2009 Toronto International Film Festival
Festival poster
Opening filmCreation
Closing filmThe Young Victoria
LocationToronto, Ontario, Canada
Hosted byToronto International Film Festival Group
No. of films300–400
Festival dateSeptember 10, 2009 (2009-09-10)–September 19, 2009 (2009-09-19)

The 34th annual Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) was held in Toronto, Ontario, Canada between September 10 and September 19, 2009. The opening night gala presented the Charles Darwin biography Creation. The Young Victoria, based on the early years of Queen Victoria, closed the festival on September 19.[1][2]

About the 2009 Festival

TIFF is a non-profit organization whose goal is to change the way people look at the world through film. The festival is Canada's largest film festival, receiving 4,209 submissions in 2008. Of this total, 312 films were screened coming from 64 different countries. TIFF creates an annual economic impact of $135 million CAD. Aided by over 2,000 volunteers, 100 full-time staff members and 500 seasonal or part-time staff are responsible for organizing the festival. Two screenings of each of the invited films are presented to the public and at least one screening is provided for press and industry. The 2009 festival contained 19 different Programmes, or categories of films. After the ten days of film, the Awards reception was held at Intercontinental Hotel on Front Street in Toronto.

Perhaps the most prestigious of the awards was bestowed to Lee Daniels's Precious: based on the novel Push by Sapphire. This award was the 2009 Cadillac People's Choice Award and is based solely on votes by Festival audiences. This award carries a $15,000 cash prize and also comes with a custom made award from Cadillac. It is widely considered to be the most prestigious because it has had the greatest impact on audiences and inspires film distributors to sign the winning film for larger international releases. Last year's winner Slumdog Millionaire directed by Danny Boyle, went on to reap huge international spotlight which culminated at the 2009 Academy Awards where it won Best Picture. Lee Daniel's Precious was also a big Oscar contender as it was nominated for Best Picture and Best Director, however it lost to The Hurt Locker and its helmer Katheryn Bigelow. The First runner-up was Bruce Beresford's Mao's Last Dancer and the second runner-up was Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Micmacs.

The City of Toronto and Astral Media's The Movie Network Award for Best Canadian Feature Film went to Cairo Time directed by Ruba Nadda. Sponsored by Astral Media's the Movie Network and the City of Toronto, this award came with a cash prize of $30,000.

Future endeavors by the TIFF will be aided by the ongoing construction of TIFF Bell Lightbox, a 1,750,000-square-foot (163,000 m2) facility with an estimated annual economic impact of over $200 million. Complete with 5 cinemas, learning studios, galleries and a rooftop lounge, this will become the hub of TIFF in 2010 when construction is scheduled to be completed.

Controversy over Tel Aviv spotlight

More than 1,500 people, including prominent filmmakers, academics, and writers signed a letter of protest directed at the Toronto International Film Festival regarding its decision to spotlight Tel Aviv and the work of 10 Israeli filmmakers.[3][4] The protest leaders emphasized that it is not a call for a boycott.[5][6] The original protest letter in part reads:

"As members of the Canadian and international film, culture and media arts communities, we are deeply disturbed by [TIFF's] decision to host a celebratory spotlight on Tel Aviv. We protest that TIFF, whether intentionally or not, has become complicit in the Israeli propaganda machine. We do not protest the individual Israeli filmmakers included in City to City, nor do we in any way suggest that Israeli films should be unwelcome at TIFF. However, especially in the wake of this year's brutal assault on Gaza, we object to the use of such an important international festival in staging a propaganda campaign on behalf of what South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former US President Jimmy Carter, and UN General Assembly President Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann have all characterized as an apartheid regime."[4][7][8][9]

The signatories and supporters include Ken Loach, David Byrne, Naomi Klein, Alice Walker, Jane Fonda, Wallace Shawn, Danny Glover,[4] John Greyson,[10] Viggo Mortensen and the American Jewish group Jewish Voice for Peace.[6]

John Greyson's letter of protest highlighted an interview "Israeli Consul General Amir Gissin gave to Canadian Jewish News in which he described the TIFF spotlight as a culmination of his year-long Brand Israel campaign, which included ads on buses, radio and television."[10][11] Greyson claims that "This isn't the right year to celebrate Brand Israel, or to demonstrate an ostrich-like indifference to the realities (cinematic and otherwise) of the region, or to pointedly ignore the international economic boycott campaign against Israel."[10]

The protest letter was met with condemnation by some, such as Simcha Jacobovici, "a Toronto filmmaker who recently moved with his family to Israel, noted in a statement that the Palestinian government in Gaza had recently called a U.N. proposal to teach the Holocaust in Palestinian schools a war crime." Jacobovici asked "Why does [protest supporter John Greyson] want to align himself with Holocaust deniers?"[4] Others accused those who signed the protest letter as engaging in a boycott of Israel films.[4]

Rabbi Marvin Hier, the founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, has stated that "it is clear that the script [the protesters] are reading from might as well have been written by Hamas."[12]

Patrick Goldstein, writing in the Los Angeles Times, wrote against the protest and made an analogy to actions by musician Paul Simon:

"At the height of apartheid in South Africa, Paul Simon made "Graceland", an album of glorious music with South African musicians. He was criticized at the time for breaking a worldwide cultural boycott, but Simon believed that exposing the musicians' gifts to the world far outweighed any tacit endorsement his use of South African musicians would have provided for the country's repressive regime. History long ago proved him right. The same openness should apply to a film festival."[13]

