tiff 2020

TIFF announces opening night movie and other details for 2020 festival

TIFF 2020 is moving forward as planned (with modifications in place to accommodate public health guidelines amid the COVID-19 pandemic, of course) and today we find out which particular film gets the honour of launching the fest.

The 45th Toronto International Film Festival will open on Thursday, September 10, with HBO's "Spike Lee–directed filmed version of the Broadway-acclaimed David Byrne's American Utopia"

"This joyful film takes audiences on a musical journey about openness, optimism, and faith in humanity," said Joana Vicente, executive director and co-head of TIFF when announcing the news Tuesday morning.

"This is especially poignant at a time of great uncertainty around the world. We're eager to share the excitement of Opening Night with audiences."

The film will document, in Spike Lee's own unmatchable style, the renowned rock musical American Utopia by Talking Heads frontman David Byrne.

Praised for its masterful choreography, innovative format and powerful messages, the broadway show itself is often described as a "theatrical concert" in which Byrne shares the spotlight with 11 musicians from around the world.

"Lee masterfully directs a transformative experience, as the show raises social and political issues, revealing how audiences can come together during challenging times through the power of entertainment," writes TIFF of its 2020 Opening Night Presentation choice.

"Spike Lee has somehow always been exactly of his moment and ahead of his time," said TIFF's co-head and artistic director Cameron Bailey Tuesday morning.

"With David Byrne's American Utopia, he brings Byrne's classic songs and joyous stagecraft to the screen just when we need it. Spike’s latest joint is a call to connect with one another, to protest injustice, and, above all, to celebrate life."

American Utopia is just one of at least 50 new feature films set to premier in Toronto between September 10 - 19 of this year. 

While the festival will lean heavily on digital means for screenings, red carpets, press conferences, industry talks and other events, attendees can still expect plenty of in-person and drive-in programming — though it'll be different than before.

"TIFF continues to work closely with the Province of Ontario, the City of Toronto, and public health officials on the safe execution of the Festival, with its number-one priority being the health and well-being of both Festival filmgoers and the residents of the entire community," wrote TIFF in its press release Tuesday.

"The presentation of TIFF's traditional in-person film festival will be contingent on the Province’s reopening framework to ensure that Festival venues and workplace practices meet and exceed public health guidelines," the not-for-profit cultural organization continued.

Previous to today's announcement, TIFF had stated that its 2020 festival would be "tailored to fit the moment."

Under Stage 3 of the province's economic reopening plan, which Toronto has yet to enter, that would mean capping all indoor screenings at 50 people and outdoor events at 100. 

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