(Toronto) A group of Canadian filmmakers has joined forces with Hollywood stars to call on the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) to end its sponsorship with the Royal Bank of Canada due to the latter’s financing of the oil and gas industry.

Organizers of the campaign called “RBC Off Screen” say the financial institution’s track record of investing in fossil fuels goes against the socially progressive values ​​the film festival claims to uphold.

Among the signatories to the group’s open letter to TIFF raising concerns are big screen stars Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and Joaquin Phoenix, alongside filmmakers and producers including Avi Lewis, Elza Kephart and Jose Luis Gutierrez.

Ms. Kephart and Mr. Gutierrez launched the campaign, and they say they have the support of more than 200 industry workers. The group’s statement argues that the Royal Bank is one of the largest financiers of oil and gas projects in the world and finances projects that have negatively impacted Indigenous lands and groups of Indigenous, Black and people of color.

TIFF vice president of public relations Judy Lung said in a statement that the festival was sensitive to the sustainability concerns raised and was speaking to the Royal Bank about them.

Bank spokeswoman Stephanie Bannan said in a statement that more action was needed to combat climate change and that the company welcomed the opportunity to discuss these issues with indigenous groups and the film community.

“When it comes to climate change, we are convinced that more action is needed and at a faster pace to address it. We actively engage with our customers and partners to identify opportunities to do more to achieve shared goals,” said Bannan.

“We also strive to work with Indigenous communities to collectively advance reconciliation. We are sensitive to the concern expressed by members of the film community for our climate and we would be happy to have the opportunity to dialogue. »

Louis Ramirez, climate activist and campaign spokesperson, says TIFF’s association with Royal Bank does not align with its goals of funding, assisting and promoting creative talent from indigenous people groups , black and colored over the years.

It’s great if organizations give grants to black filmmakers, Ramirez said, but if that money is tied to starting natural gas facilities in black communities, for example, “then there’s a problem.” .

“A lot of these film organizations like TIFF have great climate programs. But these climate programs actually end when we look at the bigger picture: where does the money come from? There is this myopia when it comes to business associations. »

Quebecer Nadia Louis-Desmarchais, co-director of Black Life: Untold Stories, stressed that in the interest of social change, it was important for her to sign the letter.

“When I learned that this is something that needs to be done now – as a filmmaker, if I can just participate a little bit, of course I’ll help,” Ms. Louis-Desmarchais said Tuesday on the red carpet for the premiere of his documentary series, which will air on CBC in October.

“I think it’s important that we stay together right now. »

The letter has been signed so far by around 300 artisans in the sector, including Quebecers Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette, Paule Baillargeon and Charles Binamé.

The Royal Bank of Canada, Bulgari and Visa are among the main sponsors of TIFF.

Last month, it was announced that title sponsor Bell would end its decades-long partnership with the festival at the end of the current edition.

Festival CEO Cameron Bailey said in a previous interview with The Canadian Press that the organization was looking for a replacement to eventually put its name on TIFF’s downtown headquarters, currently known as TIFF Bell Lightbox.

Last year, sponsors contributed approximately $13.4 million to the event, which represented 28% of its total revenue.