Toronto festgoers will experience increased security measures this year in the wake of two recent deadly terror attacks on crowds in the city.
“We’re responding to new realities, and that includes incidents that have happened in Toronto,” Cameron Bailey, TIFF artistic director, told The Hollywood Reporter. Bailey was not specific about new measures that he said are being taken to “make sure we’re preventing any possibility of threats to our audience.”
Toronto is tightening its security in response to twin terror incidents in local neighborhoods. The first massacre in April saw a Canadian man charged with murder after allegedly driving his rented van onto a crowded north Toronto sidewalk and killing 10 people.
In the second attack, a gunman in late July died after fatally shooting two people and injuring an additional 13 in Greektown, along the city’s Danforth Avenue.
But Sol Bondy, a producer of The Most Beautiful Couple, which has its world premiere at TIFF on Sept. 10 at the Scotiabank Theater, and a producer of HBO’s The Tale, said he feels safe in Toronto, despite the recent terror attacks.
“Tragic events happen every day all over the world. We unfortunately have no control over it…. Despite the recent events, I love Toronto. Especially during TIFF, you feel at home with amazing friends; the audience; and a warm, welcoming atmosphere,” Bondy said.
Enhanced security measures, including bag checks and bomb-sniffing dogs, are expected to be positioned at fest venues like Roy Thomson Hall and Bell Lightbox on King Street, and at other TIFF theaters, to ensure those entering or exiting scheduled screenings will be protected from possible danger.
Toronto last year first ramped up its system of barriers and barricades, and other entertainment venues in the city this summer started parking police cars and sanitation trucks at street entrances to stop deadly truck-driving attacks on crowds. The festival’s security team will work closely with members of the Toronto Police Services to close roads and direct traffic into the downtown core for the duration of the Sept. 6-16 event.
And TIFF attendees will be urged to be on the watch for anything suspicious, even as they keep an eye out for their favorite Hollywood stars and directors heading into premiere screenings and late-night parties. The heightened security means festgoers may also have to wait longer to get into theaters, or to leave if A-listers and local dignitaries have to make their own exit.
TIFF also plans a host of outdoor events, including a women’s rally Sept. 8 at the corner of King and John streets to demand gender parity and greater inclusion in the film industry in the wake of the #MeToo and Time’s Up campaigns. Actresses Geena Davis, Mia Kirshner and The Handmaid’s Tale co-star Amanda Brugel are set to speak at the event.
The Toronto Film Festival in 2001 saw its 26th edition interrupted by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The deadly events of that day left stunned Hollywood celebrities and film execs stranded in the city, glued to TV sets as they watched the events unfold.
The 2018 festival is set to run Sept. 6 to 16.