TIFF’s new policy: only world and North American premieres can play the busiest days of the festival

TIFF’s new policy: only world and North American premieres can play the busiest days of the festival

The Toronto International Film Festival is such a big deal to locals that it’s easy for us to lose sight of the fact that it’s just one of many global film festivals, all of which are competing for the esteem of a mercurial industry. This week, things got a little cutthroat when it emerged that TIFF is imposing a new rule on filmmakers: if a movie has already played another North American festival before it comes to Toronto, it goes to the back of the line.

As first described by TIFF artistic director Cameron Bailey to Indiewire’s Anne Thompson, the policy is this: starting in 2014, films that don’t come to TIFF as genuine “world premieres” or “North American premieres” will no longer be eligible to screen on the first four days of the festival. Those opening days are the buzziest ones, so, essentially, TIFF has given filmmakers a choice: come to us first, or we’ll hobble your publicity machine. It’s an offer that some won’t be able to refuse.

Critics are interpreting the move as a reaction to the increasing prominence of Colorado’s Telluride Film Festival, which nabbed eventual Oscar nominees Inside Llewyn Davis and Nebraska out from under TIFF in 2013. Even some of the big-name films that did play at TIFF—like Best Picture nominee 12 Years a Slave—played to smaller audiences at Telluride first.

It makes sense that TIFF would use its size and prominence as leverage, but these tactics are called “hardball” for a reason. We hope Toronto doesn’t get a black eye.