TIFF tinkers with the Platform Prize for 2019

The Toronto International Film Festival has switched up the jury pool – and the prize money – for the fifth edition of its competition program


The Cannes Film Festival is in full swing, but the Toronto International Film Festival would like you to look over here for a moment as it unveils the jury for this September’s Platform Prize competition.

Previously the exclusive domain of highly respected international filmmakers – like last year’s trio of Lee Chang-dong, Béla Tarr and Mira Nair – the fifth edition of the Platform program is pivoting more toward the industry side: Greek filmmaker Athina Rachel Tsangari (Attenberg, Chevalier), Berlin International Film Festival artistic director Carlo Chatrian and Variety film critic Jessica Kiang will compose the 2019 panel.

This is an intriguing move for TIFF, which had spent four years establishing Platform as an award given to filmmakers by filmmakers, its $25,000 prize presented to a world premiere of “bold directorial vision.” That mandate still applies, though it seems likely that a critic and a programmer would have different ideas of what that means. (Also, the purse has been shaved down to $20,000 this year.)

Perhaps the festival was looking to change things up after a run of esoteric winners like Alan Zweig’s Hurt, Pablo Larraín’s Jackie, Warwick Thornton’s Sweet Country and Ho Wi Ding’s divisive Cities Of Last Things, which took the prize last year. The 2019 program, curated by TIFF artistic director Cameron Bailey and festival programmer Andréa Picard, will be announced in August.

In a statement, Bailey explained the move: “As we continue to evolve and shape the future of this young programme, we feel incorporating established industry professionals into its jury is the natural progression.”

“We expect that moving away from exclusively inviting filmmakers will shift the focus of the jury discussions,” Picard added.

It’s also worth noting that this year’s jury is considerably more youthful than last year’s, where the youngest member was 60. It’s also possible that reconfiguring Platform’s jury members like this serves to refresh the program in the wake of TIFF director Piers Handling’s retirement.

And there’s one other curious thing: just last week, the Berlin film festival announced the creation of Encounters, a new competitive program that would screen up to 15 features and documentaries – all world or international premieres – for a three-member jury that would choose the best film, best director and a special jury prize.

It’s almost exactly the same concept as TIFF’s Platform, making Chatrain’s presence on the TIFF jury feel like a friendly invitation to take a test run at the process from the inside.

Either that, or they’re going to put him through hell for poaching their bit. I guess we’ll know when the titles are announced this summer.

The 44th Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 5-15. For more information visit tiff.net/tiff.

@normwilner

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