|Wet Bum. Photo courtesy of TIFF.|
One film riding the TIFF Next Wave that really gets it right is the festival selection Wet Bum, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last fall. The film stands as the best example of TIFF Next Wave’s finger on the pulse of an emerging generation of film lovers and filmmakers, for this remarkable debut by Lindsay MacKay (one of my picks for the Top Ten Canadian films of 2014) also features a great performance by 2014 TIFF Rising Star Julia Sarah Stone, and the young jury’s selection of the film shows just how well Wet Bum gets it right in terms of depicting that beautiful awkwardness of youth. I caught Wet Bum at TIFF last fall and think it’s a great choice for young and mature filmgoers alike to jump in and explore the waters of the festival experience:
Wet Bum could easily be an icky teacher-student study or a well-trodden tale about the things one can learn from the elderly, but newcomer Lindsay MacKay creates an excellent ensemble of multi-dimensional and well-rounded characters to freshen the tale. Wet Bum has honesty and authenticity in its portrait of adolescence, and MacKay balances a fine mix of poignant observation and subtle humour. A strong ensemble, particularly Stone and Welsh, provides complex and relatable characters for this down-to-earth tale.MacKay also displays as terrific hand for film form as she does in crafting her characters. Wet Bum features some gorgeous underwater sequences as Sam escapes her troubles and slips underwater where she can swim free. (Her fondness for free form underwater swimming in lieu of the front crawl is a nice metaphor for her idiosyncratic independence.) MacKay and cinematographer Guy Godfree make some vibrant scenes within the bright blue waters as Sam swims about while some funky tunes by composer Brendan Canning set the mood for the flowing freeness of Sam’s underwater escapism. (The innovative contemporary soundtrack is a highlight.) Wet Bum also makes the most of its petite protagonist as the frame lines of the cinematography hug Sam’s bony body more tightly than does the sexless one-piece that rumples frumpily on her frame. Wet Bum embraces the painful awkwardness of adolescence and turns it into something beautiful. (Read the full review here.)
Other highlights to see before and after Wet Bum include the acclaimed festival hit Girlhood, the upcoming drama McFarland by Niki Caro (whose Whale Rider is a TIFF People’s Choice Award winner), as well as the world premiere screening of Lily and Kat starring Game of Thrones’ Hannah Murray. (Check back soon for a review of the latter!) Next Wave also includes some retro teen hits like Dazed and Confused, Heathers—on film, no less!—and Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, which makes me feel like a kid again every time I watch it. (Don’t all his films?) Next Wave begins on the 13th with the annual Battle of the Scores music competition in which six teams present an original score for a short film. The winning team then gets a host of prizes and boosts including a soundtrack spot in the upcoming feature The Lock Picker by Randall Okita, whose The Weatherman and the Shadowboxer won the prize for Best Canadian Short Film at TIFF last year. It’s a great chance for young filmgoers to explore both sides of the film experience!
And the best part? Regular Film Screenings, Open Heart: Panel & Screening and the Outcasts & Misfits Movie Marathon are FREE to high-school students with valid school identification! (Opening Night Event and Premium Screenings $10.50.)
The line-up for TIFF Next Wave is as follows:
Dir. Sophie Hyde, Australia, 114 min., 14A
A 16-year-old high-school student deals with her mother’s female-to-male gender transition while struggling with her own identity, in this sensitive family drama from first-time feature director Sophie Hyde.
Sunday, February 15 at 2:45 p.m.
Dir. Lourens Blok, Netherlands, 84 min., Dutch with English subtitles, 14A Canadian Premiere
After awaking on a subway train with no memory of who he is, a young man in a dystopian police state uses the contents of his backpack to piece together his past as a rogue government agent and computer hacker — but can he complete his mission before his former employers catch up with him?
Sunday, February 15 at 5:45 p.m.
*Check back for a review!
*Check back for a review!
Dir. Jan Martin Scharf, Germany, 90 min., German with English subtitles, PG International Premiere
Dessau, East Germany, 1985: eighteen-year-old Frank and his friends have been infected by breakdance fever. At first they are suspiciously monitored by the ruling regime, but soon the socialist government realizes that the movement cannot be stopped.
Sunday, February 15 at 3:45 p.m.
Girlhood (Bande de filles)
Dir. Céline Sciamma, France, 112 min., French with English subtitles, 14A
Oppressed by her family setting, dead-end school prospects and the “boys’ law” in the neighborhood, Marieme starts a new life after meeting a group of three free-spirited girls. She changes her name, her dress code, and quits school to be accepted in the gang, hoping that this will be a way to freedom.
Saturday, February 14 at 6 p.m.
