Charity Spotlight: September 4th marks the beginning of the 39th annual Toronto International Film Festival. But there’s more to TIFF than the glitz and glam of red carpet events. TIFF is using the power of film to change lives. This post was provided by Spencer Butt and Elysse Leonardas part of our ongoing Charity Spotlight Series.
Founded in 1976, TIFF has always been dedicated to presenting the best of international and Canadian cinema to film lovers. What began as a ten-day film festival has grown to embrace programming 365 days a year. TIFF offers screenings, lectures, discussions, festivals, workshops, industry support and the chance to meet filmmakers from Canada and around the world.
With audiences driving our programming, and accessibility a constant consideration, TIFF has developed several initiatives that address barriers of participation in our programming, two of which – Special Delivery and Reel Comfort – we are particularly proud to highlight for the opportunities they provide in the fields of health & wellness, youth engagement and community development.
These two initiatives—delivered at no-cost to participants—are supported entirely by the generosity of film lovers and donors like you.
Health & Wellness
TIFF’s Reel Comfort programme brings the festival experience to inpatient psychiatric units and community health and wellness centers in and around Toronto. This year, the programme has expanded to Mount Sinai Hospital (Inpatient Psychiatry) on an ongoing basis; we have also partnered with Sunnybrook Hospital (Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Department), Baycrest, and the North York Seniors Centre on individual, specialized events.
TIFF staff work closely with local filmmakers, community partners, and healthcare practitioners to develop programming tailored to the unique needs and interests of participants. Popular screenings have included Singin’ in the Rain (1952), Pina (2011), and a selection of silent shorts with live piano accompaniment. Whenever possible, screenings are followed by a discussion with the filmmaker or a relevant subject expert, moderated by a TIFF staff member. Monthly filmmaking workshops enable participants to build upon the knowledge they gain during screenings, encompassing many facets of filmmaking—stop-motion animation, screenwriting, special effects make-up, sound design (“foley”) and more.
Most importantly, Reel Comfort provides a creative outlet to patients who often have very few therapeutic and recreational activities available to them, and serves to strengthen better relationships between healthcare providers, patients, artists, and the wider community. Reel Comfort was developed in 2007 in partnership with Toronto General Hospital, and thanks to donations made to TIFF, has now expanded to many other sites.
Youth Engagement & Community Development
Since 2002, TIFF’s Special Delivery programme has reached over 14,000 youth in the Greater Toronto Area, with a focus to bringing workshops and film screenings directly into underserved communities . The Special Delivery team works closely with community organizers to support and develop the film experience most relevant to the participating youth, whether that is a film screening and discussion about an important social/cultural issue, or a workshop that provides opportunity for creative expression. By connecting youth with industry professionals, young people are able to gain new skills, explore potential career paths and just get excited about film.
Some of our more popular workshops as of late have provided hands-on opportunities in animation, green screen technology and deadline driven film production via our popular session “How To Make a Film-In-A-Day”. Recent screening events in Thorncliffe Park, Lawrence Heights and Regent Park, among others, have prompted feelings of empowerment for young people who are seeing themselves and their experiences represented in film, and leading to rich conversation and dialogue that great films are known to provoke. Special Delivery is delivered for free to participants thanks to the generous support of TIFF donors.
As all cinema fans know, films can transport you to another world when you need an escape, and can also help you see your own world in a new way. They encourage conversation and allow us to explore topics we may not otherwise feel comfortable discussing. Having a creative outlet can go a long way towards assisting those who have difficulty expressing their thoughts and feelings. By providing free film screenings, filmmaker visits, and hands-on film-craft workshops through these two programmes TIFF hopes to create new opportunities for education, recreation and self-expression for those who need it most. As just two of TIFF’s community outreach initiatives, Special Delivery and Reel Comfort demonstrate TIFF’s commitment to reaching all audiences, regardless of circumstance. The more people we can reach the better, as it is a truly rewarding experience to witness the transformative power of film through the eyes of our participants.