The 2016 Toronto International Film Festival has come and gone, but there’s a whiff of controversy still in the air, though not because of the content of any of the movies that screened. No, it’s due to the fact that the festival thought it would be a great idea to have ornamental cheerleaders at its closing night party, which had a “prom” theme, according to The Toronto Star. Because nothing screams “film nerd” like a reference to high-school sporting events with a dash of gross objectification. Alison Zimmer, an attendee and former TIFF staffer, posted a missive to Facebook detailing her warranted frustration:
I walked into the event and saw women in skimpy TIFF branded cheerleading outfits greeting guests. This was not a sponsor activation, but women hired by TIFF to ‘enhance the event’. Enhance for who, exactly? What does it say to the women who work for TIFF, the female filmmakers and industry guests and the general public when they walk into an official TIFF event to see women treated as objects? What tone does it set for how women are to be treated, respected? For me, this undoes any good will from the endless women in film panels, strides towards equity in programming and stated commitments to representation.
The festival has since responded on its own page in vague fashion, writing: “We appreciate Alison’s comments and will take them into account as we plan TIFF events in the future.” When asked for comment by the Star, a spokesperson just pointed to that statement. As the Star notes, at least the stats regarding female contributions to TIFF were somewhat uplifting this year: almost 30 percent of the films shown were directed by women.