Bailey new co-director of Toronto Film Fest

Cowan departs post to run Bell Lightbox

TORONTO -- The Toronto International Film Festival on Wednesday continued to shake up its leadership, with festival co-director Noah Cowan leaving to become artistic director of Bell Lightbox, the festival's future year-round home.

Cowan, who was the festival co-director for four years, will be replaced by longtime Toronto programmer Cameron Bailey effective Jan. 1.

Bailey, who most recently selected films from Africa, south Asia and the Philippines, will oversee the overall programming and operations at the annual September festival, working alongside Piers Handling, who continues as festival co-director.

Handling, who also is CEO of the Toronto International Film Festival Group, said Cowan's appointment as artistic director of Bell Lightbox fills a vacuum left when former British Film Institute head of exhibition Jim Hamilton decided to return to Britain.

Hamilton joined the festival in 2006 with an eye to directing its year-round festival home when it opened as then planned in late 2008. But a series of delays has pushed the launch of Bell Lightbox to 2010.

Handling said he was as surprised as anyone when Cowan, his presumed successor as CEO, stepped forward to express interest in replacing Hamilton.

"The Toronto festival is established and difficult to move in a new direction," Handling said. "But Bell Lightbox is a fresh new idea where (Cowan) can make his impression."

He added that Cowan's appointment is a signal that the industry should begin taking Bell Lightbox more seriously as it aims to become an international focus for the history and future of cinema.

Once it opens its doors, Bell Lightbox will comprise five theaters requiring year-round programming and include educational, exhibition and film collection activities.

Handling said it was "premature" to assume that Bailey will succeed him. As things stand, Handling insists that he's not going anywhere.

"This is one of the best jobs in the world," he said. "I can see myself living out the rest of my career as CEO of the Toronto International Film Festival Group, and certainly as long as I'm totally energized by the job."

This month, the festival said that Giulia Filippelli, head of Toronto's sales and industry office, was leaving after three years in the post (HR 12/22).

Festival organizers said that Filippelli, now based in London, was stepping down "due to personal reasons" and will be replaced by longtime deputy Stefan Wirthensohn.