?A film programmer’s mission is to look for the strongest indie films from far corners of India and take them to the world arena. The inward drill is to recite, “I wish” as the top, prized festivals draw near: Cannes, Venice, Toronto, Busan, Berlin. If they come true, one levitates in spirit, feeling blessed.

2017 Toronto International Film Festival

The theme for the 42nd TIFF is today’s major worry - Survival!

? Auspicious days have just begun with the mighty Toronto International Film Festival, held over September 7 to 17. Now in its 42nd year, TIFF is empowered by its timing and location as the place where the race begins for the coming April-held Oscars and its reach to a worldwide box office. Big studios arrive to create a buzz around their films and parade their directors and stars.

Unabashedly huge, TIFF tends to be larger than the more circumspect, choosy Cannes, presenting a wider and more popular choice. This hallowed ground is where many a surprise box-office success and Oscar winner first emerged, such as ‘La La Land’, ‘Moonlight’, ‘Spotlight’, ‘12 Years a Slave’, ‘American Beauty’, ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, ‘The King’s Speech’. The festival arguably has the biggest attendance of all festivals, as its film- loving hoards are permitted to buy tickets (2016 had an estimated 480,000 attendees) alongside its 5000 industry guests of filmmakers, distributors, publicists and journalists.

For the other major festivals, Cannes in particular, the magic potion is their coveted competition and awards. Toronto’s attraction on the other hand is its staggering range of films, apart from the fewer awards it offers, such as the prized People’s Choice Award and its cash-attached Toronto Platform Prize.

TIFF’s strength is that its buzz is created by its public – the long tireless, patient queues lining up at its theatres. It is the audience pulse and taste that rate the films, which in turn influence sales agents, buyers and distributors.

The 2017 edition, around 20 percent smaller than last year, presents over 255 feature and short films from 74 countries. Its incredibly daunting programme covers 14 separate sections, each with its own character. They are Gala Presentations (high profile and major stars); Special Presentations (important films); Discovery (first or second films); Midnight Madness (horror and thrillers); Masters (known and art-house filmmakers); Contemporary World Cinema (international directors); Platform (competitive, for fiction and long documentaries - $25,000 CAD as prize money). Besides these, the festival features short films, classics, TV episodes, documentaries, movies for kids and teenagers, and experimental films.

“ This year’s big theme is survival”, comments TIFF’s Director and CEO Piers Handling, referring to people worldwide, “Facing an atmosphere of great uncertainty and a real fear about certain issues.”

As most films are world premieres, the most talked about films are the favourites ‘The Mountain Between Us’ starring Idris Elba and Kate Winslet; ‘Stronger’ about the 2013 Boston Marathon attack, starring Jake Gyllenhaal; both on individuals trying to survive; American director Alexander Payne’s science fiction social satire ‘Downsizing’, about a man who chooses to shrink himself to simplify his life, starring Matt Damon; the Winston Churchill biopic ‘Darkest Hour’ starring Gary Oldman; Angelina Jolie directed Cambodian genocide drama ‘First They Killed My Father’; ‘Kings’, based on the 1992 Los Angeles race riots, starring Daniel Craig and Halle Berry; and Darren Aronofsky’s highly-anticipated psychological thriller ‘mother!’ starring Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, and Michelle Pfeiffer.

Artistic director Cameron Bailey visits India every summer to ensure a diverse, up-to-date selection of Indian films. 2017 TIFF features the latest in line for leading filmmakers Hansal Mehta and Anurag Kashyap. Also included are feature films from Rima Das from Assam and Bornila Chatterjee, who commutes between Kolkata and New York. The actors attending are Rajkummar Rao, Sayani Gupta, Tisca Chopra, Zoya Hussain, Vineet Kumar Singh and Arjun Gupta. Adil Hussein, Kalki Koechlin and Ali Fazal are expected to attend on behalf of the international films in which they feature.

Priyanka Chopra Guest of Honour at TIFF Soirée

Superstar Priyanka Chopra’s scintillating presence, linking Bollywood with Hollywood, heralded TIIF 2017 on its eve, September 6. She was Guest of Honour at the TIFF Soirée fundraiser supporting ‘Share Her Journey’, a recently launched campaign to support female voices in screen industries. The Sikkimese film ‘Pahuna: The Little Visitors’ directed by Paakhi A Tyrewala and produced by Chopra’s production company, Purple Pebble Pictures, gets a Special Event screening on TIFF’s opening day.