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TIFF: International, and Canadian too

Glitz, glamour and a red carpet that gets longer every year. The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) never fails to draw Hollywood heavyweights, stargazers and paparazzi. But for all its star power and industry panache, right from its early days as the Festival of Festivals, it was the films and wildly enthusiastic audiences which made TIFF the most widely attended film festival in the world. CBC Archives looks back at the growth of Toronto's little festival that could.

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Films from more than 20 countries are slated for the growing Festival of Festivals, but Canadian flicks get top billing too. Don Shebib's Heartaches and Ralph Thomas's Ticket to Heaven will both get the gala treatment, and the controversial pornography documentary Not a Love Story is set to premiere in a special showcase series. "The quality of the productions are superb," festival honcho Wayne Clarkson tells CBC News. "They will compete with the best the world can produce." 
• From the outset, organizers saw the festival as a vehicle to nurture the production and profile of Canadian film. They programmed both new and classic works by Canadians in prestige time slots. Audiences responded well immediately, making Richard Benner's Outrageous a hit at the 1977 festival and helping to propel Ira Wohl's 1979 film Best Boy to an Oscar. In 1984, the festival cemented its commitment to Canadian cinema by formally launching the Perspective Canada program, and presenting its inaugural list of top ten Canadian movies.

Not a Love Story, directed by Bonnie Sherr Klein, caused a stir throughout the festival. Dubbed an "NFB 'porn film'" in one Globe and Mail headline, the documentary intersperses interviews with explicit clips of pornography to make its argument that porn degrades women. Despite the festival's request for an additional showing to meet the demand of movie goers, the Ontario Film Censorship Board granted just one showing.

• A young R.H. Thompson starred in Ticket to Heaven. It was one of his earliest film roles.

• The People's Choice Award for the 1981 went to Chariots of Fire, which premiered at the festival. The buzz generated by the audience's overwhelming vote of approval put the British drama into the spotlight and helped it secure the Academy Award for Best Picture. In 1983, a quirky American film took its lead from Chariots and also sought to premiere at Toronto. The Big Chill also won the People's Choice Award and became a runaway hit with three Oscar nominations that year.

Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: Sept. 10, 1981
Guest(s): Wayne Clarkson
Reporter: Russ Patrick
Duration: 2:24
Film footage from Ticket to Heaven courtesy CFDC, Threshold courtesy Canada Permanent Trust, Heartaches courtesy CFDC, Not a Love Story - A Film About Pornography courtesy NFB Canada

Last updated: August 23, 2013

Page consulted on July 30, 2014

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