duplicate screenings of the films scheduled to be shown on the High Holy Days.


“They are friends of the Jewish community,” Farber explained. Last year, TIFF received a lot of controversy but held their ground when Tel Aviv’s films and filmmakers were spotlighted during the festival. Leftist groups, Palestinian organizations, and even some Hollywood actors, boycotted and protested against TIFF’s decision to celebrate the Israeli arts. TIFF believed this was a “stifling of expression” Farber explained.


Jewish filmgoers, though they may be disappointed with the scheduling conflict, should still support TIFF and all its accomplishments. After all, as Farber stated, Jewish filmgoers should “understand that these are our friends that have a situation and that our friends have done the best they could do for their friends.”

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