TIFF continues tradition of star-studded charity events: Knelman

Welcome to the free-spending pre-show before the main event, a.k.a. the 41st annual Toronto International Film Festival.

Opening night, as everybody knows, is Thursday, Sept. 8. But parallel events — all about celebrity, society and charity — kick off on Wednesday, Sept 7.

This year, there are two distinctly different charity events that night. The one for those with hefty wallets is the white-tie AMBI Group gala at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, which raises money for disadvantaged youth with the help of patrons who pay $25,000 for a table of 10. Earth, Wind & Fire — a band that encompasses soul, disco, rock, pop, blues and jazz — will provide the entertainment.


The group, recruited by producer Barry Avrich, replaces Aretha Franklin who, because of health issues, has cancelled many concerts scheduled over the next few months.

(Last year it was Diana Ross who thrilled the AMBI crowd.)

TIFF will have its own event at the Lightbox on Wednesday. After trying big-ticket gala dinners in 2012 and 2013, it has settled into a more comfortable niche.

This year, Irish-born actor Michael Fassbender, who has Oscar-nominated for his performances in 12 Years a Slave and Steve Jobs, will be grilled onstage. Regular tickets cost $300 to $350. For $750, you can get a VIP ticket, which includes an after-party at Malaparte on the roof.

And yes, despite its aura of glitz and glamour, TIFF is also a charity, with a community outreach program that offers subsidies for children and families otherwise unable to participate in TIFF’s film-based learning programs.

For years, various charitable organizations have raised millions for unquestionably good causes. Best Buddies used to stage a big event during TIFF but now raises money without a dinner event.