The 26th Toronto International Film Festival
feature by Carrie Gorringe, 21 September 2001

Row upon row of grim-faced individuals clustered around every spare TV around Avenue Road, and Cumberland Terrace. The same individuals with their cells jammed more tightly to their ears than normal ("normal" being defined in the entertainment world as eighteen hours a day), making cell signals more valuable than the necklaces being sold at Bulgari's around the corner on Bloor Street. These are probably the most lasting images of this year's film festival. After Tuesday the eleventh, the festival became irrelevant, even to the staff; press screenings weren't cancelled that day until 2:00 p.m., possibly because those in charge were, understandably, so overwhelmed by grief that the idea that the festival should just cancel itself and not bother them in doing so was the best means of dealing with this overwhelming situation. Director Leon Ichaso rightfully cancelled the screening of his film, Piñero, some twenty-five minutes into the film (from the minor amount of footage made available to those of us in the audience, Benjamin Bratt's performance in the title role looks promising). Our presence in that theatre could presumably be attributed to thoughtlessness or indifference to the horrible events unfolding elsewhere, but many of us there (myself included) probably wanted nothing more than a temporary diversion from it all, an opportunity for recovery (after walking around in an emotional haze for two hours, doing something -- anything -- became an ever-increasing necessity), and a refusal -- however insignificant -- to allow terrorists any sort of victory.

For all of the wonderful cinematic moments at the 2001 Toronto International Film Festival, it will probably be remembered, unfortunately, more as a time of misery. Whether or not next year's festival will ever revert completely to its usual glitzy, insouciant (a.k.a. pre-September 11) self remains a question mark.

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