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True North: Thoughts As I Head to Canada for the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival

It has been over a year and a half since I was last on a plane. It has been well over two years since I’ve been out of the country. And yet, depending on when you’re reading this, both things are no longer true. Yes, while I’m writing this the night before (after having finished packing, barring whatever I’m inevitably forgetting), you may be reading this after I’ve already touched down in Canada. After a year and change of virtual film festivals, I’m in person at one again. For the next week, I’ll be at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival, diving headlong into some of the year’s most anticipated movies.

Rather than preview the fest, which Shane Slater did already here, I just wanted to talk more broadly about this event. For me, it’s a big deal in that it has me traveling again. Plus, it’s a reminder that this impending awards season won’t be quite like the nearly all virtual one we had last year. Are we ready? The film critic community, largely on the whole, seems to be. Society in general? That’s more of an open question. Especially here in the United States, the politicization and opposition to masks, vaccines, and basic human decency has been nothing short of appalling. To be sure, I wouldn’t have batted an eye if this was another virtual gathering. It’s not, though, so the name of the game is to be smart. Honestly, if I wasn’t running my own site, I don’t know that I’d be doing this. But I am, and I’m choosing to be excited yet smart about it all. I want to see some of Toronto in my downtime, since I’ve never seen the city, but I won’t be galavanting around mask-less. Responsible fun can still be fun.

Obviously, COVID still hangs a cloud on in-person gatherings, as you can tell from the prior paragraph. It’s just a fact of life. So, many of my colleagues are not coming up north and are attending virtually. Frankly, I planned on doing the same. Then, after some careful consideration, I opted to take a calculated risk, which this undoubtedly is. I’m fully vaccinated, still avoid unnecessary crowds, and have repeatedly tested negative for the virus. TIFF itself requires proof of vaccination and Canada itself mandates a negative COVID PCR test within 72 hours of my flight. So, I’m fairly safe, but it’s still a risk. Mostly, I just want to make it clear that I don’t begrudge anyone who isn’t comfortable yet. Press screenings here in New York and attending several baseball games this spring/summer have helped ease me back into things, but I’m doing it with eyes wide open, just know that.

Tomorrow, I’ll be kicking TIFF off with A Hero and the world premiere of Dear Evan Hanson. Other highlights during the festival that are on my schedule? Well, they include Belfast, Dune, The Humans, Last Night in Soho (pending a screening conflict being resolved), The Power of the Dog, Spencer, The Starling, The Survivor, and more. Sleep will be at a premium. Cinema, however, will be in abundance. That’s my true north, so with proper precautions in place, my Airbnb and flight await!

Be sure to check out Awards Radar for plenty of TIFF coverage. In addition to Shane, look for some reviews by Mitchell Beaupre (both of whom are attending virtually), aside from my own. So, coverage will be here, to be sure. It’s going to be quite a week, so sit tight…

Stay tuned for all of our coverage out of the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival!

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Written by Joey Magidson

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