amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

Inaugural Cinema Against AIDS Toronto Raises More Than $700,000 for amfAR and Dignitas International

Sarah McLachlan, Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, Michelle Yeoh, MIranda Richardson, Eve, Terry Gilliam, Bill Nighy Among Attendees - Event presented by Sullivan Entertainment and co-sponsored by MAC Cosmetics



Bennah Serfaty, amfAR Senior Director of Communications: 212-806-1607;
Natalie Jacobs, amfAR Coordinator, Media Relations: 212-806-1694;


Toronto, ON, Canada, September 16, 2009---Sarah McLachlan, amfAR Ambassador Michelle Yeoh, Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, Miranda Richardson, Deborah Cox, Eve, Terry Gilliam, Bill Nighy, James Purefoy, Verne Troyer, Dignitas co-founder James Fraser, amfAR CEO Kevin Robert Frost, and event chairs John Demsey, Milutin Gatsby, Trudy Grant, Dignitas co-founder Dr. James Orbinski, and Kevin Sullivan were among those who came out to support the fight against AIDS last night at the first-ever Cinema Against AIDS Toronto. Held during the Toronto International Film Festival, this star-studded gala generated over $700,000 for amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, and Dignitas International.

amfAR Ambassador and event chair Michelle Yeoh opened the evening at the acclaimed Carlu by welcoming the crowd of more than 350 guests and applauding the partnership between amfAR and Dignitas, two organizations dedicated to beating the AIDS pandemic through innovative research and determined activism. Following Yeoh’s remarks, amfAR CEO Kevin Robert Frost took the stage and spoke movingly about the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s impact on the fight against AIDS and Kennedy’s hope that amfAR might one day stand for “victory.”

A highlight of the evening was a solo piano set by legendary Canadian recording artist and Grammy Award Winner Sarah McLachlan, featuring her hits “Adia” and “Angel.” 

Following McLachlan’s performance, event chair Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, spoke of her personal experiences meeting children orphaned by AIDS and reminded the crowd of the transformative power of human kindness. Dignitas co-founder Dr. James Orbinski echoed the Duchess’ sentiments and underscored the power of activism and basic research in the fight against AIDS. Dr. Orbinski encouraged guests to remain hopeful, noting that last year new HIV infections decreased for the first time since the start of the epidemic. Orbinski asked the film community to celebrate their part in this accomplishment through their continued fundraising commitment. 

During the live auction led by Matthew Penstone, Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, helped to sell a dream ski vacation in the French Alps, including personal ski instruction from world champion skier Manu Gaidet and a week’s stay for up to twelve guests in one of the world’s most luxurious private chalets, La Compagnie.  The package, donated by La Compagnie and Manu Gaidet, sold for $150,000 to event chair Milutin Gatsby.

Event chair Miranda Richardson auctioned off a London Fashion Package featuring a guided shopping tour with fashion icon Bronwyn Cosgrave and a four-night stay at the Savoy Hotel, for $10,000.

Michelle Yeoh closed the auction with an exclusive lot of Cartier LOVE bracelets, donated especially for Cinema Against AIDS Toronto. Yeoh hoped that “20 friends” would join her in solidarity in the fight against AIDS, and 26 guests, including Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, quickly took this opportunity to show their support.

Toronto-born R&B singer Deborah Cox closed the evening with two songs and elicited cheers from the crowd.

Other auction highlights included:

A “New York Fashion Week for Two” package, including two tickets to three of the fashion world’s most prestigious shows, a two-night stay at The Plaza Hotel, and tickets to amfAR’s New York Gala, sold for $10,000;

A tennis lesson with top-ranked player Jelena Jankovic sold for $5,500;

Artist Todd DiCiurcio helped to auction off one of his original paintings, a single edition piece entitled “My Venus,” for $27,000;

James Purefoy charmed guests while encouraging bidding on a one-of-a-kind Balenciaga runway piece, which sold for $14,000;

Artist Vivian Reiss helped to auction off one of her coveted paintings, a vivid portrait entitled “Young Bette Davis,” for $12,000.

About amfAR
amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, is one of the world’s leading nonprofit organizations dedicated to the support of AIDS research, HIV prevention, treatment education, and the advocacy of sound AIDS-related public policy. Since 1985, amfAR has invested nearly US$290 million in its programs and has awarded grants to more than 2,000 research teams worldwide.

About Dignitas International
Dignitas International is a medical humanitarian organization focused on dramatically increasing access to HIV/AIDS-related prevention, treatment, care and support in Africa through community-based approaches. Dignitas is sharing evidence-based research outcomes in an effort to influence policy and improve the international response to AIDS. Dignitas was co-founded by Dr. James Orbinski, who accepted the 1999 Nobel Peace Prize as International President of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF/Doctors Without Borders).

About Sullivan Entertainment
The Sullivan Entertainment Group is a multi-media company that has produced, published and merchandised some of Canada’s biggest brand-name exports, including the Anne of Green Gables and Road to Avonlea franchises, and currently maintains its own distribution labels in Europe, North America, and Asia. The company has co-produced award-winning and ratings-breaking programs for CTV, CBC, CBS, PBS, Lifetime, ABC/Disney, BBC, Channel 4, and other broadcasters, and has won hundreds of international awards, including several Emmy Awards, numerous Cable Ace Awards, a George Foster Peabody Award, and a Prix Jeunesse.

The Fairmont Royal York is the official hotel partner of Cinema Against AIDS Toronto.

BMW served as the official Automotive Partner for Cinema Against AIDS.

amfAR recognizes American Airlines for its commitment to the fight against AIDS and its generous support of amfAR’s mission.