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An Oral History of TIFF

Movie buffs and festivalgoers interested in learning more about the legacy of the Toronto International Film Festival are advised to check out Will Sloan's excellent article, "An Oral History of TIFF," published September 10th at

The article compiles interviews with such key TIFF figures as Piers Handling, festival director and CEO; Henk Van der Kolk, co-founder; Bill Marshall, co-founder; Helga Stephenson; former festival director; Kay Armatage, programmer; Noah Cowan, Lightbox artistic director; Colin Geddes, programmer; Elizabeth Muskala, director of TIFF Kids; Andrea Picard, Wavelengths programmer; George Anthony, former Toronto Sun entertainment editor; Liam Lacey, former Globe and Mail film critic; Adam Nayman, film critic; Adam Vaughn, Toronto City Councilor for Ward 20; and Chaz Ebert, publisher of

The sprawling essay is divided into eight sections: Beginnings; Programs and Programmers; The Oscar; The Movies; The Lightbox; The Institution; The City; and Identity. Here is the introduction:

In 1976, business partners Bill Marshall, Henk Van der Kolk, and Murray “Dusty” Cohl founded the “Festival of Festivals” in an effort to boost the Canadian film industry. In that first year, festival highlights included a retrospective of the New German Cinema and a 90-second preview of Dino De Laurentiis’ "King Kong." To say that the annual event–renamed the Toronto International Film Festival in 1994–has grown would be something of an understatement.

From "The Big Chill" and "Slumdog Millionaire" all the way to "Score: A Hockey Musical," the Toronto International Film Festival has become the sort of event that can change a movie’s destiny. With the opening of the TIFF Bell Lightbox in 2010, it became the sort of arts institution that impacts Toronto’s arts and culture scene year-round. And year after year, the festival has consistently ranked as Toronto’s biggest source of international media coverage. Perhaps you’ve heard of it?

On September 10, the Toronto International Film Festival launches its 40th instalment with the gala premiere of Jean-Marc Vallée’s "Demolition." Before the festival, we spoke to many of its founders, programmers, executives, and participants about the festival’s plucky origins, breakout films, and its impact on Toronto.

Click here to read the full article at

Chaz Ebert's late husband, iconic film critic Roger Ebert, played a crucial role in championing the festival's crucial role in the annual calendar of cinematic events. Here's an excerpt of Chaz's reflections: 

“Even TIFF itself has given Roger credit for being the first person in the world to announce the festival the most important festival in North America, and the second most important in the world after the Cannes Film Festival. I remember the year he made that announcement, oh my god, it was kind of controversial, because people weren’t thinking of it that way. Now, of course, everybody knows how important TIFF is, but at the time he made that announcement, people were like, ‘What? What about Berlin? What about the New York Film Festival? What about Venice?’ Roger said, ‘This is my pronouncement, and I stand by it.’”

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