Experimental Gems at the Toronto International Film Festival

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Experimental Gems at the Toronto International Film Festival

The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) has announced the lineup of 40 films and shorts that will screen as part of its upcoming Wavelengths and Classics programs. The Wavelengths section, named after the late Canadian artist Michael Snow’s 1967 short film and dedicated to experimental, international, artistic, and provocative film media, will screen 12 feature films, 19 shorts, and four restorations. The Classics program will consist of five primarily international features.

With films lasting between 90 seconds and 212 minutes, Wavelengths is separated into features and three sections of shorts: Quiet as It’s Kept, adapted from Ja’Tovia Gary’s 2023 film which will premiere internationally through TIFF; the Sundown section with a series of sensorially exciting and layered abstractions; and Outlines, which includes the suite of four restored films of Chantal Akerman, a short from Pedro Costa, and the late Jean-Luc Godard’s final endeavor, “Trailer of the Film That Will Never Exist: Phony Wars” (2023).

“Traditionally, Wavelengths has always been one of the major showcases for a lot of new experimental and avant-garde work from North America,” Associate Film Curator Jesse Cumming told Hyperallergic. “But it’s interesting to build upon this tradition of Michael Snow and the American avant-garde and see what these kinds of designations mean in the present day in the program. We’re really happy to have such a diverse and diasporic lineup of films.”

A film still from American filmmaker Ja’Tovia Gary’s 26-minute short film “Quiet as It’s Kept” (2023), a cinematic response to Toni Morrison’s first novel The Bluest Eye (1970)

Cumming pointed to the world premiere of Erica Sheu’s five-minute 16mm film-to-digital short “it follows it passes on” (2023), shot in Taiwan and the US; and the North American premiere of Cameroonian director Rosine Mbakam’s feature film Mambar Pierrette (2023), which tells the story of post-colonial Cameroon through the day-to-day routines of a local seamstress. Vietnamese director Phạm Thiên Ân’s debut film Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (2023), which won the Caméra d’Or award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, and Eduardo Williams’s brand new feature film The Human Surge 3 (2023), which tackles disillusionment with the human existence on an international level, are also among the highlights.

“Williams is a great contemporary filmmaker in that he’s looking straight-on at questions of climate change, migration, overwork, and exhaustion in ways I think are really, really rich,” Cumming noted, also speaking to the technical experimentation Williams employed through the use of 360-degree cameras.

A film still from Victoria Schmid’s 16mm short film “NYC RGB” (2023), which explores NYC architecture and passive movement through old-school color film techniques

On experimentalism, Cumming also advised to look out for Austrian filmmaker Viktoria Schmid’s 16mm short film “NYC RGB” (2023), an ode to New York City’s architecture and interiors through old-school color separation and triple exposure, and underscored Ja’Tovia Gary’s “Quiet as It’s Kept” (2023), which incorporates archival footage with TikToks and other such media as a response to Toni Morrison’s first novel, The Bluest Eye (1970).

TIFF’s 48th edition is slated for September 7 through 17 at the TIFF Bell Lightbox and four other cinemas in the city of Toronto. The full list of films, shorts, and scheduled programs is available on the festival’s website.

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