The TIFF's new co-director sees no need for shake-ups


TORONTO – For those worried that newly installed Toronto International Film Festival co-director Cameron Bailey will make needless changes to the beloved September film event -- have no fear.

"There will be a lot of continuity," Bailey says of replacing Noah Cowan as festival top dog. "Piers (Handling) and I are co-directors. ... Things won't change too much."

Born in London and raised in Barbados and Toronto, Bailey has film in his DNA. In the last decade, he combined varied programming duties at the Toronto festival with extensive work in print and TV as a film critic.

One of the TIFF's most unique characteristics is its informal film market, but Bailey says that while there has been talk for years about installing an official outlet for dealmaking, there are no plans to do so at the moment.

"We have historically chosen not to have an official market because we feel the existing official markets do their job well," Bailey insists. "And we don't need to get into that mix and clutter up the calendar with another market."

Still, if film buyers and sellers urge a more formal market in Toronto, Bailey says he'll listen. "But right now, we're being told the main thing is to see the films," he says.

One change Bailey says he would like to see is a deeper commitment to world cinema after the festival in recent years perfected its status as a launchpad for major studio and U.S. indie pics.

"I do come from a background where I worked with films from other parts of the world," he says. "I see films that are as strong and as complex and interesting as films coming out of the U.S., and I want to have a balance."

Finding that balance includes bringing to Toronto emerging international directors that North American audiences might not be familiar with.

"Everyone knows that we are an important launching pad for the big international films, films that end up winning the big end-of-year awards. But we should also be known internationally as being a festival of discovery," Bailey argues.

At the same time, he and his veteran programming team remain on the hunt for international films that, in style and theme, could prove as popular and engaging as Hollywood releases.

"I think one of the things that I've learned as I've grown as a programmer is to explore just how popular cinema works in different parts of the world and how that mix can work in this city," he says of an increasingly multicultural Toronto.

But don't worry, Hollywood -- the TIFF will also keep pursuing the Oscar contenders that make it the unofficial launch of awards season.

"I'm really proud when we can introduce North American audiences to a film like 'No Country for Old men,' or even a film like 'Michael Clayton,' which on one level is a very straightforward commercial film, but is dealing with very complex ideas, and goes a long way and deeper than a lot of conventional genre films do," Bailey declares.

Still, Bailey is enough of a pragmatist to acknowledge the usefulness of good old-fashioned star power. "It also happens to have a giant movie star in it," he adds slyly.