Here's why the Toronto International Film Festival is Oscar's best friend

By Alynda Wheat
Updated September 09, 2015 02:00 PM

It has more Hollywood stars than Cannes, bursts at the seams with nearly 400 film showings, and is now the unofficial start of awards season. It’s the 40th Toronto International Film Festival, and here are the five things you need to know about the fest up north, which kicks off Sept. 10.

It’s not like other festivals.
Forget a swanky jury of cinema insiders weighing in on the festival’s winners. It doesn’t exist. Toronto’s films aren’t in any official competition. Sure, there are People’s Choice picks, with festivalgoers naming their favorites. But unlike Cannes’ Palme D’Or or Venice’s Golden Lion, there is no statue for folks bringing their films here. So why do they do it?

Toronto anoints awards contenders.
Besides altruistically wanting to share their flick with the world, filmmakers choose Toronto because it has a habit of launching eventual Oscar heavyweights, from Slumdog Millionaire to Argo, and American Beauty to 12 Years a Slave. It’s where directors know they’ll get the most visibility for their work, and the timing couldn’t be more perfect – just after Telluride and on the tail end of the Venice fest, but before movies have to hit theaters for Oscar consideration.

Let’s assume you’re in town, and you already have a place to stay (because hotels book up months in advance). You’ll run around to 11 downtown venues – some of which are the oldest and grandest in the city – to see some 399 films. That’s more than the festival has ever had, which is why it takes so many volunteers. Around festival time, it seems like half the city is wearing orange TIFF shirts. Hug those people. They’re doing great work. (But maybe ask first.)

TIFF is for you!

Toronto prides itself on being a democratic festival, one made by and for the people. You can see nearly all of the same films that the swells do, for only $25 (Canadian). For $48 you can catch a premium film, say the red carpet premiere of Sandra Bullock‘s Our Brand Is Crisis – and sit in the same theater with the Oscar winner! Plus, those fancy premieres usually feature the director and maybe even the stars saying a few words before the film, or giving talks afterward. It’s tough to find that kind of access anywhere else.

It’s seriously glamorous.
Literally hundreds of stars attend TIFF each year. Here’s a short list (we promise) of the celebrities who are likely to hit the red carpet year: Drew Barrymore, Kevin Bacon, Anna Kendrick, John Goodman, Kate Winslet, JK Simmons, Christopher Walken, Rachel Weisz, Ellen Page, Jake Gyllenhaal, Tom Hardy, Diane Kruger, Steve Martin, Rachel McAdams, David Oyelowo, Eddie Redmayne, Johnny Depp and Yo Yo Ma.

Only Toronto gets all those folks to party in the same place – well, until they all meet at the Oscars next year, that is.

For full coverage of the 2015 Toronto Film Festival – including the hottest premieres, the biggest stars and the buzziest films – check out, and