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TIFF 23 - Tips from a First-time Goer to Another

TIFF 23 - Tips from a First-time Goer to Another

By Camila Nakamura 

This year I had the opportunity to attend the Toronto International Film Festival for the first time. Running over a week in the beginning of September, the festival brings a solid and diverse lineup with Canadian and international films, shorts and documentaries.  

Such a diverse lineup makes the experience accessible and enjoyable for everyone: I saw both older and younger people, Canadians and foreigners, solo attendees and friend groups on a fun outing; movie buffs with carefully planned schedules, and casual enjoyers. 

Overall, the energy there is amazing. Maybe it is because of people united in one place to celebrate art, or maybe it is the volunteers who contribute to a super welcoming environment. 

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Here are some of my insights from my experience and some tips for those who want to attend it next year, followed by some short reviews of the films I had the chance to see. 


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Keep an eye on the dates

One mistake I made was not getting my tickets as soon as they were put on sale. I was travelling then, so I completely forgot about getting them, and when I went to check later, most of the movies I wanted to see were sold out. So, put a reminder on your calendar and try to get the tickets as soon as possible, especially if you are looking at premieres or screenings with the filmmakers. 

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Get a free TIFF membership

If you are under 25 years old you can get it on their website, and not only does it give you access to many screenings at the Bell Lightbox throughout the year, but it also gives you discounts and even free tickets for selected screenings at the festival. In fact, I was given tickets for two movies because of my membership.

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Stay open minded

If you are not able to get the tickets you want, don’t give up on the festival completely. I made the mistake of not checking for other screenings after I couldn’t get the movies I wanted and deeply regretted it later. Those two screenings I got for free were for movies totally out of my radar that ended up being pleasant surprises that left me with the impression that I should’ve approached the festival more open to films I wouldn’t normally see.

Film Reviews

Solo: A Domestic Hidden Gem 

The first one, Solo, was voted Best Canadian Film at the festival. I got last minute free tickets for it, so I went in not knowing what to expect. Set in the contemporary Québécois drag scene, it is the story of a turbulent romance between Simon and Olivier - the latter, a newly arrived drag performer. It is a very intriguing story that has the main characters’ drag musical numbers as a central point. These scenes are beautifully crafted, very energetic and with impressive cinematography. On top of that, Théodore Pellerin and Félix Maritaud, who play the main characters, make an excellent job in portraying an intense and complicated relationship.  

Pictures of Ghosts: Cinema Paradiso (Kleber’s Version) 

The second one, Pictures of Ghosts, was one I was excited to see. It is a beautiful documentary by director Kleber Mendonça Filho (most known for Bacurau) that celebrates the cinemas in his hometown, Recife, in Brazil. It is a film made from footage Mendonça found in old cameras of his and some archival images, accompanied by his own narration. His personal touch and brilliant storytelling and editing bring to life the places he portrays in a very engaging manner that make the spectator feel nostalgia for a time and place they might have never heard about before. In the end, more than a study about the city and its cinemas, the film is an homage to them, a eulogy even. 

Long Live Montero: Your Average Musician Doc 

The last one I saw was the Lil Nas X documentary, Long Live Montero. I am unfamiliar with most of his work other than mainstream hits, but I ended up going to the screening since it was free. It is a typical musician documentary that follows the artist as they embark on a tour while taking some time to tell their story, from their rise to fame to struggles in the personal and professional life. As with many musician documentaries, I feel like this was directed at fans who closely follow his work. So, coming from someone who is clearly not the target audience, I think it is an average film, nothing too innovative, but it conveys a wholesome message and offers some insight into who Lil Nas X is. 

The End

By now you can probably already tell I really enjoyed the festival and would certainly recommend it to anyone – both movie aficionados and those who go to the movies every now and then. As I mentioned earlier, the careful curation of the lineup guarantees something interesting for everyone, as opposed to movie theatres throughout the year, which are typically dominated by blockbusters whose main interest lies in the box office. 

Film festivals will still feature a few somewhat popular films from famous directors for those who want to “play it safe”, but there is also a space for new and independent artists to share their work without the box office pressure. This allows the more adventurous public to find different and often innovative ways of making movies, which, in my opinion, is what keeps the art alive. 

Camila Nakamura headshot

My name is Camila, and I am a second-year student, majoring in Law & Society. I was born and raised in São Paulo, Brazil, and moved to Toronto at the end of 2022. In my free time, I like playing the piano, and exploring the city, but my favourite thing to do is watching movies. I am passionate about cinema, so you’ll probably see me talking a bit about that here!

I have always enjoyed writing because the process of finding the words to communicate a thought and organizing them is very fun, so I am glad that I found the LA&PS Voices at York, to keep doing an activity I am really interested in.

— Camila Nakamura