Even more impressive: The Toronto Fest -- in Ettinger's estimation, "the most influential film festival in North America" -- is on board as the event's artistic sponsor and mentor. Things certainly are coming into focus for Ettinger's labor of love -- and it's laborious indeed. Though there is a submission process, "Most of the stuff I go track down on my own," she explains. "I've read Variety voraciously -- and all of the programming that's been done at other festivals -- and tracked down films that didn't know about us."
Showcasing 18 films from 16 countries on six continents, this year's installment gets rolling with an opening-night double feature -- Israel's Giraffes and Hungary's Hukkle -- with a catered intermission. Over the following four days, a variety of VIPs will pop in for post-screening discussions, and indecisive theatergoers can look to the well-informed for guidance, as a jury of local critics named the best of the fest.
The fairest fare? Best Film: Giraffes, which interweaves the lives of three women in Tel Aviv. Best Ensemble Acting: Marion Bridge, a Canadian drama about three sisters tending to their dying mother. Best Screenplay and Best Director: Gloomy Sunday, a German love story that morphs into a tale of Nazi terror. Perhaps not the feel-good movies of the year, but that's not Ettinger's objective. "I don't book things that I necessary like," she says. "I book things that are done in some sort of outstanding fashion."