Glimpse into Hollywood life at TIFF’s Bell Lightbox

Have you ever dreamed of travelling to Los Angeles in hopes of seeing movie stars and attending a big Hollywood premiere? Well, although Toronto is over 4000kms away by car and a 5 ½ hour flight away from LA, get a taste of the “city of angels” world-renowned film & entertainment scene here in Toronto through none other than our very own iconic TIFF!

TIFF light sign on street
Image courtesy of VOX from TIFF 2019

While Toronto’s International Film Festival is best known for its annual 10-day display of acclaimed films, interesting events, noteworthy celebrities, and extensive media coverage, did you know that TIFF also runs year-round with presentations of feature films, anticipated movie premieres and various film events?

At the TIFF Bell Lightbox located downtown in the heart of Toronto’s media and entertainment district at 350 King St W, you can watch new releases from all over the world year-round. And, when big blockbuster movies are making their way through their press tours, Toronto is often one of their destinations as one of the leading cities in the country, and TIFF is their place to go!

Particularly, I was recently very fortunate to attend just that at the Canadian Premier of the Disney Pixar animated film Turning Red hosted at TIFF. I had never attended a TIFF event before and had no idea what to expect out of a movie premiere for a highly anticipated blockbuster, but I jumped at the chance to get a glimpse into the “Hollywood” atmosphere I had often seen before in the media, but never in person.

Arriving at the event, the Bell Lightbox was decorated with themed movie materials and as I walked in through the front doors I got to walk a red carpet (see pictures below)! To clarify it wasn’t THE red carpet that the stars had walked on earlier in the night but, nonetheless, it still felt like a significant moment.

In addition to all the fun going on outside the theatre, before our showing of the film began, we got to see the stars live in front of us on stage, and afterwards, we stayed for a screened Q&A. Super cool!

Cast of Turning Red on TIFF stage
From left to right: Event MC, Rosalie Chiang (Meilin), Maitreyi Ramakrishnan (Priya), Sandra Oh (Ming Lee), Lindsey Collins (Producer) & Domee Shi (Director)

Turning Red takes place in Toronto and features an interpretation of Chinese Canadian director and animator Domee Shi’s adolescence in what she called a love letter to Toronto, her Chinese heritage and Chinese history. The film does a fantastic job at depicting the multiculturalism in the City of Toronto through the story of a preteen Canadian Chinese girl as she comes of age and deals with the cultural expectations from her family.

In addition to being directed by an Oscar-winning director, the film also featured the voices of Canadian stars like Sandra Oh, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan as well as up and coming American actress Rosalie Chiang in her debut role as the lead. I was also excited to find out that the film featured music from Billie Eilish & Finneas O’Connell, two artists who are currently leaving their marks in the entertainment world. Long story short, I have a feeling this is going to be a hit and, for any Torontonian, I highly recommend this film. See it on Disney + as of March 11th!

This film is a milestone for Pixar as it’s the first feature film to be set in Canada and the first to feature a female director! As a Toronto native, it was fun seeing some of my favourite Toronto landmarks be represented on the big screen like the “Skydome,” Chinatown, the TTC, the CN Tower, and so much more! It’s incredible to think that this movie will be viewed all around the world for people to enjoy and that our great city is the star location. After all, this is not something we see often in films since cities like New York, Paris, or London tend to get featured instead.

While the Turning Red premiere has now come and gone, one thing is clear: TIFF’s Bell Lightbox is a fantastic location to get a glimpse into the Hollywood movie scene. As a movie and entertainment enthusiast, I will now definitely be on the lookout for upcoming fun events to attend at TIFF sometime soon as well as some of their regular showings of acclaimed films!

Cover image sourced from Wikipedia Commons.

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