Toronto Film Fest Promotes Programmer to Battle Venice

Courtesy of George Pimentel
Diana Sanchez

Diana Sanchez, the festival's Spanish-language film picker, could help TIFF wrest more world premieres for Oscar contenders away from the Lido.

The Toronto Film Festival on Thursday said it has promoted longtime Spanish-language film programmer Diana Sanchez to the new role of senior director, film, effective April 15.

As she oversees programming across the festival group, Sanchez's relationships with Pedro Almodovar, Guillermo del Toro and Sebastian Lelio in her new role should help Toronto audiences discover more Oscar contenders, rather than view The Shape of Water, Roma and other riches from Venice after they bowed on the Lido.

"Diana and I will work with film programming teams to amplify the cumulative impact of TIFF’s singular resources: a prominent film festival, a globally respected cinematheque, one of the best art house cinemas in the world, and a national network of Film Circuit groups that reaches film lovers and knowledge seekers across Canada," said TIFF artistic director and co-head Cameron Bailey in a statement.

Toronto has long branded itself as a launchpad for Hollywood's award season as it battled Venice and Telluride to screen world premieres and claim Oscar bragging rights.

But after Venice debuted Oscar winners like Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity and Roma, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Birdman and del Toro's The Shape of Water, in addition to awards season standouts like Damien Chazelle's La La Land and Tom McCarthy's Spotlight, Toronto is looking to more often be the first stop, and not just another stop, on the road to the Academy Awards.

TIFF recently dented Venice's Oscar scorecard when Peter Farrelly’s Green Book took home the best picture trophy at the Academy Awards after winning the coveted People’s Choice prize in Toronto after a world premiere there.

Sanchez since 2002 has selected Toronto's lineup from Latin America, Spain and Portugal, as well as worked with other festivals like the Los Angeles Latino Film Festival, where she served as programming director. Sanchez last year worked alongside del Toro to co-program a Mexican film retrospective for TIFF's year-round headquarters, Bell Lightbox.

Bailey and Joana Vicente, executive director and co-head, also announced that they have promoted Laura Ryan to vp visitor experience, and Jennifer Frees to vp partnerships.

The Toronto Film Festival's 2019 edition is set to run from Sept. 5-15.