Amidst all the shoulder-rubbing, movie-premiering, celebrity-stalking, party-hopping and gossip-blogging that has come to define the Toronto International Film Festival (or TIFF as the locals like to call it), a sixth and perhaps most crucial modus operandi has emerged at the 10-day fest: fund-raising. This past Saturday, we were fortunate enough to attend the cream of the charitable crop: Artists For Peace and Justice’s second annual TIFF fundraiser, held at the luxury auto dealership-turned-hip-event-space, PEARS.
This year, the Paul Haggis-helmed Haiti fundraising effort carried new resonance after the horrific earthquake that devastated the already poverty-stricken country in January. Soon after the disaster, Haiti became the trendy cause celebre, and in a twisted bit of irony, Haggis finally had the world’s attention squared solely on the nation he’s been trying to help for years. But the director isn’t looking to rub it in anyone’s face. “There was no ‘I told you so’ moment,” said the Oscar winner, speaking to Corduroy at the event. “It was just ‘How do we get down there and help’?” For starters, Haggis brought celebrity friends (and APJ board members) James Franco, Josh Brolin, Annalynne McCord, Mario Bello and New York artist Peter Tunney to the proceedings, which included a raucous auction hosted by Haggis himself. At one point, McCord openly broke down during a recounting of her time in Haiti after the quake. Clearly, the cause is dear to all those involved.
Now Haggis and co.’s mission is to ensure that the world doesn’t turn a blind eye on Haiti, a country that needed international aid long before the quake. “That’s why we keep doing these events,” he said. “That’s why we’re doing the Golden Globes; that’s why we’re doing the BAFTAs, and Cannes again. We use celebrities, and what little celebrity I have, and the efforts of great people to keep the attention focused on Haiti.”
The director had considerable help from PR maven Natasha Koifman, whose firm NKPR threw the lavish fundraiser. Koifman has also been donating five dollars to APJ with every new twitter follower she gets, money that will go directly to Haiti. “After the earthquake, all the NGOs raised 5.3 billion dollars, and the Haiti government has only seen 10% of that. It was so devastated,” she said. “With APJ, we know that 100% of everything we raise goes to the country.” It’s a cause Koifman clearly believes in, and proof that the film festival has got more than just glamorous fashions and photo ops; it’s also got a lot of heart.