One of the highlights of the Toronto Film Festival for me this year was the lovely, lovely tribute to Roger and Martin Scorsese that TIFF named, “The Ebert Dinner.” It was an elegant, intimate affair hosted in honor of Roger’s passion for film and his impact on the festival. Cameron Bailey, the Artistic Director of TIFF, expertly handled the details and welcomed everyone warmly before Piers Handling, the Festival Director, set the stage for the night with a brief recap of the festival’s earlier years.
Dusty Cohl, Bill Marshall and Henk Van der Kolk started what would become the Toronto International Film Festival in 1976. Real estate developer John Daniels and his wife Myrna wrote the first check to make the festival possible. And when TIFF was looking to build its permanent home, the Daniels Corporation stepped in once again to help.
A key event in TIFF history was the night that Roger and Gene Siskel invited Martin Scorsese to accept an award. No one knew at that time that it would be a turning point, both for the Festival, and for Scorsese.
Roger started as a film critic at the Chicago Sun-Times in 1967, the same year Marty made his first feature film, “Who’s That Knocking At My Door.” Roger praised him as the American Fellini. Marty said he carried that review with him to Europe the next year and frequently took it out of his pocket to marvel at it. I was happy to present Marty with a Golden Thumb that Roger wanted to present to him previously.
"Roger was one of the first and most vocal champions of our festival. We loved welcoming him and Chaz back every year. I want the Ebert Dinner to honour the passion for movies that Roger represented and to celebrate the very best minds and hearts in cinema. We're deeply thankful to Martin Scorsese for accepting the Ebert Dinner's first honour and look forward to starting a new tradition with Chaz."
On Wednesday night, September 10th, Scorsese returned to the Toronto Film Festival after 30 years and was greeted by top Canadian directors, David Cronenberg (here with "Maps to the Stars") and Atom Egoyan ("The Captive").
Here's a picture of TIFF's dynamic duo, Cameron Bailey and Piers Handling...
MICHAEL BARKER, Co-President of Sony Pictures Classics, gave Scorsese a tip on a film short he thought Marty should see. Sony Pictures Classics brought nine dynamic films to the festival: "Foxcatcher"; "Red Army"; "Whiplash"; "Mr. Turner"; "Leviathan"; "Wild Tales"; "Coming Home"; "Merchants of Doubt"; and "Infinitely Polar Bear." Below Michael and Tom Bernard are with the "Foxcatcher" cast: Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo and Steve Carell.
The luminous actresses Patricia Clarkson and Sandra Oh graced us with their presence. See Patricia Clarkson's interview by Susan Wloszczyna on her TIFF films "October Gale" and "Learning to Drive" here.
I really love their joy in this photo...
Power moguls Ivan Fecan and Sandra Faire (both here with "Riot Club").
Another of our treasured guests was George Anthony, Producer, CBC.
We also welcomed Col Needham, Founder of IMDb.com. Here we are at The Creative Coalition Spotlight Initiative Awards, where Col was honored.
BARRY AVRICH, Director:
"The Ebert dynasty continued at one of the most intimate and commemorative dinners I have ever attended. The ensemble of Canadian who's who and memorable toasts from uber legend Martin Scorsese made this dinner a TIFF highlight."
Barry and his daughter Sloan co-produced the nine-minute film, "Red Alert," which premiered this year at TIFF. Also pictured is Melissa Avrich.
Sloan and her interviewer gave the camera a "thumbs up."
BRIAN TALLERICO, Managing Editor and Film Critic at RogerEbert.com:
"It was remarkable and somewhat overwhelming to feel the lasting impact of Roger's legacy in Mr. Scorsese's speech and at every table at the Ebert Dinner. One wonders if Roger had any idea how impactful that tribute would have been 32 years ago, as it not only inspired Martin to keep going but, in doing so, changed film history. And the reason Roger Ebert honored Martin Scorsese was a simple one--he thought his art deserved it. People often diminish the role of the film critic in the artistic process, but the anniversary of Roger and Gene's tribute to Martin Scorsese reminds one how important and essential art appreciation can be. The film festival itself, the artists at the dinner this year, the producers & critics, and, as so movingly detailed in 'Life Itself,' Martin Scorsese himself--we all felt the ripple effect of that tribute. And we still feel its inspirational power today."
SCOTT FOUNDAS, Chief Film Critic, Variety:
"The most joyous celebration of cinema I witnessed during this year's Toronto Film Festival occurred not in a screening room, but rather a dining room -- the Malaparte dining room of the Bell Lightbox complex, to be exact, where the festival hosted a tribute dinner in memory of the late Roger Ebert. It was a joyous coming together of filmmakers, critics, programmers and other movie-mad fellow travelers who were touched, in some unforgettable way, by Roger and his mammoth legacy. Chief among them: a visibly moved Martin Scorsese, who received a 'Golden Thumb' statuette from Chaz Ebert and who spoke eloquently about Roger's impact on his career, especially the career tribute Roger organized in Toronto more than 30 years earlier, at a particular low point in Scorsese's personal and professional lives. Looking around the room at this extraordinary gathering, I knew that somewhere Roger was gazing down on us, thumbs pointed approvingly up, beaming."
ERIC KOHN, Chief Film Critic and Senior Editor at IndieWire:
"Tonight I screened 'Life Itself' for my NYU students. Unsurprisingly, many of them were teary-eyed by the end. The movie tells a great story, but it's enhanced by the awareness that the story continues. Revisiting the film in the context of last week's dinner at TIFF, I discovered a hidden nugget of emotion associated with Martin Scorsese's relationship to Roger's support: Marty needed an advocate, and found the best possible one. When I spoke briefly to him at the dinner, I could tell that he remains dubious of many critics working today for one main reason: They aren't Roger. The Golden Thumb that he received at the dinner summed it all up -- more than a critic, Roger was an expert at celebrating talent. Just as Marty needed Roger, so too did Roger need Marty and others like him. He thrived on likeminded cinephiles and, as a result, kept the talent close."
"It was a terrific sendoff for the first Roger Ebert Awards Dinner, with the presentation of the "Golden Thumb" to a deserving party. All of us who knew a little of the history of Roger and Marty had to really appreciate the significance of the evening.....if only Roger were there! This is so appropriate a manner with which to celebrate and honor Roger's support and love for our festival."
Below are Yanka Van der Kolk, Myrna Daniels, Henk Van der Kolk and John Daniels.
John Daniels, Martin Scorsese, Chaz Ebert and Myrna Daniels.
HELGA STEPHENSON and Wayne Clarkson headed the festival for many years and welcomed accomplished filmmakers such as Denise Robert, Oscar-winning producer of "The Barbarian Invasions," and wife of Deny Arcand (both here with "An Eye for Beauty").
Below is a picture of Atom Egoyan, his wife, actress Arsinée Khanjian, Cameron Bailey and his wife, Carolynne Hew, Producer at CBC Radio.
Martin Scorsese and his "Shutter Island" star Patricia Clarkson.
And a good time was had by all.
All photos from the Ebert Dinner are courtesy of George Pimental.