Locals prep to scout Toronto Film Festival for audiences in Cleveland

Believe it or not, there will be folks from northeast Ohio actually working when the 42nd Toronto International Film Festival starts to unreel its 10-day, cinematic smorgasbord Thursday night.

Of course, all three of the movie people we'll mention here are somehow affiliated with our Cleveland International Film Festival, which unveils its own 42nd annual event from April 4-15 next year.

Before any CIFF films are booked, however, intrepid staffers such as Mallory Martin, Cleveland's director of programming and projection, and Bill Guentzler, its artistic director, will be checking out movies all over the world.

Much of it actually begins at TIFF, which Guentzler has been attending for 17 years.

"Toronto, for us, is the first big major festival we attend and kicks off our fall travel season," he says. "Then, Mallory and I essentially will be traveling to other festivals through Thanksgiving. 

"I’m going to Vancouver, Ghent, Jihlava Documentary (in the Czech Republic), the Lübeck Nordic Festival and Cottbus (both in Germany) and, finally, Estonia's Tallinn Black Nights Festival."

Martin, meanwhile, will be attending something called "Fantastic Fest" in Austin, Tex., before giving herself a bit of international flavor by jetting off to festivals in Reykjavik, London and Amsterdam (for a documentary get-together).  

Both also will kick off 2018 at the chilly Sundance Film Festival in January.

"Even though we have been to a few festivals already this year, the movies we focus on seeing at TIFF are world premieres of international films," explains Martin, who is making her sixth straight trip to Toronto. "We tend to stay away from the Oscar-buzz, Hollywood films since most of them open up theatrically before our festival even starts. That means that specific titles we’re aiming to see probably won’t mean much to anyone right now."

Adds Guentzler: "We typically each see five-six films a day, and most days we also try to get to a reception or two to network with our colleagues. That makes for many really long hours for us, so a lot of coffee is a must."

On the other side of the scouting spectrum is Jonathan Forman, the actual founder of the Cleveland Film Festival and more recently the longtime president of Cleveland Cinemas, which operates almost 50 screens at seven theaters.

“As I no longer have any programming responsibilities with CIFF, I usually avoid the esoteric films that I know will find a good home at CIFF or at (the Cleveland) Cinematheque. That means I can concentrate on the others," he says.

"It seems hard to believe, but I have been attending TIFF for well over 30 years, and that's really because it is truly a great festival to view upcoming films of all kinds -- those that might be a good fit for festivals or specialized theaters like the Cedar Lee or Capitol, as well as prestigious Oscar-caliber films that will play in our more mainstream theaters."

Forman says he usually manages to see "somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 films" during the six full days he spends in Toronto each fall, while admitting that such a busy viewing schedule is not the best way to appreciate what are often some "very terrific" films.

"I always look forward to surprises," he says, "and find that I'm easily swayed to get out of the line for a film I've identified as being of interest when I see colleagues in other lines telling me why I should see what they're waiting to see."

Certainly, as this year's festival progresses, we hope get back to Forman, Guentzler and Martin to discover what surprises they actually did once again discover at TIFF.

Until then, we'll be searching, too. Already critics heading up north from this weekend's Telluride film soiree are singing the praises of first-time director Greta Gerwig's "Lady Bird," with young Saoirse Ronan in the lead role; "A Fantastic Woman," the transgender drama from Chilean writer/director Sebastian Lelio (who also has the English language "Disobedience," with the two Rachels, Weisz and McAdams, in Toronto); and "Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool," featuring Annette Bening as former Hollywood star Gloria Grahame.

Perhaps all four will be mentioned again here on Thursday -- TIFF opening day -- when we peek at what some friends and colleagues in Toronto are picking as the films to see there. In the meantime, check out www.tiff.net for more info on everything and anything film festival related. 

© 2017 WKYC-TV


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