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Toronto Film Festival Dailies

The  44th  Toronto  International  Film  Festival  runs  September  5–15,  2019 in Canada's most vibrant and exciting metropolis, it has become one of the most important film events on the festival calendar.

Showcasing more than 300 films and hosting industryites from around the world, Toronto can "make or break" films looking for international distribution and a chance at Oscar gold. From glitzy red carpet premieres to challenging art films to cutting edge new media, the Festival offers something for every taste.

Past Coverage 2014 2015 - Coverage 2016 in French   English


A Toronto Memory Of 9-11

Thursday, September 11--------For those of us whose memories of the events of 9-11 coincided with the Toronto International Film Festival, there are moments that forever link those great metropolitan cities. I was indeed in Toronto for my final days of the Festival in 2001.

I can remember the exact moment when I first heard about a plane crashing into one of the towers of the World Trade Center. I was in a taxicab with my colleague Malo Girod de l'Ain (whose company M21 Editions hosts both this site and when we heard a news report on the radio that a plane had struck the building. The first reports seemed to indicate that this was nothing more than a terrible accident. I have seen photos from a famous airplane crash that hit another iconic New York landmark, the Empire State Building, in the 1940s, and while it was indeed tragic, the immensity of what was actually happening had not yet been revealed.

At the meeting with a large Canadian media company, there were three of us sitting in a private office, which had a large television screen (with low sound). Although we were discussing business, one could see that everyone's eyes kept turning back to the television screen. When we suddenly heard a low rumble come over the television speakers, our discussion was cut short in mid-sentence, as all three of our eyes turned their attention to.....the sight of the first tower crumbling to the ground.

I will never forget that particular moment. I watched as if it was happening right in front of me, in slow motion. As a New Yorker, I knew only too well how many people could be in an office building of that size on a September business day. The news of a second plane hitting yet another tower revealed that this was no accident or random act of fate. This had been planned and was now being carried out in front of a worldwide audience.

Our meeting, of course, was called to a halt, and I felt the need to go back to the main film festival hq to find out what people knew about what was happening on the ground. The lobby of the Park Hyatt Hotel was sheer pandemonium, as people were trying to get information from their phones, their laptops and from the lone television set that had been brought in.

I remember seeing other media professionals from my city. We looked at each other with grave concern, and the questions were always the same: "Did you know anyone who worked in those buildings?"; "Have you heard from family and do you know they are safe?"; "Is there anything I can do for you to help you out?".

There was a great sense of community present, and even non-New Yorkers and people from other countries were visibily shaken and ready to sympathize with anyone with an American accent (oh, how that has changed.....). A press conference from the Festival staff was announced, and at it, Director Piers Handling stated that they would cancel all screenings for at least the next two days, to be mindful of what we now knew to be a major catastrophe. I don't know if any film festival that has had to confront such an agonizing and potentially financially onerous decision as that. The Festival staff were true princes that day, and expressed a concern for all the filmmakers and professionals who were visiting town that week.

For myself, I was scheduled to fly back to New York the following day. The grounding of all airplane travel for several days and the sheer difficulty of crossing the border made coming up with a new strategy of prime importance. I went to the concierge of my hotel, and told him that I needed to extend indefinitely, until I was assured that I could leave (we heard stories of people arriving at the airport, waiting for many hours and then finding out that their flights had been cancelled). Some people were contemplating taking a train or a bus, or even renting a car for the 10 hour trip back to New York....but the US/Canadian border was effectively closed and no planes, trains or buses were being allowed to come within 50 miles of New York City.

I will always remember the kindness of the hotel staff, the waiters at local restaurants and the people of Toronto, who, when they figured out that I was an American, felt a great need to share their own shock and grief and to offer emotional support. A monstrous act had created unity and concern, in its wake.

I don't want to bring up how that unity and international good will was squandered by President Bush and how after seven years, a plan to memorialize the victims at Ground Zero is still many years away. 9-11 was both an international and a very personal rite of passage. And for me, and many others in the New York media world, it forever links the cities of New York and Toronto.

Where were you when you first heard?

Sandy Mandelberger, Toronto FF Dailies Editor

Comments (1)

Unforgettable moments

As you so well described in your post, I will also never forget those incredible moments when we watched live what was happening in New York. Later in the Toronto streets, as probably in many cities around the world, I remember people gathering "en masse" in front of any billboard, screen displaying information, videos... hypnotised, trying to understand.



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Contributing editors: Bruno Chatelin 

Laurie Gordon Animaze International Film Festival Le Miaff!
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