Sunday, September 18, 2016

TIFF and the art of self-promotion

BaBa Zula rocks TIFF
Story & photos by Allan Tong

Each September, the world's second-largest film festival (after Cannes) attracts armies of filmgoers, showbiz heavies and journos. A while back (I don't know when), some marketing folks began to open drop-in lounges to promote everything from eyeliner to self-published mafia memoirs. Meanwhile, state film commissions throw lavish parties to promote their nation's filmmaking industry while film producers orchestrate death-defying stunts. On King Street, which was closed to traffic during the first half of the fest, tea, chocolate and other vendors were giving away samples to long lines. They all aim to generate Tweets and blog space for themselves and their clients. Hey, there's a huge market at TIFF. Let's hang our shingle here. 

The newest drop-in this year was the OomPH Lounge which hosted the Todd Shapiro Show, broadcasting live to radio listeners 47 storeys above neighbouring Roy Thompson Hall. A self-published memoir about a troubled childhood, paintings, a sports jerseys and organic hand lotion were on display as well as some sort of beverage. People floated in and out, catching breathtaking views of Lake Ontario, but I found the lounge too chill although friendly.

Instead, I got my adrenaline fix from another rooftop, The Thompson Hotel. Journalists were invited to witness an aerial stunt by three Russians with a rabid YouTube following. Two producers are making a film, called We Kill Death, and they were publicizing it in the middle of TIFF with, of course, a stunt. Would it take place at the Thompson rooftop, which was surrounded by condos? Nope. After an hour, someone pointed to a crane a mile east jutting into the sky. Three dark specks were crawling up it without safety cables, nets, nothing. Us jaded journos watched in astonishment as the three daredevils reached the very tip of the crane. If the producers wanted to attract press, they got it. Bonus marks for originality.

Left to right: Alex Ginzburg (producer), Mustang Wanted, Vitaliy Raskalov, Vadim Makhorov
and Tony Lee (producer)

However, this year's champion in self-promotion was Turkish Cinema who threw a party on the TIFF Lightbox patio, Malaparte. So what? you ask. Many people throw parties here. The difference was BaBa Zula, a space rock band (a la Spiritualized) from Istanbul who wore trippy garb andunleashed wave after wave of guitar feedback that echoed across downtown Toronto. Baba Zula blew minds, mesmerized the audience and got everyone to their feet. Until then, they were all trading business cards and sipping wine.

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