TIFF’ing in Philly: My Made Up Film Festival

For the past 9 years, my August has consisted of long days of training the new student staff that I worked with, often sleeping at work, and welcoming almost 800 students into residence.  When I actually did get home, I was usually still working, and not sleeping very peacefully.  Yet, somehow I loved every minute of those 4 very intense weeks.   Then, the week immediately following, I would take a few days off to volunteer/work 8 hour shifts at the Toronto International Film Festival and watch about 15 movies during the 10 day festival.   Again, I loved every moment of it.  I am forever grateful for my supervisor supporting my time away, and my body for not giving up on me.  It would have been my 10th year volunteering with TIFF.

This year, I didn’t have either of these things.   I generally think I slept better, but I was missing it, and feeling incredibly sentimental.

So as the internet started gearing up for TIFF, I decided that instead of feeling sad about missing it all, I took that sentimentality and created my own TIFF experience in Philly.  TIFF: Philly Edition?  TIFFP?   Let’s go with PIFF.

Maybe you’ve heard of PIFF?  It will be taking place all across Philly, including the 3 Ritz Theatres that are located in central Philly, as well as the multiplexes Penn 6 and Riverview 17 located outside of City Centre.  I’ve never been to the Ritz cinemas, and this my friends seems like the best reason to check them out!

So as TIFF  began in Toronto, I dug out last year’s bright orange TIFF volunteer shirt and hit the streets creating my own PIFF here in Philly.  Before the films roll, it’s important to understand the 5 key components to all good Film Festival experiences:

1) Volunteer

2) Stand in a rush line

3) Catch a celebrity sighting

4) Have some bizarre experience that makes for a really good story, and

5) See a whole lot of films in a very short time period.

  1. Volunteer: Despite showing up at the cinemas with my volunteer shirt on, they didn’t seem to want, nor welcome my time.  The Ritz East was very excited to hear about my TIFF experiences (me = Canadian celebrity!).   So instead I head to the Hollywood-inspired Morris Animal Refuge to share my time with these up and coming stars.  As we walked together, I asked Max and Jake  what films they were excited for.  They just stared at me.  Oh meow!
  2.  Stand in a Rush Line:  I found a line!  I wonder who it is?!  I might as well stand here to find out.  Maybe Zac Efron?! img_2667
  3. Catch a Celebrity Sighting:  You may remember him from such movies as POTUS, and the Oval Office.  He’s soon to be featured in Retirement.  It’s OBAMA! img_2700What a privilege to see him speak live.  He was in town campaigning for Hillary, and reminding us all what America stands for.  Diversity, debates, open minds and open hearts.   The huge crowd was energized (remember if you’re American, vote!). I asked Obama if he’d see a movie with me.  He pretended he didn’t hear me.  
  4. Have Some Bizarre Experience that Makes for a Good Story:  So right in the middle of PIFF, Derrick booked us a surprise weekend away… to relive his parents’ honeymoon (is that cute, or creepy?) in the Poconos at Paradise Stream (last updated: the 70’s).  Round bed anyone?  What about a pool in your room?  Stop by the gift shop for a mug, a Christmas ornament, some candy, or maybe some rope or dildo (yes, that’s what that crowd of people is deciding on)?  Cute or creepy… I vote cute.


  5. See a whole lot of films in a very short time period: I managed to catch 8 films during the week (we did get distracted with the whole season of Stranger Things…!  I blame Barb!).  When I picked what films I would watch, I tried to mirror my TIFF film going experience as best as possible.

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Here’s what I saw:

The Movie That No One Saw: Morgan.  Yep, I was the only one in the theatre for this one, and quite possibly the only person in North America watching it.  Surprisingly, it was a decent fast paced AI movie that unfortunately ended up relying too much on guns, and not enough on plot.  But that twist in the end: I did not see that coming!   🙂 🙂 🙂 out of 5

The TIFF Hit I Missed Last Year: Anomalisa.  During the film, I found the animation irked me, and I struggled to engage with the story.  Upon reflection, I think that was the point: We often think life can be so much better and so much more, but really, all highs and lows are just temporary.  🙂 .5 after it immediately ended.   🙂 🙂 🙂 .5 upon further reflection.


Mainstream Indie: The Light Between The Ocean.  They spoiled mostly everything in the 2 minute trailer, which in this case, took away the emotional response from the movie watching experience.  Solid acting, beautiful scenery, and an intriguing story of how a well intended decision can steer the ship in a perilous direction.  🙂 🙂 🙂 out of 5

Subtitle Foreign Film: A Tale of Love and Darkness.  TIFF/PIFF reminds me that I really should see more international films.  I’m going to share critic Bill Zwecker’s review because it’s exactly what I thought:  While it is often difficult to watch — because of all the sadness it presents — it is also a beautiful film in that it makes us think about existing in a world where we do not completely fit in.

Award Season Contender: Hell or High Water.  This one has had a lot of buzz, and it was… good.  Too many guns.  Not enough cowboys.  Solid take on a western taking place in Texas 2016.  It might get nominated but it won’t win.   🙂 🙂 🙂 out of 5

Midnight Madness: Blair Witch.  It almost captures the honesty of the first one, in a much more intense manner.  Just enough witch-reveal plot is given,  and just enough scares to keep us on edge.  I definitely will not be camping any time soon. 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Had Its Hollywood Release the Week After TIFF: Snowden.  Great cast, great story.  It made me realize just how little I knew about Snowden, and got me rethinking my own perception of privacy.  I love a film that makes me think long after the credits role.  🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 out of 5

PIFF Person’s Choice Award: The Hollars.  After the vote was counted, we are so thrilled to announce that The Hollars is this year’s Person’s Choice!  I’m a sucker for films like Dan in Real Life, and It’s Complicated.  It’s a human film that’s flawed just like us, charming just like us, and makes us smile and cry in all the right ways.  🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 out of 5.

As I take my orange TIFF volunteer shirt off, I look back on my week and smile.  I was possibly feeling sentimental for my new PIFF.   I loved that I was able to get lost and found in Philadelphia in the traditional way of experiencing the Ritz Theatres for the first time (All 3 of them are clean, comfortable, and classy!), but also by getting lost and found in so many diverse experiences up on the big screen.   Although my experience was really nothing like my TIFF going experience, it did remind me how much magic there is to find on our streets, and on the screen.  Sometimes, we may even need to create that magic on our own.


Trailer of the Week: The Hollars (PIFF Person’s Choice Award Winner 2016)

7 comments on “TIFF’ing in Philly: My Made Up Film Festival

  1. I see your passion for films never dies. I’m sure TIFF missed your enthusiasm and experience at this years event. You possibly could of started something good in Phili keep up the good work. Like you I miss move in days at UTSC , it’s a special day. Cheees.


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