With “The Magnificent Seven” selected as the opening night gala, the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) marked its 41st year with speakers welcoming the audience with enthusiasm and awareness of how far the Festival had come since its founding.

Piers Handling, Director and Chief Executive officer of the Festival, was greeted with applause when he pointed out that of the nearly 400 films being shown, 30% involved women filmmakers. That’s an impressive statistic reflecting the effort to make women a greater force in the industry.

Speaking of numbers, some 3200 volunteers, it was pointed out, were taking part as helpers in the running of the huge event. (One could see volunteers virtually everywhere, and from what I observed they were always polite and helpful in encounters with the press and audiences.)

Other speakers on opening night included Michèle Maheux, Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer, and Cameron Baily, Artistic Director.

A high point for the audience was the appearance of “The Magnificent Seven” director Antoine Fuqua, and assorted members of the cast, including Denzel Washington, who received the biggest hand. Haley Bennett, the film’s female star, looked ravishing on stage, in sharp contrast to the earthy, mining town heroic woman whom she plays in the film.

For me personally, it was gratifying to see on screen along with the listing of sponsors thanked acknowledgment of the Festival founders, William Marshall, the late Dusty Cohl and Henk Van der Kolk. When we were sitting around on the terrace of the Carlton Hotel at the Cannes Film Festival way back when, they told me they were about to start a festival in Toronto and asked me to chair craft conferences about filmmaking, which I did for the first two years of the event, then called by the founders The Festival of Festivals. Without that venturesome trio TIFF would not exist, and it is good to see them recognized.

It was tough going in the beginning—lining up celebrities and trying to convince the Hollywood studios to participate. Now, of course, the studios and other influential filmmakers are eager to have their works shown.

As for the “The Magnificent Seven” the opening night audience seemed to like it, judging by the applause at the end. (See review under Special Reports.) Posted September 25, 2016.

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