The Toronto International Film Festival has been, in recent years, at the forefront of efforts to expand diversity in film. The festival itself has taken pains to ensure that its selection of films represents a variety of voices, one that members of the press given access to the event are varied as well. Women directors were promoted as early as 1973, when the festival held a Women and Film public event and continues with films, panel discussions, and the ambitious five-year campaign called Share Her Journey; while the 2020 festival included not only films that represented multiple cultures and races, but hard-hitting panel discussions on the barriers to inclusion in the film industry.
This year, TIFF’s Inclusion Initiative will include not only the usual thoughtful film selection and informational panels but also a series of talent development programmes, including the TIFF Filmmaker Lab, the TIFF Talent Accelerator, TIFF Rising Stars, and the TIFF Micki Moore Residency, aimed at new and prospective filmmakers.
One of the festival’s senior directors, Geoff Macnaughton, comments: “Removing barriers for creators, storytellers, and performers so they can continue developing their voice and realising their vision is a key part of TIFF’s mission,” he said, noting that the new programmes “provide carefully curated labs, access to resources, and financial support to help accelerate the careers of filmmakers, screenwriters, and actors refining their craft in tangible ways.”
The Filmmaker Lab provides an intensive learning experience for a select twenty new film directors, who will have access to private sessions with established filmmakers. This year’s panel of instructors includes director/actor Ramin Bahrani (Farenheit 451, 99 Homes); veteran film crew member Miranda Harcourt; writer/director Sanjay Sharma (National Treasure, The Game of Murder); and writer/director Tracey Deer (Beans, Mohawk Girls). Guest speakers will include well known directors Mia Hansen-Love and Edgar Wright, among others.
The festival’s Talent Accelerator is a year-long development experience for female filmmakers, whose participants will receive fellowship funding sponsored by Netflix; while the Micki Moore Residency is aimed at women screenwriters, and provides a ten-week residency, mentorship with a script consultant, and $3,000 toward developing her screenwriting project. The Rising Stars programme offers professional development sessions to up-and-coming actors.
Finally, Tiff’s Media Inclusion Initiative offers a programme for 45 emerging journalists, described to the festival press as having been “developed with the objective of creating a more balanced and representative press corps” by “breaking down the barriers for press from equity-seeking groups including women, Black people, Indigenous people…persons with disability, and members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community” seeking to cover the festival.
For established members of the film industry, TIFF offers a series of sessions with prominent individuals who are able to speak to finding new pathways in film. This year’s panel includes, among others, director and activist Sahraa Karimi, the first woman to chair the state-run Afghan Film (and who recently fled with her family from the Afghan capital into Ukraine, an event she plans to use as the basis for a film); and cinematographer Greig Fraser (Dune (2021), Lion, Vice, Let Me It, Foxcatcher).