TORONTO — The Toronto International Film Festival has a permanent home, TIFF Bell Lightbox, thanks to filmmaker Ivan Reitman, his sisters Agi Mandel and Susan Michaels and builder Jack Daniels.
Toronto International Film Festival has a new home at TIFF Bell Lightbox
TIFF Bell Lightbox, which will show films year-round, opens Sept. 12 at King and John streets. It took more than three years to build, however, the project dates back 10 years, when the festival was looking for a home.
“The story behind this is inspirational,” says Noah Cowan, TIFF Bell Lightbox artistic director. “The Reitman family had a parcel of land at King and John streets in downtown Toronto and felt it was time to do something with it because the city had developed around it.
“Ivan was thankful to his parents, Leslie and Clara, for supporting him in a lifetime of artistic endeavour. Immigrant Jewish families of that age weren’t keen on their kids going into the arts, but Ivan’s parents were supportive of his desire to be a film director,” says Cowan.
“Ivan wanted to recognize his parents’ commitment and inspire Toronto’s immigrant parents to support their children’s visions. Ivan’s family and Jack Daniels approached us to see if we’d be interested in working with them, and that was the beginning of a beautiful relationship.”
The land for TIFF Bell Lightbox, valued at more than $22 million, is a gift from the
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Reitman family and the Daniels Corporation, who form the King and John Festival Corporation.
“There was this bashert between the two groups,” says Michèle Maheux, the festival’s executive director and chief operating officer.
“Jack Daniels wrote the first philanthropic cheque of $25,000 to our organization in its first year, 1976. When nobody was stepping up to the plate, not even the city, Jack literally got our organization off the ground.”
The Toronto International Film Festival’s new five-storey film complex designed by KPMB architects consists of a three-storey atrium, five cinemas with more than 1,300 seats, two galleries, three learning studios, a centre for students and scholars, restaurants and a lounge and the festival’s offices.
On weekends, family activities, such as costume designing for children and filmmaking workshops for teens, will be offered. Every Friday, university film students will attend classes given by film experts.
Essential Cinema, the festival’s first major exhibition, is based on its list of essential 100 films considered the most influential movies of all time.
Film screenings of the top 100 begin Sept. 23 and go to the end of December. Special events connected to these films include lectures by filmmakers, concerts and commissioned work.
The free-to-the-public installation opens Sept. 12 and runs to Oct. 23. It consists of objects and images from the history of cinema, as well as contemporary artwork from or inspired by the festival’s essential 100 list, including Roberto Benigni’s Life Is Beautiful, Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List and Alain Resnais’ Night and Fog.
“We’ve found select items and photographs from these three films that will resonate in a special way with Jewish audiences. There are objects from Life Is Beautiful that the child in the film plays with,” says Cowan, the former co-director of TIFF.
“We also have special images from Night and Fog, a remarkable documentary. [It is] the first film that went back to Auschwitz to look at the site soon after the war, and is considered one of the most harrowing documentaries ever.
“We have never before seen photographs of how they reconstructed the train tracks within Auschwitz, which certainly elicited a very unnerving and unsettled reaction from me, as a Jew, seeing this site recreated. On the other hand, it shows without film and its power, maybe our memories of these historical tragedies wouldn’t be quite as present.”
For a calendar of events, visit http://tiff.net/tiffbelllightbox.