UPDATE: This story has been updated with comment from TIFF and the Toronto Police Service.
The gala screening was scheduled for a 10 p.m. start at Roy Thomson Hall, one of TIFF’s premier venues. The documentary’s co-directors Carlos López Estrada and Zac Manuel and editor Andrew Morrow arrived on the red carpet first, posing with fans that lined the entryway. But as their subject, pop superstar Lil Nas X, pulled up in his car to join them, organizers were informed that a bomb threat had been called in and the artist was told to hold, sources told Variety. The threat specifically targeted the rapper for being a Black queer artist, one source added.
Nas’ arrival was delayed 20 minutes while TIFF security conducted a sweep of the venue. After the threat was proved not credible, he joined Estrada and Manuel on the red carpet and the screening began at approximately 10:30pm.
A spokesperson for TIFF tells Variety: “Earlier this evening, we were made aware by the Toronto Police Service of an investigation in the vicinity of the red carpet for the ‘Lil Nas X: Long Live Montero’ screening. Our standard security measures remained in place during this time and the screening commenced with a slight delay. To our knowledge, this was a general threat and not directed at the film or the artist.”
A representative for the Toronto Police Service replied Sunday regarding their involvement in the incident. “Yesterday, at the TIFF, a passerby uttered a threat towards private security,” a spokesperson said. “Out of an abundance of caution, the Toronto Police and the private security swept the scene and cleared within 20 minutes. The threat was general and did not target any one person.”
In its 46-year history, TIFF has been relatively incident free when it comes to security. In 2017, the festival invested in tighter cybersecurity measures after a hack crippled box office capabilities and citywide WiFi connections at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah. In 2018, Toronto introduced bomb-sniffing dogs and bag checks at screenings in response to local terror attacks (including a public shooting, and the killing of 10 innocents when a driver purposely crashed a van into a sidewalk).
In an exclusive interview ahead of the documentary’s premiere, Nas told Variety about the impact he hopes the film will have on audiences, especially as it addresses issues of representation.
“I know in my lifetime, while I’m here, I’m going to do my best to make the ceiling unreachable to where we can go as Black queer people,” Nas said. “And I mean unreachable as, like, it can go above and beyond.”
He continued: “I feel like we live in a generation where Black queer people really control culture, and they’re helping really take the world to the next level. And I think that’s going to have an effect on our youth watching us.”
From Variety US