Roots and the Toronto International Film Festival continue their storied relationship more than 30 years after it first began

By Robert Sarner, The Source, Sept. 8, 2006

Longtime observers of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) were not surprised this week when the Roots flagship store was the site of one of the main events helping kick off this year's 10-day showbiz extravaganza.

In an initiative co-sponsored by Roots, the Barenaked Ladies performed a free mid-day open-air concert yesterday just outside the store on Bloor Street. It helped create the buzz and set the scene for the official opening of TIFF 2006 later in the day.

Roots and TIFF are both creations of the 1970s and have grown up together. Both have evolved tremendously since their inception. Both have generated great acclaim for Canada, adding cachet to the city they call home. Both exude style, flair, and excitement. Both attract celebrities and the media spotlight. Both have benefited from their longtime collaboration. Both are exceptionally busy during a frenzied week-and-a-half every September.

This year is no exception as Roots is involved in a myriad of TIFF-related events, including hosting the AOL Moviefone's Unscripted online interview show and CTV's eTalk entertainment program at 100 Bloor Street. The two have found temporary homes at the specially prepared Roots lounges on the store's second floor, where countless celebrity interviews will be filmed during the festival. Coordinated by Raymond Perkins, Director of PR and Special Events, the lounges and the Roots eTalk Hello! Magazine Clubhouse at the Roots store were inaugurated yesterday in connection with the Barenaked Ladies concert.

Roots and TIFF go way back together. Although Roots was only three years old when the festival began in 1976, it was one of the first sponsors of the event. Roots Co-Founder Michael Budman was one of the Festival's original board members.

Since then, there's been a great synergy between TIFF and Roots. From the official merchandise Roots has designed for TIFF to the many prominent friends of Roots the company has connected to TIFF to the countless happenings Roots has hosted for TIFF, it's clear the company contributes greatly to the annual event. And of course the association with TIFF has not exactly been bad for Roots business, either.

Every year since 1976, Roots has produced, organized, and sponsored so many festival-related events it's impossible to do them justice in one article. Suffice it to say they have created many special moments and lasting memories for those fortunate to have been in attendance.

To cite but a few: The Closing Party for the Festival at the Palais Royale in the late 70s; The first George Christie luncheon created by Roots at the Westside Grill in 1984 (and has sponsored every year since); The launch party for the film Les Canadiens at the old Squeeze Club in 1985; The party for Jesus of Montreal at a church on Avenue Road in 1989 with Brad Pitt and Denys Arcand; The Jack Nicholson After Party at the Roots Coach House in 1993; The party for film director Bernardo Bertolucci in 2003; The Us magazine event at Roots 100 Bloor St. in 2003 that featured world-famous Parisian DJ and club maestro Claude Challe, and actors Dan Aykroyd, Fran Drescher and Kim Cattrall; The garden party for photographer and filmmaker Bruce Weber in 2004; The reception for the Goldeneye Film Festival in 2005; The party for renowned architect Frank Gehry (who was the focus of Sydney Pollack's documentary) last year; The many dinners for producer Jerry Bruckheimer; The Spaghetti at Midnight after-parties at Sotto Sotto and Sisi Trattoria. The list is virtually endless, as are the number of celebrities attracted to Roots during the film festival.

The first big name to discover Roots while in town for the festival was Henry Winkler in 1977. He was starring as Fonz in the hottest TV show at the time, Happy Days, and was then in a new movie at the festival. He came into a Roots store but unfortunately there was no camera around. The next day when Bill Marshall, the co-founder of the Festival, heard what had happened, he told Michael Budman: "Never let that happen again!" And he was right. Roots has learned a lot since then as evident in the hundreds of photos of celebrities in Roots stores seen in the media.

Of course, Roots- like the Toronto Film Festival itself - is about a lot more than just celebrities. And that's what makes these two important institutions so vital and enduring.

Let this year's show begin!

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