The Top 10 Film Festivals in Toronto | Best Film Festivals in the GTA
Let’s provide a high-level overview of some of the best film festivals in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Of course, there are other good film festivals in the area and this list isn’t comprehensive; however, the below festivals are certainly among the most notable in the GTA.
We’ll discuss (in no particular order):
- Hot Docs
- Buffer Festival
- Inside Out
- Regent Park
Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF)
The most prominent and well-known film festival in Toronto is, of course, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). Founded in 1976, many of its movies are screened at the TIFF Bell Lightbox (pictured), a modern venue housing five cinemas of various sizes.
TIFF is one of the largest and most prestigious film festivals in the world, “second only to Cannes in terms of high-profile pics, stars, and market activity,” according to Variety. In 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, TIFF creatively reimagined its festival to include physical screenings at drive-ins, digital screenings and virtual red carpets.
Front Row has been a proud sponsor of TIFF.
Hot Docs Festival
The Hot Docs Festival is the largest documentary festival in North America. Founded in 1993 by the Documentary Organization of Canada (DOC), Hot Docs is now recognized as a qualifying festival for the Academy Awards® in the Documentary Feature and Documentary Short Subject categories.
Members of DOC are eligible for preferred rates on production insurance through Front Row. The 2020 festival was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada; however, the festival organizers quickly pivoted to the Hot Docs at Home TV show in partnership with the CBC.
Front Row is a proud sponsor of the Hot Docs Festival.
TAAFI – Toronto's Animation Festival
The Toronto Animation Arts Festival International (TAAFI) is held at the same venue as Hot Docs each year – the Ted Rogers Cinema. TAAFI is a film festival dedicated to presenting cartoons and animation.
TAAFI confers the Kaj Pindal award, which is awarded to an animator who has made a significant contribution to the art form in the past year. TAAFI also offers an industry conference with talks from directors, creators, producers and artists.
Front Row has sponsored TAAFI in the past.
Buffer Festival is an annual showcase of YouTube video premieres, bringing the most acclaimed digital creators and their audiences together. The festival is, according to the Buffer Foundation, “the world’s largest international digital-first film festival.”
The Buffer Foundation is a not-for-profit supporting Canadian and international digital-first filmmakers through education, celebration, recognition and development opportunities with the entertainment industry. Buffer Festival 2020 was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival
Founded in 1998, the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival is the world's largest Indigenous film and media arts festival, held annually in Toronto each October. The festival focuses on the film, video, radio and new media work of Indigenous, Aboriginal and First Peoples from around the world.
Many awards are presented at the festival, including the Audience Choice Award, Best Dramatic Feature, Best Short Drama and Best Indigenous Language Production.
Their 21st annual festival in 2020 transitioned to an online format.
Ontario International Film Festival
Source: Royalty-free stock photo ID: 507578743, Shutterstock
The Ontario International Film Festival (ONIFF) was founded in 2020 by not-for-profit Canada Multicultural Entertainment (CME). This film festival “gives independent filmmakers from different cultures and backgrounds the opportunity to get known, learn and get acquainted with the industry.”
The festival confers a variety of awards, including Best International Feature Film, Best Canadian Feature Film, Best Screenwriting and Best Canadian Student Film.
Reelworld Film Festival
The Reelworld Film Festival was founded in 2001 and provides professional development for Canadian racially diverse and Indigenous filmmakers and media artists. The festival's mandate is to showcase diverse work, especially work from Canadians identifying as Black, Indigenous, Asian, South Asian, Middle Eastern and/or Latinx.
In 2020, Reelworld streamed online with a 100% CAD lineup. The festival has a variety of awards, including the Trailblazer Award, Visionary Award and Award of Excellence.
Inside Out Film and Video Festival
Founded in 1991, the Inside Out Film and Video Festival is an annual film festival that presents a program of LGBTQ-related cinema. The festival is staged in both Toronto and Ottawa.
The festival’s awards include the Audience Award for Best Feature Film, the Audience Award for Best Short Film, Best Documentary and Best Canadian Film. In response to the pandemic, Inside Out created an online exhibition of queer ephemera pulled from their archives.
Breakthroughs Film Festival (BFF)
Founded in 2011, the Breakthroughs Film Festival (BFF) is dedicated exclusively to short films made by emerging women and non-binary directors.
BFF takes place annually in downtown Toronto, showcasing Canadian and international short films in all genres from emerging directors of all ages. BFF 2020 was held online.
The festival confers a number of awards, including the Audience Choice Award, the Breakthroughs Film Festival's Jury Award and Best Canadian Film.
Regent Park Film Festival (RPFF)
The Regent Park Film Festival (RPFF) is a free community film festival dedicated to showcasing local and international independent films that are relevant to the Regent Park neighbourhood.
This festival aims to provide the residents of Regent Park, and beyond, with a forum for dialogue about social issues such as immigration, cultural identity and multicultural relationships.
RPFF was founded in 2003. The 18th annual RPFF in 2020 was held online. The festival also created the Home Made Visible nationwide archival project that “celebrates the everyday joys and lives of Indigenous, Black and People of Colour (IBPoC) communities often absent from Canada’s narrative.”
Film Insurance | Short-Term Film Production Insurance | Film Equipment Insurance | Film and Video Equipment Insurance
If you’re researching film festivals in Toronto, chances are that you’re a filmmaker yourself or somehow involved in the film industry.
Front Row provides production and producer’s E&O insurance for: features, episodic television, docs, shorts and more. The next time you’re working on a film production, consider Front Row’s insurance policies:
Front Row’s Short Shoot insurance policy (Canada) is a good option for insuring your short-term film projects. Coverage for up to 15 consecutive days of filming. The coverage is available online, 24/7. Covers rented gear, rented locations, rented props, sets, wardrobes, and more. You can get a quote in two minutes and purchase a policy 100% online. If you are in the US, please complete this form.
Front Row’s DigiGear insurance policy (Canada) is a good option for insuring your filmmaking gear, including your film camera(s). Also available online. Quotes in 2 minutes; policies available in 5 minutes. Shop from your phone. If you are in the US, please complete this form.
In addition, film festivals should consider insuring their film screening events; movie theatre insurance can be purchased online in Canada.
About: Front Row Insurance Brokers Inc. is an independent insurance broker that specializes in the entertainment industry – specifically, the film industry. Front Row works hard to provide insurance protection for the lowest possible cost. Should a claim occur, Front Row works diligently with clients and insurers to expedite the payment of claims. Offices in: Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Halifax, NY, Nashville and LA.