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Master’s student has dream job at TIFF

Programs Latin American films

Cinema Studies student Diana Sanchez watches 250 films a year and gets paid to do it.
For most students that’s a dream come true, and as a programmer for the Toronto International Film Festival, Sanchez is living that dream. Sanchez lived in Spain for 14 years and is the programmer for the Latin American segment of the festival, a job she has been doing for 10 years.

“I started 15 years ago as a TIFF volunteer and I met a Latin American programmer,” said Sanchez. “I worked for Ramiro Puerta who took me under his wing.  Before he passed away he had asked me to take over his position.” 

Puerta was a filmmaker and veteran programmer who died in January 2002. One of Sanchez's first tasks was to program a tribute to Puerta that included his own short films and his festival highlights.

Sanchez is a full-time student in the Masters program in cinema studies at Innis College, and her job at the festival is also part time. It begins each year in January and involves a great deal of travel to Latin America and Europe. She programs 20 films a year.

“It entails travelling to Spain and Portugal a lot, watching a lot of films and getting them for TIFF,” she said.  “You still have to negotiate the North American premiere or the world premiere.  It gets much easier the longer you’ve been doing it, because you know all the producers, the distributors, the sales agents and directors. It really becomes about connections and who you know so they will come to you with their projects. I often go to the Rotterdam festival. You look for projects that aren’t finished yet, so you look at rough cuts. In March I usually go to Colombia and Guadalajara.  In April, I go to Buenos Aires and Sao Paolo and Rio. May is the Cannes Film Festival and it’s a must because everyone is there.”

Sanchez says selecting films now comes more naturally to her after 10 years in the field.

“When you find a really good film, in terms of storytelling and production value, it’s quite intuitive most times. I see a lot of films at Cannes, so those are already chosen. This year I have seven world premieres, so that means they have never been seen anywhere else. I showed a new one from Argentina called Back to Stay. When I saw it, it was a rough cut, but it went the festival prior to TIFF and won the best feature, so there are a lot of similarities in taste when it comes to the festivals.”

Sanchez credits her time in the cinema studies program prior to her start at TIFF for her foray into the industry. She came to U of T because her mentor, cinema studies Professor Kay Armatage, also a TIFF volunteer, was teaching there.

 “When I started she was someone I admired very much and I went to for advice and she was here at cinema studies so I kept up a relationship,” said Sanchez.

She says being in the cinema studies program has helped her along the way.

“The program really helps with my writing, just the continuity.  It’s much more fluid. It’s nice to reflect on why you’re programming certain films and just do something for yourself.”


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