The Review/ Feature/
TIFF Next Wave knows what’s up
The young programmers behind the Next Wave Committee recommend 12 killer coming-of-age films for TIFF '17
TIFF’s Next Wave Committee is a group of 12 high school students from across the GTA who are the most hardcore cineastes imaginable. In addition to programming their own film festival, which takes place every February, they comb through the entire TIFF Festival lineup to select the best teen films that relate to their own experiences. We asked the 2017 committee to discuss their official Festival selections. You can stay up to date with Next Wave by following their hashtag #TIFFNextWave on Twitter and adding them on their Facebook page.
1. AVA, directed by Sadaf Foroughi
Says TIFF Next Wave’s Sylvia Prodhan: The teenage protagonist of AVA is just like any one of us. Although her parents would like her to be docile and accept their ideologies, she soon discovers they have contradictions of their own. The film is set in Iran, but the story feels completely relatable, representing what I love about storytelling the most: that it can unite and make us remember we aren’t so different.
How to see it: In TIFF ‘17’s Discovery programme, the film plays September 8 at 6:15pm at Scotiabank Theatre, and September 10 at 9am and September 17 at 6:30pm at TIFF Bell Lightbox.
2. Call Me By Your Name, directed by Luca Guadagnino
Says TIFF New Wave’s Chloe Bhumgara: Of all of the noteworthy aspects of Call Me By Your Name, its honesty regarding topics such as love, youth, and where they intersect is truly what makes the film special. In essence, your youth is where you make the first discoveries of your character and your identity, molding the person you would like to be into who you are. What makes Luca Guadagnino’s third feature so exceptional is not only that it masterfully captures this emotional journey, but also that it celebrates it for the crucial time of self-discovery that it is.
Call Me By Your Name is a universal film, but there also lies in it a highly individualistic queer love story. It is one that is specific to Guadagnino's Northern Italian countryside setting and the cultural opinion surrounding homosexuality. Scenes are carefully crafted to build an enticing narrative of gay exploration and acceptance — one that has seldom been told throughout film history. This film will resonate deeply amongst teen audiences who will see themselves represented in different ways within these characters. We are looking for new stories on screen, especially ones featuring people from marginalized groups who have been silenced by mainstream cinema for far too long. Call Me By Your Name triumphs in this and in all facets and is a soon-to-be coming-of-age classic. It might just be the defining film of our generation.
How to see it: In TIFF '17’s Special Presentations programme, the film plays September 7 at 7:15pm at Ryerson Theatre and September 8 at 9:30am at TIFF Bell Lightbox.
3. Dark, created by Baran bo Odar and Jantje Friese
Says TIFF Next Wave’s Ben Sagar: We’ve all seen stories involving small-town teenagers tackling big, supernatural problems. The new Netflix series Dark miraculously finds a new way to tackle life post—Stranger Things with genuinely interesting characters and binge-worthy twists and turns. It turns out that teenagers have issues beyond half-hearted love triangles, and while I can’t directly relate to time-travelling kidnappings, the show uses elements of drama and sci-fi to keep my heart and head happy. I think most teenagers can relate to the feeling of leading double lives, and the series taught me to be more aware of who I am, compared to the person I show to the world. It doesn’t matter whether you live — in Germany, Canada, or anywhere across the globe. Figuring out your individuality is a tough and confusing journey. Dark’s coming-of-age story gets crossed with exciting sci-fi adventure, which makes it a great choice for any young person looking to see something at TIFF.
How to see it: In TIFF '17’s Primetime programme, the series plays September 9 at 8:30pm at TIFF Bell Lightbox with an extended Q&A.
__4. High Fantasy, directed by Jenna Bass __
Says TIFF Next Wave’s Natalie Kaufman: Jenna Bass’ High Fantasy covers a hot topic in today’s contentious political climate — race — and isn’t shy about it. I loved the film’s honesty and authenticity, from its iPhone-shot cinematography to the biting dialogue, which was improvised by the cast. Bass and her teenage actors show that we’re messy with our words, we fall in love, we love to get loose, we love to get angry, and we are not afraid to speak up. Many teeangers can relate to having stereotypes and misconceptions try to define you while you are growing up and trying to define yourself. This film is a funny and thought-provoking watch, and a body-switching comedy no less!
How to see it: In TIFF '17’s Discovery programme, the film plays September 8 at 10pm at Scotiabank Theatre, September 10 at 5pm at TIFF Bell Lightbox, and September 16 at 9:30pm at Scotiabank Theatre.
5. Killing Jesus, directed by Laura Mora
Says TIFF Next Wave’s Tessa Oxtoby: I connected with Killing Jesus because of the way the film toys with morality. It centres on the young Paula (Natasha Jaramillo), who witnesses her father’s murder at the age of 22. At first there seems to be a blatant sense of good and evil. But as Mora’s film progresses, I came to question who, if anyone, was really to blame. Bad actions can be a result of poor circumstances and a corrupt society. Even seemingly bad people aren’t necessarily evil. To me, Killing Jesus is a poignant and visually compelling representation of a young woman realizing that the world can be a scary and equivocal place.
How to see it: In TIFF '17’s Discovery programme, the film plays September 9 at 9:15pm, September 10 at 9:30pm, and September 15 at 5:30pm, all at Scotiabank Theatre.