Leave to Remain
Dir. Bruce Goodison, United Kingdom, 89 min., 14A Canadian Premiere
This gritty yet sensitive tale of young asylum-seekers in the UK confronts the all-too-common difficulties of immigrant life, with refugees fleeing nations ravaged by war and corruption only to be faced with discrimination in a possibly temporary new home. Director Bruce Goodison’s film isn’t just a coming-of-age tale — it’s one of life-altering upheaval.
Saturday, February 14 at 3:30 p.m.
Lily & Kat
Dir. Micael Preysler, USA, 90 min., 14A World Premiere
Director Micael Preylser and actors Jessica Rothe and Hannah Murray in attendance!
Set in New York City, Micael Preysler’s feature debut follows a fashion school graduate named Lily (Jessica Rothe) who finds her world turned upside down when her charismatic best friend Kat (Game of Thrones’ Hannah Murray) announces she’s moving away to London in a matter of days. At a Lower East Side art show the next night, they meet the enigmatic artist Henri, who Lily quickly takes a liking to. With less than seven days left, and an attractive stranger between them, Lily and Kat find their unbreakable friendship put to the test.
Saturday, February 14 at 9 p.m.
Dir. Niki Caro, USA, 129 min., PG
A former college football coach (played by Kevin Costner) finds new inspiration when he takes a job teaching phys ed in a small California farming town and ends up leading an unlikely cross-country running team to the state championship, in this heart-warming film from director Niki Caro (Whale Rider).
Sunday, February 15 at 7 p.m.
No Cameras Allowed
Dir. James Marcus Haney, USA, 90 min., PG
The debut documentary from twenty-something James Marcus Haney traces the director’s own rise from college dropout to ambitious concert photographer as he talks his way into photo pits at major music festivals. As Haney questions how far one should go for a good time, he also proves that, sometimes, risk can yield surprising rewards.
Sunday, February 15 at 2 p.m.
Partners in Crime (Kong Feng)
Dir. Chang Jung-chi, Taiwan, 89 min., Mandarin with English subtitles, 14A
Three high school boys discover that there may be more than meets the eye in the strange death of a classmate, in this engrossing mystery thriller from Taiwanese director Chang Jung-chi (Touch of the Light).
Saturday, February 14 at 1 p.m.
Dir. Lindsay MacKay, Canada, 98 min., 14A
Actor Craig Arnold in attendance!
An awkward teenage outcast (2014 TIFF Rising Star Julia Sarah Stone) finds unlikely companions in two aged residents of the retirement home where she works, in this charming and poignant debut from Canadian director Lindsay MacKay.
Sunday, February 15 at 1:15 p.m.
The Word (Obietnica)
Dir. Anna Kazejak, Poland, 97 min., Polish, Danish with English subtitles, 14A Canadian premiere
In this psychological thriller/cautionary tale of young love and revenge from Polish director Anna Kazejak, a heartbroken girl gives her cheating boyfriend an ultimatum: prove his love within 24 hours or lose her forever.
Sunday, February 15 at 12:15 p.m.
OUTCASTS & MISFITS MOVIE MARATHON (in screening order)
Dir. Jared Hess, USA, 2004, 96 min., PG
The indie hit that rocketed fictional Idaho high-school outlaw to international celebrity —the moon-boot wearing, liger-drawing, illegal ninja-move keeping Napoleon Dynamite — finally graces TIFF Next Wave’s film screen.
Saturday, February 14 at 12:15 p.m.
Dir. Richard Ayoade, United Kingdom/USA, 2010, 94 min., 14A
Beloved by audiences and critics when it debuted at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival, Richard Ayoade’s feature debut — about two deep-thinking Welsh high-schoolers entering into a tentative relationship while coping with their own traumas at home — has maintained a cult following with its quirky-yet-dark comedic sensibility and retro–nouvelle vague flair.
Saturday, February 14 at 2:30 p.m.
Dazed and Confused
Dir. Richard Linklater, USA, 1993, 102 min., 14A
Richard Linklater’s acerbic yet loving flashback to his Austin, Texas youth features a sprawling cast — future stars Matthew McConaughey and Ben Affleck among them — as they navigate hazing rituals, nascent life choices, and a momentous outdoor kegger on the Last Day of School, 1976.
Saturday, February 14 at 4:45 p.m.
Dir. Wes Anderson, USA, 2012, 94 min., PG
Wes Anderson reaches peak whimsy with this meticulously nostalgic love letter to youthful eccentricity, in which two precocious 12-year-old pen pals declare their love and run away together in 1965 New England.
Saturday, February 14 at 7:15 p.m.
Dir. Michael Lehmann, USA, 1988, 102 min., 14A
Print courtesy of University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive.
An instant cult classic upon its 1989 release, this Winona Ryder/Christian Slater vehicle still presents a deliciously wry, cruelly comic indictment of high-school society and its clique system.
Saturday, February 14 at 9:30 p.m.
Please visit www.tiff.net/nextwave for more information on this year’s festival.