Britney. Bike shorts. Baggy T-shirts. The ’90s are so hot right now.
I was there. I started work as a seasonal programmer in the early ’90s for the Festival of Festivals, as TIFF was called back then. In Toronto, it was an era of huge cultural change. The children of immigrants who arrived in the city in the ’60s and ’70s had grown up, and they were being joined by new waves of newcomers from all over the world, but especially Asia. Immigrants were changing the city, including Queen Street’s art scene and the Yorkville social scene. Toronto movies began to meet that moment.
In 1992, I worked alongside David McIntosh and Geeta Sondhi to select films for the Festival’s Perspective Canada section. We found new films from emerging filmmakers like Ann Marie Fleming, Alfons Adetuyi, Helen Lee, and Clement Virgo. Our Canadian jurors that year included immigrant auteur Atom Egoyan; Cree-Métis documentarian Loretta Todd; and budding entrepreneur Hussain Amarshi, who went on to found film distributor Mongrel Media.
Elsewhere in the Festival, M. Night Shyamalan’s feature debut, Praying with Anger, Leslie Harris’s Just Another Girl on the I.R.T., and Barbara Hammer’s Nitrate Kisses each made their world premiere in Toronto. So did Bernard Rose’s Candyman. There were also spotlights on Iranian cinema and the actor-director Sylvia Chang.
All this is to say that 30 years ago, TIFF was making space for diverse voices in film. Our work has evolved a lot since then, but in the ’90s we were building a foundation of support for all filmmakers.
TIFF is still building the world of film we want to see: more open, more inclusive, more ready to meet a Toronto audience of limitless diversity. Every story has a place, and that’s why we launched our Every Story fund last year.
Every Story is TIFF’s commitment to challenging the status quo, celebrating diversity, and creating opportunities for equity-seeking creators and audiences.When you donate to Every Story, we’re able to provide free tickets and opportunities to film lovers in your community, and provide training and talent development to filmmakers. In fact, this year we have our first-ever cohort of Every Story Fellows in our renowned Filmmaker Lab — all thanks to supporters like you.
Meanwhile, Virgo premieres his seventh feature film at TIFF ’22 ― another highlight in a career that also includes award-winning work in television series, including The Book of Negroes, and Greenleaf with Oprah Winfrey. He started as a talented young filmmaker with no social privileges to help him get ahead. Our job then, as now, was to identify that talent and bring it to the world. With your help and your support of Every Story, that goal is more achievable than ever.
That’s still our mission every year at the Festival — transformation. Expanding the range of perspectives we present ― and the rewards those perspectives deliver for our audience ― helps us transform the way we see our world.
There are still some things to learn from the ’90s.