6. Lady Bird, directed by Greta Gerwig
Says TIFF Next Wave’s Elena Andreev: Lady Bird struck a chord with me. I am fresh out of high school and have lived through many of the frustrations that the title character (played by Saoirse Ronan) experiences in her senior year. Much like “Lady Bird,” I was consumed by the fantasy of bursting my high school bubble to live out my big-city dreams. This film captures the very essence of being an adolescent: demanding that the world treats you as an adult, while desperately trying to hold on to the carefree bliss of being a kid.
How to see it: In TIFF '17’s Special Presentations programme, the film plays September 8 at 9pm at Ryerson Theatre, September 9 at 7pm at Scotiabank Theatre, and September 16 at 8:45pm at Elgin Theatre.
7. Scaffolding, directed by Matan Yair
Says TIFF Next Wave’s Emma Cheuk: 17-year-old Asher (Asher Lax) is an example of somebody who has great intentions but makes the wrong choices. Young people will identify with this character’s struggles as he chooses between his desires, his instincts, and his reality. It is easy to fall in love with this film’s honesty and eagerness to please its audience.
How to see it: In TIFF '17’s Discovery programme, the film plays September 12 at 9pm at Scotiabank Theatre, September 14 at 4:30pm at TIFF Bell Lightbox, and September 17 at 12:30pm at Scotiabank Theatre.
8. Sheikh Jackson, directed by Amr Salama
Says TIFF Next Wave’s Dasola Dina: Sheikh Jackson beautifully portrays the uniquely fulfilling and isolating experience of idolizing a celebrity. The story takes us on a nostalgic journey, starring a young Egyptian Imam (Ahmad Alfishawy), whose most tender teenage memories are tied to his love for the King of Pop. As the main character grows and learns from hardship, his religious devotion and core values (including those he is trying desperately to repress) ultimately evolve alongside him. The film will resonate with any young person try to cope with overwhelming pressures from their family and friends. As the lead character learns to find solace in his favourite artist, the film expresses a powerful idea (best reflected in Michael Jackson’s Free Willy anthem) that we are not alone.
How to see it: In TIFF '17’s Special Presentations programme, the film plays September 15 at 6pm at Elgin Theatre, and September 16 at 5:45pm and September 17 at 9:30am at Scotiabank Theatre.
9. The Rider, directed by Chloé Zhao
Says TIFF Next Wave’s Michelle Manson: Director Chloé Zhao portrays the story and the experience of a rodeo cowboy who can no longer ride. This film captured the emotions and drama in the protagonist’s life so well it almost felt surreal. Every second hit me with a feeling I couldn’t get enough of. With intimate and gorgeous cinematography, Zhao captures a quiet and vast Western landscape with themes of masculinity and vulnerability. The world she discovers and the story she uncovers feel simply true.
How to see it: In TIFF '17’s Special Presentations programme, the film plays September 9 at 9:45pm at TIFF Bell Lightbox, and September 11 at 4:15pm at Scotiabank Theatre.
10. Unicorn Store, directed by Brie Larson
Says TIFF Next Wave’s Isabel Coleman: Unicorn Store’s most powerful attribute is its defiance of the traditional corporate model of success and societal worth. Brie Larson plays the film’s young protagonist, Kit, a voracious dreamer and passionate unicorn fanatic. Throughout the film, she continuously refuses to give other people the right to define her value and talents by their subjective standards.
As a young person, I was inspired by Kit’s reluctance to forfeit her childhood imagination. As we grow up, it becomes harder and harder to see the value in our unique differences and talents. Larson’s film sees the world through bright, fairy dust–enhanced glasses, rejecting any commentary that evaluates creativity as any less successful than academic or commercial prowess. It can be challenging to embrace our eccentric dreams when the world is screaming at us to do otherwise. Unicorn Store is a film with hope, and just the right amount of magic.
How to see it: In TIFF '17’s Special Presentations programme, the film plays September 11 at 3pm at Ryerson Theatre, September 12 at 7:15pm at Scotiabank Theatre, and September 15 at 6pm at Ryerson Theatre.
11. What Will People Say, directed by Iram Haq
Says TIFF Next Wave’s Natalie Kaufman: In Iram Haq’s film, Nisha faces a struggle many teenagers can relate to: balancing her Western values with the traditions of the country she comes from. In Nisha’s case, going against her family’s values results in drastic consequences and a heartbreaking story that put tears in my eyes. This film is about love: for others, for one’s family, and for one’s self. What Will People Say gives a voice to a difficult and tense topic with incredible delicacy and empathy towards both sides of the conflict. Many young people will find a story that offers new perspectives and that understands the confusion of being a part of two worlds.
How to see it: In TIFF '17’s Platform programme, the film plays September 9 at 2pm at Winter Garden Theatre, and September 11 at 4:45pm and September 16 at 10am at TIFF Bell Lightbox.
12. Youth, directed by Feng Xiaogang
Says TIFF Next Wave’s Sariena Luy: With captivating movement and camerawork, a military arts troupe in 1970s China shows how the beauty of the arts can be used as a therapeutic mechanism that can heal all.
How to see it: In TIFF '17’s Special Presentations programme, the film plays September 8 at 9:30pm at Elgin Theatre, September 14 at 1pm at Winter Garden Theatre, and September 15 at 12pm at Scotiabank Theatre.