Five Films to See at TIFF Next Wave

kids with skateboards
Catch must-see Oscar nominee Minding the Gap at TIFF Next Wave
Courtesy of TIFF.
Forget Max Ophüls, the archival 35mm print you need to see this week is But I’m a Cheerleader! TIFF’s Next Wave Film Festival returns this week offering youth-oriented programming with films both old and new selected by young movie buffs. Jamie Babbit’s campy and hilarious cult hit is just one of the retrospective highlights of the film that should attract moviegoers eager to explore films that didn’t make the cut at TIFF’s recent 1999 series. (Still waiting on that Thomas Crown Affair spotlight, dear Lightbox!)

This year’s Next Wave festival offers a range of stories about the highs and lows of coming of age, and things aren’t so different now from 1999, although I’m so glad I didn’t have social media in high school. The line-up also ushers in two new generations of filmmakers with 70% of the programming coming from debut directors in addition to short films by up-and-comers in the Young Filmmakers Showcase. While the fest can often be overlooked amidst the gong show of award season and TIFF’s other programming streams, it often features some of the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it screenings of Canadian talents to watch, like Chloé Leriche’s Before the Streets and Pascale Plante’s Fake Tattoos offering highlights from previous years.

Festivities kick off tonight with the Battle of the Scores and opening night party with screenings and workshops running through the long weekend. Best of all, this roster of international pics is free for anyone 25 and under, so spend that ticket money on buttery popcorn while your metabolism is still youthfully active. Here are Cinemablographer’s top five picks for TIFF Next Wave.

Minding the Gap
Sunday, Feb. 17 @ 5:45 pm

For me, Minding the Gap is the must-see film of the festival. Bing Liu’s extraordinary debut documentary is what festivals like Next Wave are all about. Liu’s film is a personal odyssey that demonstrates the beauty that arises when young people are empowered with a camera and given the chance to tell their own stories on their own terms. Liu creates an intimate portrait of his group of friends coming of age while sailing through the streets of Chicago on their skateboards. Shot with breathtaking energy and poetry, it’s an insider’s view of millennial life that takes audiences to unexpected places as Liu and his friends open up and bravely invite viewers into their lives. It’s a feat of self-representation that upcoming filmmakers need to study and savour. Bonus point: it’s an Oscar nominee for Best Documentary Feature and deserves to be the winner. Read more about the film in the review at POV and in our picks for the best docs of 2018.

Charlotte a du fun
Sunday, Feb. 17 @ 3:15 pm – director Sophie Lorain in attendance!

It’s alarming how few Québécois films screen in Toronto. This leaves a sizable gap for audiences who want to keep up on the best talent emerging in the Canadian film scene. Fortunately, Next Wave consistently offers at least one Canadian talent to watch, like it did with Chloé Leriche and Pascale Plante in previous years. This year’s notable Quebecker is Sophie Lorain with her offbeat and funny Charlotte a du fun, alternatively known by its provocative English title Slut in a Good Way. Charlotte is like American Pie with a feminist spin as Lorain tells the story of three BFFs who get part-time jobs in order to meet some boys. Featuring breakout performances by Marguerite Bouchard, Rose Adam, and Canadian Screen Award nominee Romane Denis, this refreshing comedy is just the ticket for anyone looking to support a new generation of women both in front of the camera and behind it.

Saturday, Feb. 16 @ 3:00 pm – director Alexandre Moratto in attendance!

A hit on the international festival circuit this past year, Socrates introduces director Alex Moratto as a talent to watch. It’s an assured feature dramatic debut that builds upon a portfolio of short docs that have tackled the current political climate in Brazil, mental health issues, and queer rights, among other themes. Socrates heralds an original voice with its compelling character study of a 15-year-old boy in São Paulo who wrestles with grief and alienation following his mother’s death. Christian Malheiros gives a tour-de-force performance in the title role as he navigates Socrates’ grief-stricken pain as well as the whirlwind of emotions the young man experiences coming of age and coming out of the closet in a culture that has yet to fully embrace the fact that love takes many forms. Socrates is up for two Independent Spirit Awards including Best Male Lead, and this’ll probably be Toronto’s only chance to see it.

But I’m a Cheerleader
Saturday, Feb, 16 @ 7:30 pm

A recent binge of Netflix’s cracked-out mini-series Russian Doll reminds me that the world needs more Natasha Lyonne. As much as I love Lyonne now that she sounds like an 87-year-old chain-smoker, the mid to late ’90s were a peak period for Lyonne as she played a range of sexually liberated young women and sketchy best friends to help guide teens through the turn of the millennium. The unsung hit of Lyonne’s filmography is the queer comedy But I’m a Cheerleader in which she plays all-American girl Megan, who gets shipped off to conversion therapy by her parents when they become suspicious of her disinterest in her boyfriend. Cheerleader is one of a handful of older gems playing in Next Wave’s Movie Marathon and while the film demands to be screened on VHS, the novelty of seeing campy flicks like this one with the snap, crackle, and pop of 35mm can’t be beat. They’re also playing 10 Things I Hate About You featuring everybody’s favourite “Where did she go?” star of the 1990s, Julia Stiles.

Young Creators Showcase
Sunday, Feb, 17 @ 12:30 pm

Finally, it only seems appropriate to check out the next wave of Bing Lius and Sophie Lorains before they’re stars. One spotlight of the festival is its line-up of shorts made by Canada’s up and comers. This year highlights change in the industry with a notable roster of women and culturally diverse voices to ensure that audiences will see their lives reflected on screen in some way, shape, or form over the festival. This year’s showcase features a handful of talents who are already emerging stars in their own rights, including the astonishingly prolific Morgana McKenzie who has established herself as a force on the international youth film circuit after breaking out in the Ottawa scene just a few years ago. (She’s back at Next Wave with Wild after her award-winning music video Atlas World was a festival hit in 2017.)  Also worth noting are Eva Kaukai and Manon Chamberland who bring their short doc Throat Singing in Kangirsuk fresh from Sundance and a welcome depiction of Inuit youth.

TIFF Next Wave runs Feb. 15 to 17 at TIFF Lightbox.
Screenings are free for the 25 and under crowd. Get the full line-up here.