The new programming team features some of the most sought-after and valuable voices in the industry, and comprises 50 per cent women.

Audience first. It’s not just the mission statement for the Toronto International Film Festival’s latest five-year strategic plan — an initiative stressing transformative experiences through celluloid, rather than the simple screening of films — but a formula for triumph that drives the approach of Cameron Bailey and Joana Vicente, who have been appointed TIFF’s co-heads and its Artistic Director and Executive Director, respectively.

A lm critic for 20 years, Bailey began programming for the organization in 1990, heading its Perspective Canada program and founding its Planet Africa section, and he’s been responsible for the direction of the Festival’s selection since 2008. For her part, Vicente is an Academy Award– nominated producer of over 40 feature films by acclaimed directors, 12 of which she brought to TIFF over the years, and a leading figure of the digital film revolution. Born in Portugal, she spent nine years as executive director of the Independent Filmmaker Project, a New York-based organization of independent American filmmakers.

Believing a two-headed structure was right for the future success of the Festival, TIFF installed the pair in their current roles in 2018. They haven’t looked back. Working closely together to set the tone and lead the organization, bringing the new strategic plan to life, Bailey and Vicente have embarked on an ambitious path for TIFF in 2019, putting those aforementioned transformative experiences in an increased position of prominence.

“Transformation” is the operative word here.

This year, TIFF welcomes a new generation of film experts and curators who have been designated as Lead Programmers. This new programming team features some of the most sought-after and valuable voices in the industry and comprises 50 per cent women. It’s a move that doesn’t just emphasize TIFF’s continued commitment to achieving gender parity and spotlighting underrepresented visions in cinema as the Festival secures the very best films from all over the world. At the same time, it aspires to give clearer identities to Festival sections by providing these Lead Programmers with stronger voices in shaping their programming’s character and tone.

High-profile names like Ellen Page and Alanis Obomsawin are showcasing their movies. There’s also an extremely strong contingent of female filmmakers working everywhere in Canada, from Newfoundland to British Columbia, each addressing a genuinely myriad spectrum of subjects, from mother-daughter relationships to the refugee experience, female friendships to youth in crisis.

Though the vibrant and inclusive stewardship of TIFF had long been entrusted to Bailey in one form or another, it was primarily behind the scenes. But with Vicente by his side, the push for diversity is truly ready for its close-up — in 2019, and beyond!

Share Her Journey

Recognizing that women have been underrepresented in the film industry’s major creative roles—just 20 per cent of 2018’s top 250 films employed female directors, writers, producers, editors and cinematographers, and only
one per cent employed 10 or more women—in 2017 the festival launched a five-year initiative called Share Her Journey. The goal is to help address the imbalance through mentorship, skills development, media literacy and education programs, as well as providing actual screens to show women’s films.

Last September, thousands of people gathered at a TIFF Share Her Journey Rally in Toronto to listen to speakers like Mia Kirshner and Geena Davis. There have been calls for inclusion riders, in which stars can insist on a gender-balanced crew, “gender passes” on scripts to see which male characters could be made female, a digital platform to share stories of sexual harassment and a research study to prove the economic impact of entertainment created by women. Since 2016, TIFF’s Talent Lab, Studio and TIFF Rising Stars industry programming has had a 50/50 gender split.

For more information or to support these initiatives, go to