Toronto

From rap battles to the Cinesphere getting its groove back, here's what's new at TIFF '17

As with every year at TIFF, you can expect an impressive celebrity roster, but along with the glitz and glamour there will also be a good helping of nostalgia, female empowerment and Canadiana.

Here are 5 things to watch out for at this year's festival

Since May, a crew of IMAX technicians has been retrofitting the old Ontario Place Cinesphere with a new screen and sound system to get it in shape for TIFF screenings. (Tina MacKenzie/CBC News)

As with every year at the Toronto International Film Festival, you can expect an impressive celebrity roster but along with the glitz and glamour, there will also be a good helping of nostalgia, female empowerment and Canadiana. 

Get your CanCon on 

Through a collaboration between TIFF, Library and Archives Canada, the Cinémathèque Québécoise and Cinematheque in Vancouver, all year, the best in Canadian animation, commercials and documentaries have been available at your fingertips to click through on TIFF's Canada On Screen digital catalogue

And it's not over yet.

The Canada On Screen programme culminates at the film festival with free screenings of acclaimed Canadian films including Rude, by Jamaican-born, Toronto-raised filmmaker Clement Virgo, Picture of Light, which is about the trials of capturing the aurora borealis on camera and I've Heard the Mermaids Singing, which has been described as a "watershed moment" in Canadian film.

The 1971 film "North Of Superior" will make a homecoming appearance at Cinesphere with a free screening 46 years after it premiered on that very IMAX screen.

A full list of the 150 Canadian features is available on the TIFF website.

Cinesphere makes a comeback

Aside from the odd private screening, the retro, spherical IMAX theatre at the old Ontario Place grounds has sat empty since 2012 when the park officially closed. After five years sitting mostly idle, the cavernous cinema is being re-opened this year for TIFF. 2:09
Aside from the odd private screening, the retro, spherical IMAX theatre at the old Ontario Place grounds has sat empty since 2012 when the park officially closed. 
IMAX delivered and installed a brand new, 24-metre by 18-metre state-of-the-art perforated screen this week. (Tina MacKenzie/CBC News)

After five years sitting mostly idle, the cavernous cinema was looking a little rough. 

When Jesse Wente, CBC contributor and head of TIFF Cinematheque, sat with other festival officials in the Cinesphere this winter, they felt "the breeze flow through," he said. 
Director Christopher Nolan's 'Dunkirk' will also be screened in 70 mm at the Cinesphere during TIFF. (Tina MacKenzie/CBC News)

But when North of Superior was included in the screening lineup this year, he thought the old space was the film's only worthy showcase.

"There are very few purpose-built theatres that were built specifically for IMAX globally." said the self-proclaimed movie-geek. 
An IMAX technician dusts off a piece of ventilation equipment inside the aging projector. (Tina MacKenzie/CBC News)

The film's aerial footage shot on IMAX cameras propels the viewing audience overtop sprawling wilderness with the same flying sensation it first did almost 50 years ago.

Although North of Superior has since been digitized, Wente said it was important to screen it in the original 70 mm format.

"It'll have celluloid running before bulb, projecting light through it and showing it up on the big screen," he said. 

"With North of Superior I would love for [the audience] to see the dawn of wide-screen format filmmaking."

But nostalgia is only part of the experience. Wente says Sunday's screening is also an opportunity to celebrate the Indigenous land not only in the film, but the very land Cinesphere stands on. ​
Jesse Wente, head of TIFF Cinematheque, says the film 'North of Superior' is best seen in it's original 70mm format, making Canada's original IMAX theatre, Cinesphere, the worthiest venue at the festival. (Tina MacKenzie/CBC NEWS)

"When we take these films from the past, I think it's interesting to reframe them in terms of the current climate and acknowledge the land and the peoples in ways we wouldn't have when these movies were originally made."

Shuttle buses will take movie-goers to the free Cinesphere screenings, which will include performances by Indigenous artists and a question and answer period with the filmmaker on the last day of the festival. 

Rap battle on King Street 
An image taken from the film 'Bodied,' written by Canadian rapper Alex Larsen, aka Kid Twist. (TIFF)

A stretch of King Street West shuts down again this year so it can be transformed into an interactive TIFF experience chock-full of food vendors, entertainment and, yes, plenty of selfie opportunities. 

But the focal point this year will be the stage at the corner of John Street and Wellington Street. which will be the scene of an epic rap battle between Toronto's own Alex Larsen, aka Kid Twist, and American battle rapper Madness. 

The lyrical showdown kicks off the premier of Bodied, described as "a satirical exploration of the world's most artistically brutal sport — battle rapping." 

Larsen wrote the screenplay for the film, which is directed by music video visionary Joseph Kahn, and produced by rapper Eminem. 

It all goes down on Thursday, Sept. 7 ahead of the Midnight Madness debut at Ryerson Theatre. 

Focus on female filmmakers

Every year, a star-studded fundraiser called the TIFF Soiree is held to raise money for future programming and exhibitions.

This year the proceeds from the swanky $350-$750 per-ticket event go toward the Share Her Journey campaign, aimed at boosting the careers of women filmmakers.
Priyanka Chopra will be the guest of honour at the TIFF Soiree, the festival's annual fundraiser. (Jordan Strauss/Invision/Associated Press)

Actor Priyanka Chopra will be the night's guest of honour and will head an on-stage discussion about her career and philanthropy. 

The goal is to eventually raise $3 million for the Share Her Journey campaign, which will provide production, networking and residency programs for emerging filmmakers.

Half of the films in this year's competitive lineup have female directors. 

Fewer films, venues

TIFF downsized its lineup by 20 per cent this year and, unlike previous years, there won't be any screenings at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema and the Isabel Bader Theatre. 

"Everything is a lot more concentrated in the King Street, Yonge Street corridors," explained Kerri Craddock, the festival's director of programming. 

"A piece of feedback we constantly heard from the international trade media, also our partners in the industry, was that there was often too much choice," she said. 

Among their criticism, Craddock said, was that it the festival was hard to get around.  

"It gives the films and filmmakers that are here a better experience in terms of finding their audience."