The Toronto InternationalFilm Festival has appointed Noah Cowan to the new position of co-director. Theappointment, which was widely anticipated, will see Cowan sharing programmingduties with Piers Handling during a three-year transition period before takingover the festival's reins.

Handling will assumefull-time duties as the CEO of the Toronto International Festival Group as theorganization aims to unveil its proposed new headquarters in 2006. Cowanassumes his new title January 1, 2004.

"The film world is a livingbeast," Cowan told ScreenDaily. "It throws up new challenges all the time.There always seems to be a new source of great film, people at home are doingnew things. There are some interesting fresh voices out of the studio system,an explosion of digital cinema out of the developing world. As a festival, wehave to be ready to find a place for all of that change."

Long associated with theToronto event he began programming in 1989 when he co-founded the off-beat MidnightMadness genre programme and rose to associate director in 1997 . One of hisfirst priorities is to reacquaint himself with Canadian cinema after his longhiatus in the US. In 1999, he cofounded New York-based distribution outfitCowboy Booking and, in 2001, moved into the business full-time. Cowan sold hisinterest in the now-defunct Cowboy in 2002 and became president and managingpartner of Code Red Films.

Handling told ScreenDaily,'Noah grew up in the programming end. He understands the mandate and vision ofthe festival, that it's inclusive, public, national, and sets a high bar interms of artistic standards. But he's also upgraded his skills in the industry,and so has an outsider's perspective as well."

Cowan plans on attendingSundance, Rotterdam and Berlin festivals. "It's really important for a curatorof a major festival to experienceas much cinema as possible." Asked if he is prepared for the deluge of calls onhis mobile telephone, he said: "That's going to be the big challenge: I'm goingto get a lot more popular."