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Wow! Is the best way to describe the Toronto International Film Festival. I’ve attended lots of major festivals including Sundance, Telluride, SXSW, Tribeca and the New York Film Festival, but this one beats them all for providing an all-around enjoyable experience. Sunny, breezy weather and easy to access venues beat freezing while waiting for a shuttle bus in Park City.

An easy ticketing process, comfortable screening venues, networking parties with free drinks and a comfortable industry lounge created an extremely pleasant atmosphere for both industry reps and the film-loving public. Three thousand orange-shirted volunteers were eager to help you find your way around town. Everyone I met in line or at a party was in a good mood, eager to talk and happy to be there.

WIP members were there, including Valerie Steinberg, whom I bumped into at the SXSW party. Jessica Caldwell was there supporting best friend and collaborator Rebecca Thomas' project and TV show premiere, Limetown, which stars Jessica Biel and Stanley Tucci. Eve Pomerance was there with her project Sweethearts. Maya Korn was assisting Can Turedi's The Archer. Lauren Avinoam, WIP’s festival chair, a busy festival publicist, was also in attendance. I was there with female students from the Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema, where I am an adjunct professor. Unfortunately, we were too busy making connections and watching great films to all get together.

Photo of Jane Applegate (Chair, Events and Media Outreach, WIP) and WIP Member Valerie Stenberg

Photo of WIP Members Jane Applegate and Valerie Steinberg.

Films about strong women were a highlight at TIFF19. I loved Harriet, a spectacular biopic about slave-turned-abolitionist, Harriet Tubman, co-written and directed by Kasi Lemmons. All my favorite French actresses were featured in two lovely films worth seeing as soon as they hit theaters: The Truth, features Catherine Deneuve as the egotistical movie star mother of Juliet Binoche. At 76, Deneuve is still beautiful and formidable on screen. Binoche was her perfect self. Ethan Hawke played her loser husband. He just played himself and dialed in a mediocre performance.

Ira Sachs’ new family drama, Frankie, features an ensemble cast led by Isabelle Hubbert, who joined Sachs on stage for the premiere in Toronto. Marisa Tomei, Brendan Gleeson and Greg Kinnear joined a cast of young actors in this intimate, quiet family drama film shot in Portugal. The film, which debuted at Cannes, is Hubbert’s first English-language film since Heaven’s Gate in 1980. The floor-length, metallic dress she wore on stage was stunning.

Photo of Lauren Avinoam (WIP Chair of Festivals) with Maxine Bailey

Photo of WIP Member Lauren Avinoam with Maxine Bailey (of TIFF & Share Her Journey) attending the reception for Ebs Burnough’s THE CAPOTE TAPES.

Two of my favorite actors, Liam Neeson and Lesley Manville, starred in a sentimental tear jerker, Ordinary Love, co-directed by Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn. If you love those actors, bring some tissues and see the film.

Rather than fly to Toronto, I drove up to TIFF with Lisa Resnik, founder of the Film Society of Summit and her husband, Dan. I met up with several of my former students from the Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema thanks to an academic discount provided by TIFF.

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