Stars Are In Toronto For TIFF, While Commuters Take Subway And Watch Tuff


Zaib Shaikh

For the 10th year running, digital signage screens in Toronto’s subway system are being used as the medium for a film festival that pretty much coincides with the glitzy, celebrity-riddled Toronto International Film Festival.

The Toronto Urban Film Festival (or TUFF) is running 72 films from 36 countries on screens owned and operated on commuter platforms by the out of home media firm Pattison Onestop.

The TUFF films will reach about 1.4 million people daily on subway platform screens, and the films will also be running at 16 Toronto Public Library locations.

“TUFF is committed to showcasing cinema that challenges the boundaries of art, film and public space,” says TUFF founder and organizer Sharon Switzer. “We are proud to offer travellers a uniquely urban cinematic experience that reminds them of the culture they have access to while living and working in Toronto. TUFF wants to inspire people to re-imagine their daily commute and daily lives.”

The festival is a real thing, and by no means just a way to get fresh stuff on the platform screens. Almost 500 submissions came in from 60 countries, and as noted, only a fraction are getting showings.

The festival has 10 programs, changing day by day:

  • TUFF TEN (Sept. 10): new Canadian shorts from previous TUFF award winners;
  • Outta My Way! (Sept. 11): a program of shorts that highlight tenacity and perseverance;
  • Waterworld (Sept. 12): an exploration of scarcity, conservation and plumbing;
  • Heads Up! (Sept. 13): cautionary tales for modern times;
  • Slow Your Roll (Sept. 14): a collection of reminders to slow down/take the road less traveled;
  • Labelles (Sept. 15): portrayals of women as witches, wives and everything in-between;
  • Twist and Shout (Sept. 16): shorts that will keep you guessing;
  • Solitary (Sept. 17): yearnings for connection and kinship;
  • Waking Nightmare (Sept. 18): dark visions of lost souls and raccoons defeating evil
  • In addition, Too TUFF For The TTC is a program of mature shorts hosted exclusively on the TUFF website

“I was delighted to watch all the films in this year’s TUFF,” says TUFF 2016 Guest Judge, Toronto Film Commissioner & Director of Entertainment Zaib Shaikh. “The range of subjects and styles were vast: from rough and ready to commercial and polished. The best films demonstrated an urgent reason to communicate along with the technique to support it,” said Shaikh. “Viewers are sure to be captivated.”

TUFF is produced by PATTISON Onestop, co-produced by Art for Commuters, and supported by the Toronto Transit Commission and the Toronto Public Library.

TUFF starts Saturday. TIFF starts today.


Dave Haynes

Dave Haynes

Editor/Founder at Sixteen:Nine
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for more than a decade. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He's based near Toronto.
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