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For TIFF’s Cameron Bailey, love of films intersects with devotion to family | The Star

There may not be any plans for Keanu Reeves to attend the Toronto International Film Festival this year, but he is always welcome in the Bailey household.

“We watched Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” Mr. Film Fest was saying, about the Keanu mission that he and his 10-year-old, Tate, have been on recently.

We had arranged to assemble at Soho House for a little rendezvous in the weeks leading up to Cameron Bailey’s biggest of the year, when some 300 movies unspool in Toronto (333 this annum, from all over the world), and he prepares to host well over a hundred celebrities who manifest in this town (including, on the Monday of the fest, at the first ever, seriously star-studded TIFF Tribute Gala).

“Wait, I have a little document …” Bailey said when asked to expound on other titles from the ’80s and ’90s that father and son have been methodically going through, Keanu or not. He peered down at his phone.

Naturally, there has been a fair bit of Spielberg. Close Encounters of the Third Kind, for one — a movie that was formative for dad during his own childhood. Big, the Tom Hanks film, has been another. And because they have, on occasion, delved further into cinematic history, Tate has even gotten a little into Jimmy Stewart. “He asked to see Vertigo over the holidays,” Bailey told me in an email, if I recall, near the start of the year.

Not sure how that went, not well.

His son (with wife Carolynne, a journalist) being a big Raptors fan, Bailey also screened for him the seminal 1994 documentary Hoop Dreams (earning additional dad points when he took Tate to an actual Raptors games during the playoffs).

“That is kinda cool that Tate is into movies,” I editorialized to the man whose job involves circling the globe — from Mumbai to Buenos Aires — in the name of film and who, in a previous life, worked as a critic.

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“He likes movies, but not as much as he likes basketball,” Bailey came back. Noted.

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Family has clearly been on the mind of the TIFF co-director, having lost his mother in June. He summed up her influence this way: “At 18, she left the island of Barbados for England, alone. In a country that sometimes showed how much it didn’t want her there, she trained to be a nurse and a midwife, to give care. She married, gave birth to two children, suffered heartbreak and started her life over again as a single woman in another new country, Canada.”

She lived by a code that Bailey describes as, “Study hard. Work harder. Save your money. Tend your garden. Plan ahead. Keep your home and yourself looking good. Do better. Do better … than they expect,” a code she passed on to her children, even though at times it took a “toll on us and on her … she lived that code with grace, humour and love.”

Bottom line? “I owe who I am and where I am to her.”

This September, in a singularly Canadian story, that person — the kid who spent his earliest years living in a farmhouse in Barbados that did not include indoor plumbing (though they did have a cow) — is honouring MERYL STREEP (caps intended) at the aforementioned TIFF gala, happening at the Fairmont Royal York.

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“I have never met her,” Bailey said, surprising me a little.

Indeed, it has been a long time since the three-time Oscar winner was even at TIFF (more than a decade) — a fact that makes the coming visit something of a coup for Bailey and his new co-director, Joana Vicente.

Telling me a little more about the gala — an event that seems to be a new sort of flag-planting for the festival — Bailey said it was largely the brainchild of Vincente, who previously ran the Gotham Awards in New York City (a significant marker in awards season).

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Viewing the event here as a buzz bonanza that will further help to “build relevance” — and, in fact, becomes the first awards gifting of the season, thus upending the calendar — it will single out talent at various peaks in their career, all at TIFF with significant new projects.

Streep, for instance, is here with The Laundromat, the Steven Soderbergh opus about the Panama Papers. Joaquin Phoenix, another hitherto announced honouree, is here with the much-anticipated Joker. Ditto iconic cinematographer Roger Deakins, who arrives at TIFF — and the gala — having lensed The Goldfinch.

“It is a way to recognize people and also to bring the industry together,” Bailey said.

On your marks, tuxedo … go.

Shinan GovaniShinan Govani is a Toronto-based freelance contributing columnist covering culture and society. Follow him on Twitter: @shinangovaniRead More



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