TIFF 2018 Was Defined by Questions of Inclusion and Identity

/Film | 9/18/2018 | Abby Olcese
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Art reflects the culture it’s created in. In the ’30s and ’40s, directors like Frank Capra produced optimistic comedies and dramas to help uplift a national morale brought low by the Great Depression and World War II. In the late ’70s and ’80s, punk music and hip-hop spoke to political frustrations. Part of the value of the art that makes up popular culture is what a piece of music, literature or cinema can tell us about the prevailing cultural attitudes at the time it was made.

In this way, events like the Toronto International Film Festival are valuable not just as marketing tools by studios to kick off their awards campaigns, but as a way to show audiences what ideas are currently dominating our cultural conversation. By gathering the biggest, newest films in one place, festivals like TIFF invite the world to consider what’s been on our collective minds, and provide a space to have a dialogue about it.

Year - TIFF - Themes - Ideas - Inclusion

At this year’s TIFF, those themes center around ideas of inclusion and identity, both in the films and as part of events outside the theaters. Those events include the Share Her Journey rally for women in film, and the TIFF Industry conference, which this year featured speakers like #oscarssowhite creator April Reign, and Annenberg Inclusion Initiative founder Dr. Stacy L. Smith.

Films at the festival have asked audiences to step into the shoes of a black family in 1960s New York (If Beale Street Could Talk), families dealing with addicted children (Beautiful Boy and Ben is Back) and a young gay man undergoing conversion therapy (Boy Erased), among many other characters. They’ve been asked to sympathize with a philandering politician in Jason Reitman’s The Front Runner, and invited into dialogue with former Trump advisor Steve Bannon, in Errol Morris’ stunning documentary American Dharma.

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