Toronto names block after Ivan Reitman's parents

TIFF CEO, city councilor officially name site Reitman Square

TORONTO -- It's the sort of immigrants-make-good story that Hollywood loves to turn into a movie.

And it stars Hollywood producer Ivan Reitman, whose late parents Leslie and Clara Reitman were honored Wednesday by the city of Toronto with a downtown city block on which they once operated a car wash being named after them.

Reitman Square is also next to Bell Lightbox, the Toronto International Film Festival's year-round headquarters set to open its doors September 12, and built with the participation of the Reitmans.

Toronto International Film Festival CEO Piers Handling and city councilor Adam Vaughan officially named Reitman Square, while a proud Ivan Reitman, son Jason Reitman, and sisters Agi Mandel and Susan Michaels looked on.

"Leslie and Clara persevered through hardships to bring their family to Canada and create a life for them," Handling said Wednesday at the corner of King and John Street, where the elder Reitmans purchased and ran Farb's Car Wash from the mid-1960s as a family business after coming to Toronto from their native Czechoslovakia.

When Leslie and Clara Reitman were nearing retirement, they closed the car wash down and turned their downtown Toronto plot of land into a parking lot.

Developers frequently came knocking at the Reitmans' door, but they resisted their overtures.

That is, until 2000, when TIFF put out a public tender for interest in constructing a year-round home for the festival.

The Reitman children, having done well by the movie business, saw a ready opportunity to pay homage to their parents, and so approached TIFF with a proposal to develop Bell Ligthbox.

"Ivan, Agi and Susan's recognition of their parents' commitment and vision has played a vital role in the realization of this dream, building a home for film at TIFF Bell Lightbox," Handling said.

The Reitman children donated the land to TIFF, and their management fees, to complete construction of Bell Lightbox.

And Ivan Reitman, who arrived in Canada at age 4, suitably will be a resident of Festival Tower, having purchased the Poitier penthouse, one of four atop the condo development.

And down below, the land on which his parents once ran a car wash this week and next will be awash in stars as the 35th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival runs to September 19.
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