Toronto International Film Festival Restructures Canadian Programming Team

Karen Bruce, who launched Talent Lab and Rising Stars to grow local talent, is leaving the festival after 11 years in the post.

TORONTO - The Toronto International Film Festival is the main launch-pad for Canadian film, so a shakeup that sees director of Canadian initiatives Karen Bruce headed for the exit will cause after-shocks long after the 11-year veteran leaves the building on December 16.

TIFF CEO Piers Handling was classy in bidding Bruce adieu, insisting in an internal email that she had served as “a superb ambassador and champion for the Canadian film industry.”

The big winners from the restructuring are TIFF co-director Cameron Bailey, who will now oversee the festival’s Canadian film curators, while Noah Cowan, artistic director of Bell Lightbox, the festival’s year-round home, will take the remaining Canadian programming team under his wings.

The festival indicated that programs Bruce launched to grow Canadian film talent like Talent Lab and Rising Stars will continue under the festival’s new reporting structure.

TIFF also operates Film Circuit, which screens Canadian film titles across the country in small communities to build awareness and generate additional revenue for local distributors.

The question of how Toronto can effectively promote homegrown movies as it increasingly turns its spotlight on Hollywood and other star-driven foreign movie titles has long dogged festival organizers.

TIFF in 2004 abandoned the former Perspectives Canada sidebar, which placed virtually all homegrown Canadian movies into a ghetto, and adopted a sink-or-swim programming policy that sees established Canadian directors featured alongside their international colleagues in sidebars like Contemporary World Cinema and Special Presentations.

Toronto is taking a similar tack with its year-round promotion of Canadian film beyond the annual September event.

The strategy is to embed the Canadian initiatives team into Bell Lightbox’s year-round activities to ensure Canadian programming remains front and center in the festival organization.

TIFF also features a Canada First! sidebar for first-time local feature directors each September.

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