Published September 12, 2013
TORONTO (AFP) – The Toronto International Film Festival blurred the line between cinema and television this week -- for the first time showing small-screen dramas on the silver screen.
"We're dipping our toes into television," festival boss Cameron Bailey told AFP.
"There have been films made for (cable network) HBO, for example, that had also been shown in theaters in the past," he said, "but what we're seeing now is the border between cinema and television being pulled down."
The festival is screening four-part drama "Southcliffe" by British director Sean Durkin, who was last at the film festival in 2011 with "Martha Marcy May Marlene."
The 45-minute episodes, which chronicle a fictional British soldier's return from Afghanistan to turn his guns on the people of his hometown, are being shown consecutively, with an intermission between each.
Toronto film festival audiences will also be the first in North America to see Agnieska Holland's "Burning Bush," in three 80-minutes installations. The drama based on real events shows her native Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic) at the height of political turmoil in 1969, after the Prague Spring crackdown.
And fans of Edgar Reitz's landmark "Heimat" series -- 53 hours of domestic drama played out against the rise of the Nazis through to the division of East and West Germany and the crumbling of the Berlin Wall -- can delight in seeing the prequel feature film "Home from Home" (Die Andere Heimat) in Toronto.
"Three or four hours is a huge commitment during the film festival, but we just think the quality is so high that we're inviting people to binge," said Cameron. "We show it all."
He noted that it is "not unusual for people to watch an entire season of (Netflix's) 'House of Cards,' almost 13 hours of television over a weekend."
"I think it will be less and less unusual for people to watch that length of work in cinemas as well," he said.
Cameron said film festivals follow filmmaking trends, but he said he couldn't predict if the film and television industries -- the distributors -- will follow suit and also "become more integrated" soon.
Cameron said part of the reason for the crossover on the creative side is that "the quality of television shows have improved radically, with some of the best writing and acting happening now in television."
These longer story arcs, stretched out over one or more seasons, are also starting to attract big-name directors, including Martin Scorsese, iconic director of "The Departed," "Goodfellas" and "Taxi Driver" and whose TV series "Boardwalk Empire" started running on HBO in 2010, and Steven Soderbergh, of "Erin Brockovich" and "Traffic" fame, whose television mini-series "The Knick" is in pre-production.
The crossover between home and theater viewing is also moving in the other direction, thanks in part to the high bandwidth of the internet: video sharing website Vimeo is offering to stream up to 150 Toronto film festival world premieres.
The service allows filmmakers to set the price and geographical access for their movies.