In response to the protest, a number of Hollywood stars circulated a counter-protest letter on September 15, 2009. This letter, which appeared simultaneously in the Los Angeles Times and the Toronto Star, included signatories Jerry Seinfeld, Sacha Baron Cohen, Natalie Portman, Jason Alexander, Lisa Kudrow, Lenny Kravitz, Patricia Heaton, Jacob Richler, Noah Richler, George F. Walker and Moses Znaimer. The letter said:

Anyone who has actually seen recent Israeli cinema, movies that are political and personal, comic and tragic, often critical, knows they are in no way a propaganda arm for any government policy. Blacklisting them only stifles the exchange of cultural knowledge that artists should be the first to defend and protect.[14]

Jane Fonda, in a posting on Huffington Post, says that she now regrets some of the language used in the original protest letter and how it "was perhaps too easily misunderstood. It certainly has been wildly distorted. Contrary to the lies that have been circulated, the protest letter was not demonizing Israeli films and filmmakers." She continued writing "the greatest 're-branding' of Israel would be to celebrate that country's long standing, courageous and robust peace movement by helping to end the blockade of Gaza through negotiations with all parties to the conflict, and by stopping the expansion of West Bank settlements. That's the way to show Israel's commitment to peace, not a PR campaign. There will be no two-state solution unless this happens."[15]


Award[16][17] Film Director
People's Choice Award Precious Lee Daniels
People's Choice Award First Runner Up Mao's Last Dancer Bruce Beresford
People's Choice Award Second Runner Up Micmacs Jean-Pierre Jeunet
People's Choice Award, Documentary Winner The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls Leanne Pooley
People's Choice Award, Documentary Runner Up Capitalism: A Love Story Michael Moore
People's Choice Award, Midnight Madness Winner The Loved Ones Sean Byrne
People's Choice Award, Midnight Madness Runner Up Daybreakers Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig
Best Canadian Feature Film Cairo Time Ruba Nadda
Best Canadian Feature Film - Special Jury Citation The Legacy (La Donation) Bernard Émond
Best Canadian Short Film Danse Macabre Pedro Pires
Best Canadian Short Film - Special Mention The Armoire Jamie Travis
Best Canadian First Feature Film The Wild Hunt Alexandre Franchi
FIPRESCI Discovery The Man Beyond the Bridge Laxmikant Shetgaonkar
FIPRESCI Special Presentations Hadewijch Bruno Dumont


Special presentations

City to City

Contemporary World Cinema


Future Projections

Gala Presentations


Midnight Madness


Reel to Reel



Short Cuts

Canada's Top Ten

TIFF's annual Canada's Top Ten list, its national critics and festival programmers poll of the ten best feature and short films of the year, was released in December 2009.[19]

Feature films

Short films


  1. ^ W. Andrew Powell (July 18, 2009). "'Creation' will open 2009 TIFF". TheGATE.ca. Archived from the original on July 22, 2009. Retrieved July 18, 2009.
  2. ^ "2009 Toronto International Film Festival Annual report" (PDF). Retrieved October 11, 2013.
  3. ^ "No Celebration of Occupation: 1,500 Artists and Writers Sign Letter Protesting Toronto Film Festival Decision to Spotlight Tel Aviv". Democracy Now!. September 14, 2009. Retrieved May 11, 2013.
  4. ^ a b c d e Posner, Michael (September 2, 2009). "TIFF focus on Tel Aviv draws protests". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved May 11, 2013.
  5. ^ Klein, Naomi (September 7, 2009). "We don't feel like celebrating with Israel this year". The Globe and Mail. Archived from the original on September 11, 2009. Retrieved September 15, 2009.
  6. ^ a b "Fighting the Lies- Toronto International Film Festival". Jewish Voice for Peace. Archived from the original on September 14, 2009. Retrieved September 15, 2009.
  7. ^ Lim, Audrea; Joel Beinin. The Case for Sanctions Against Israel. Verso Books. p. 72.
  8. ^ "The Toronto Declaration: No Celebration of Occupation". Blogger. September 9, 2009. Retrieved May 11, 2013.
  9. ^ Weiss, Philip; Horowitz, Adam (October 22, 2009). "An Historical Shift: American Jews Rethink Israel". AlterNet. Retrieved May 11, 2013.
  10. ^ a b c "Canadian director protests TIFF Tel Aviv spotlight". CBC News. August 29, 2009. Retrieved May 11, 2013.
  11. ^ Brand Israel set to launch in GTA Archived 2009-09-12 at the Wayback Machine, Canadian Jewish News, August 21, 2009.
  12. ^ Wazana, Kathy (September 11, 2009). "To criticize Israel is a dangerous thing in today's Canada". Toronto Star. Archived from the original on September 18, 2009. Retrieved September 15, 2009.
  13. ^ Goldstein, Patrick (September 12, 2009). "Protest over Israel roils Toronto Film Festival". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 11, 2013.
  14. ^ Mozgovaya, Natasha; Zohar, Itamar (16 September 2009). "Hollywood Jews hit back at protest of Toronto Film Fest". Haaretz. Archived from the original on 3 December 2009. Retrieved 28 November 2009.
  15. ^ Fonda, Jane (September 14, 2009). "Expanding the Narrative". The Huffington Post. Retrieved May 11, 2013.
  16. ^ "2009 Toronto International Film Festival Winners". tiff.net. Archived from the original on November 12, 2013.
  17. ^ "Festival Closes 2009 Edition With Awards Announcement". tiff.net. October 10, 2013. Archived from the original on November 12, 2013.
  18. ^ "History of the Toronto International Film Festival's MIDNIGHT MADNESS Programme". Archived from the original on 2013-10-19. Retrieved October 19, 2013.
  19. ^ "Dolan, Nadda films among Canada's best of the year". Waterloo Region Record, December 26, 2009.