Thank you, recession: this year’s free TIFF events are surprisingly wonderful

Thank you, recession: this year’s free TIFF events are surprisingly wonderful

Rock star Neil Young gives a free performance (Photo by F.A. Hernández) 

Synonymous with velvet ropes, lavish parties and celebrities whose annual income rivals the GDP of Palau, the Toronto International Film Festival has never been a particularly thrifty affair—until now. TIFF is getting recession friendly in ’09 by offering expanded free programming at Yonge-Dundas Square (the kind that so irked Rex Reed last year), not to mention some A-list celebrity appearances. “It’s been a tough year for everyone, so everyone deserves a bit of a break,” says festival managing director Michele Maheux. And judging by the press release, it’s good to see they’re not phoning it in with the freebies: planned events include appearances by Neil Young, George A. Romero, Joan Baez, Sapphire and many more. The full list, after the jump.

FREE EVENTS AT YONGE-DUNDAS SQUARE

The cast of the Canadian rock ’n’ roll vampire flick Suck put on a spotlight concert. Sept. 11, 6:30 p.m.

• Zombie kingpin George A. Romero will celebrate the premiere of his latest flick, George A. Romero’s Survival of the Dead, at the square, along with a free screening of his ’68 staple, Night of the Living Dead. The event starts at an un-terrifying hour, but undead enthusiasts can be found earlier at the zombie walk at Trinity Bellwoods Park, from where they’ll be making their way to the square (slowly, we imagine). Sept. 12, 3 p.m.

Oprah Watch ’09 continues when Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire (yep, that’s the official title) author Sapphire reads from her work. Sept. 12, 4 p.m.

• The Toronto Roller Derby League and the cast of Whip It will be making an appearance to plug both the film and the sport it portrays. Though their attendance isn’t confirmed, we’re banking on Drew Barrymore and Ellen Page making cameos. Sept. 13, 4 p.m.

The Topp Twins, “New Zealand’s top yodeling comedy duo,” will perform at an event hosted by Elvira Kurt. Sept. 13, 9 p.m.

Legendary singer Neil Young will be at the square for the North American premiere of The Neil Young Trunk Show. Director Jonathan Demme is hosting the event. Sept. 14, 8 p.m.

Free swing lessons and a concert put on by the Kings of Swing contribute to the promotion of the Russian musical Hipsters (be warned: the film is set in ’50s Soviet Russia, not at Wrongbar). Sept. 15, 7 p.m.

• The one and only Joan Baez performs. Sept. 19, 6 p.m.

FREE EVENTS ELSEWHERE

The festival’s Future Projections program includes the wonderfully weird Green Porno: Scandalous Sea with Isabella Rossellini. The actress dresses up in costumes to demonstrate the mating rituals of sea creatures. (To see her imitate the sexy earthworm, click here.) Royal Ontario Museum, 100 Queen’s Park Cir. Sept. 10 to 20.

Don McKellar’s installation at the Stephen Bulger Gallery, entitled Imaginary Lovers, deals with people’s fascination (and obsession) with the cellphone. Stephen Bulger Gallery, 1026 Queen St. W. Sept. 10 to 19.

• The Bell Lightbox won’t be ready until next year, but that isn’t stopping artists Jeremy Shaw, Marco Brambilla and Oliver Pietsch from projecting their interpretation of cinematic history—described as an “audiovisual baptism”—on the John Street side of the building in a continuous loop every night of the festival. Bell Lightbox (at King St. W. and John St.). Sept. 10 to 19.