I absolutely love film festivals. They’re a great way to get an early look at upcoming prestige films, or little-known independent films you may never get another chance to see in a theatre. In the past few years, I’ve attended Tribeca Film Festival and the Philadelphia Film Festival, but my favorite is definitely the Toronto International Film Festival. This is largely because I called Toronto my home for several years, but also because it’s one of the most fan-friendly festivals, with such a gigantic selection that there’s bound to be something for everyone.
One of my more memorable experiences was when I saw Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room at the 2015 TIFF. I was a huge fan of Saulnier’s previous film Blue Ruin so I was already pretty excited. As is customary at TIFF, one of the festival organizers introduced the film on stage prior to our screening. He brought out Saulnier and several of the cast, including Anton Yelchin and Alia Shawkat, announcing that they’d be returning at the end of the film for audience Q&A. Patrick Stewart, who plays the film’s Big Bad, wasn’t there – this wasn’t all that surprising, I’m sure he’s a busy guy, and I was just happy to see the film. What followed was one of the most intense films I’ve ever seen, causing much sweating through my shirt and cowering with my hands over my eyes. It was great. True to their word, Saulnier, Yelchin, and Shawkat returned to the stage after the film, along with some other guy…British…bald head…holy crap it’s Sir Patrick Stewart! The organizers sneakily “forgot” to tell us Stewart was going to be there, as a way to reward those of us who actually stayed to the end. I’ve been fortunate to see many directors and cast members at TIFF, but as a huge fan of Stewart’s from Star Trek: TNG and the X-Men films, this was one to remember. Of course, no one could have predicted that Yelchin would tragically pass away less than one year later, which makes this memory bittersweet, but I feel extremely lucky to have seen him as well.
Prompt: What’s your favorite film festival experience? Or, what film festival is on your bucket list?