If you live in Toronto and have a passing interest in film, you’ve probably heard of TIFF. Every September the Toronto International Film Festival takes over the city, complete with all the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. Celebrities can be seen strolling down Queen St. and red carpets cover King. But TIFF is so much more than their premier event. As an organization, it provides year-round programming and events at their home, the TIFF Bell Lightbox, and provides access and support to both film lovers and filmmakers 365 days of the year. Outside of the main festival, one of their big events is TIFF Next Wave.
TIFF Next Wave (running from February 14 – 16, 2020) is a festival curated by and for teenaged film enthusiasts. While it may be missing the prestige of the September festival, Next Wave brings acclaimed films about teens and by young filmmakers from around the world to Toronto.
The films are chosen by the TIFF Next Wave committee, a group of 12 students who range from 15 to 18 years old. A new committee is selected each year and the process is highly competitive with students from across the GTA vying to be selected. The committee is a big part of what makes Next Wave special. Not only does the festival encourage young people to watch and enjoy a diverse selection of films, it also encourages and gives opportunities for teens to build their portfolio in the industry and become directly involved. The festival is curated to inspire the next generation of film lovers by the next generation of film lovers.
This year’s festival features recent releases in over a dozen languages and includes films from Georgia, the USA, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, Brazil, Australia, and of course, Canada. For the most part, these are films you won’t be able to see on a big screen anywhere else. While the languages and cultures vary greatly, the films all have one thing in common: they explore identity, relationships, and coming into one’s own.
The festival opens with an epic Battle of the Scores featuring young musical talent who perform their scores for short films live. Audience participation is encouraged as they help to select the winner along with a panel of industry experts. Tickets to the Battle of the Scores also gets you into the Opening Night Party.
In addition to more recent films, the festival also includes a retrospective movie marathon, this year called Growing Pains, that features five films that explore the highs and lows of adolescence. The festival isn’t just about watching films either. The Friday features the Young Creators Co-Lab, a full day of industry programming, featuring info sessions and workshops for those interested in becoming filmmakers. And for those who can’t wait to jump into the festival, Thursday night features an In Conversation… with Kelvin Harrison Jr. (Monsters and Men, Luce, Waves) as he discusses bringing socially charged roles to life, balancing his craft across indie features and Hollywood hits and his performance in Stella Meghie’s upcoming film, The Photograph.
Your Turn (Espero tua (re)volta) (Feb 15, 2:45PM)
Following student activists in Brazil as they protest public transit fare increases and the election of Jair Bolsonaro, Your Turn is a must see for anyone interested in activism and political organization. The film takes care to give a voice to members of marginalized communities, with a focus on women’s perspectives as well as members of the LGBTQ+, Black, and Indigenous communities.
Love & Basketball (Feb 15, 4:30PM)
Gina-Prince Bythewood’s Love & Basketball gives you exactly what the title promises, but it’s so much more than that. Bythewood excellently navigates the complexities of female athleticism and ambition, where talent is only respected to a point and is never taken seriously as the male equivalent. With solid direction anchored with excellent performances from the two leads, Love & Basketball is a must see, even if basketball isn’t your thing.
Kuessipan (Feb 16, 3:15PM)
Based on Naomi Fontaine’s acclaimed novel, Kuessipan is the sole Canadian feature in this year’s Next Wave line up, which is more than enough to recommend it. It is the story of two Indigenous girls working to maintain their friendship as their lives evolve and change. It also explores the bonds we have to culture and how we are shaped by them. The screening will include guest Sharon Fontaine-Ishpatao, a multidisciplinary artist.
TIFF Next Wave runs from February 14 – 16, 2020, at the TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King St. W). You can check out the full festival lineup on the TIFF website. Tickets to most screenings are free if you are a post-secondary student and/or under 25.