As if this weekend did not have enough going on already, (NBA All-Star Weekend in Toronto, Valentine’s Day, extreme cold weather), it is also one of the most exciting weekends of the year at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, the always fascinating TIFF Next Wave. Featuring a nicely curated program, TIFF Next Wave features quite a lot of activity condensed into a single weekend. Best of all, many of the films are free and all are free to high school students.
The event kicks off with Battle of the Scores, which is one of the most fun events that can be experienced inside a theatre. It involves six teams putting together a score for an original film, and audiences members join together to vote for their favourites.
The festival really kicks into high gear on Saturday, as the scheduling of a Space Jam live read to coincide with all-star weekend was a brilliant one. While the performers were somewhat surprising, the standout might well be local talent Ennis Esmer of Red Oaks, who is sure to bring the nuance of Space Jam to the live reading. Hannibal Burress has just been announced to play Michael Jordan, which is a huge coup for TIFF Next Wave.
The films of TIFF Next Wave include some real standouts, including Michel Gondry’s Microbe and Gasoline, which was featured at the New York Film Festival, but has yet to screen in Canada. The two main characters are highlights, (the title gets its name because one is short and the other obsessed with cars). The two go on an adventure, a kind of road trip, but what is perhaps most interesting is Audrey Tautou in a must-see role as an older mother(!). The classic films this year focus on the theme of “teen angst” and are all free.
Some of the other selections to seek out include the plaintive Songs My Brothers Taught Me, an Independent Spirit Award nominated account of a South Dakota reserve, Damian John Harper’s Los Ángeles, which focuses on the timely subject of immigration and homeland, Sarah Blecher’s Ayanda, about the streets of South Africa from Ava DuVernay’s Array, favourites from this past year’s TIFF, The ldol from Hany Abu-Assad and Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s Mustang, which should play extremely well with high school students. The film Takin’ Place is worth seeing just to witness director Cyrus Dowlatshahi, who appears to be a real character, filming a slice of life documentary about the south side of Chicago from an Iranian-American.
And of course, the closing night film Sing Street, which just played to a rapturous reception at Sundance is a must-see, especially since star Ferdia Walsh-Peelo will be performing. Sing Street is an uplifting musical in the vein of Almost Famous meets The Commitments with original songs from Once star Glen Hansard.
We spoke with two of the members of the Next Wave selection committee to get their impressions.
Scene Creek: What do you think are some films that really got you to love movies?
Sam Gore: The movies that sparked my interest in film would have to be the Pirates of the Caribbean series which helped me understand all the different genres you can cover in film, from drama, romance, action and adventure, you name it. It also helped me to understand storytelling and all the different ways that a movie can tell a story.
Steven Johnson: Films like The 400 Blows, Princess Mononoke and Cinema Paradiso empathize with my most intimate feelings and memories; I realized the significance of films in portraying subjective perspectives and the artist’s identity & imagination. When I first saw Princess Mononoke, I was awed by its fantastical story and sincerity. I spent the next 5 years trying to find a copy of it because I forgot the title; I was so engrossed with the film I lost touch with reality.
Scene Creek: What is your favourite movie theatre in the city?
Sam Gore: Definitely TIFF Bell Lightbox. TIFF brings me and the rest of the world movies from everywhere that you may not see in any other theatre. That’s what makes it such an amazing and important place for film.
Steven Johnson: Fave theater (and not just ’cause I’m a part of the TIFF/Next Wave fam) is definitely TIFF Bell Lightbox!!! It’s more than just a theater, it’s a cultural cornerstone!!! An artistic landmark!! (Specifically Cinema 5 [no laughing], cause everybody needs a little love).
Scene Creek: If you were to work in the movie industry, what would be your dream role?
Steven Johnson: Dream film industry role = Theater Projectionist…’nuff said. The happiest I’ve ever been is when I’m watching a movie, if I could spend my days doing that and share that experience with other people it would be a damn good life.
Sam Gore: Editor, hands down. I’ve been editing my own content and that of others since grade 3. It’s an enjoyable process and you get to collaborate with the director and other members in the film crew to make a beautiful piece of art.
Scene Creek: How many movies would you say that you’ve seen this year (this year being 2016)?
Sam Gore: Somewhere between 8 to 10, the highlights, for me, have been The Hateful Eight, The Revenant and Kung Fu Panda 3. I’m super excited for Deadpool, and of course I can’t wait to see as many movies as possible during TIFF Next Wave!
Scene Creek: What was one of this year’s Next Wave films that particularly appeals to you?
Sam Gore: Mustang, by far. The first time I saw it was at the premiere during TIFF 2015, and ever since that, I’ve been trying to find a way to see it again. The fact that it brings another country’s issues to my eyes is important to me. It helps me grasp an understanding of the harsh times that a lot of people have to go through.
Steven Johnson: Songs My Brothers Taught Me is definitely my favorite film that’s screening during festival. Disenfranchised characters struggling with family and community dynamics due to their marginalized lot in life seems to be a recurring theme that grabs my attention.
TIFF Next Wave runs from February 12th-14th. Check tiff.net/nextwave for more details.