Author | Photo Ayanda (2015)

Teens of the TIFF Next Wave: Top Festival Picks

TIFF Next Wave: A Festival For Young Movie Lovers hits the TIFF Bell Lightbox this weekend. We spoke with five young film buffs on the committee steering this year’s festival.

Maryan Sheikh-Ali

Maryan Sheikh-Ali

Maryan Sheikh-Ali

Ever since I can remember, I’ve had the urge to do something creative, yet I never knew where I fit in. I was always very theatrical and loved public speaking. I think I was the only third grader in history to not cower away when asked to read poems or act out skits in assemblies. No one around me growing up was really interested in the arts and I felt as though it wasn’t realistic for me to pursue anything expressive.

The one thing that has always been constant for me is my love of film. I remember falling in love with going to the movie theatre and getting a rush of adrenaline when the previews ended and a movie was about to start. Throughout the years, I spent my free time learning how films were put together; instead of just watching movies, I wanted to know everything from the casting announcements, to the editing process and all of the cool trivia in between. While I would love to live out my ultimate fantasies of becoming an actor or a director, I think what I really want to focus on after graduating high school is diving into the world of media production. That way, I can keep up my love of the film and TV industry and also gain hands-on experience.

While all of the films at the festival are awesome, I was personally drawn to The Idol and Ayanda. Both films deal with young people whose dreams are very hard to accomplish in their circumstances, which I feel I can relate to. With Ayanda, I could see myself in the protagonist – a young, ambitious black woman who thinks outside the box. In The Idol, I resonated with how the faith and cultural expectations of Mohammad’s community made his road to becoming a singer difficult. As a child of Somali immigrant parents, my passion in the arts is looked down upon a lot. Seeing two films from completely different cultures tackle issues that they’ve experienced really excites me and gives me hope to keep pursuing my interests.

I think a great film is one that you are able to remember long after watching it. The ones that really stick with me and make me value the time I spent watching them are the ones I feel are stand-outs.

I hope people take away how important it is to see diverse stories from different points of view. In our festival, I can honestly say that no two films are alike, especially in the situations the characters face. It’s so imperative for young people in particular to feel they have a voice in film, especially since the next generation may be the ones carrying the industry forward in a matter of years. I also hope people will notice how the films we chose showcase a variety of cultures around the world and how important it is to see global content and representation, especially in a city as multicultural as Toronto.

Leeza Gheerawo

Leeza Gheerawo

Leeza Gheerawo

I love watching films because as a child, whenever my family and I went to the movies, I always got popcorn, which is delicious! As a teenager, I love films because they can have universal themes, which are relatable to anyone, no matter where they are from. Film is a tool that everyone can understand and that’s why I love watching them. In the future, I want to be a human rights lawyer and help make the lives of others better.

Takin’ Place is my favourite film in the festival. The way director Cyrus Dowlatshahi portrays the streets of South Side Chicago is unique and grabs the audience’s attention. He finds a way to show that there is happiness and goodness, no matter what living situation someone is in.

A good film is one that is enjoyable and you can watch it over and over again. A great film changes you. It makes you reflect on life and how you can improve yourself to be the best you can be. An eye-opening film in this year’s festival is Flocking. It addresses difficult issues that our society is not open to talking about and makes the audience question their actions and the way they think.

I want people who are coming to TIFF Next Wave to have a fun experience; they should enjoy being in a cinema with others watching a throwback film from the marathon titles or meeting new and exciting individuals at the Battle of The Scores after party. I also hope they will reflect on the films they saw and on their own lives and feel happy that they decided to come to the festival.

Isabel Coleman

Isabel Coleman

Isabel Coleman

My name is Isabel and I’m currently in Grade 11. I love to act, play soccer and read. I love film because regardless of what type of day I am having and what is going on in my life at any given moment, I can sit down and watch a film and forget everything that is going on outside of the theatre. Film has the power to transport us to different worlds and cultures, and, in the process, it allows me to forget the small things troubling me and focus solely on the universal themes being explored in the film. Film also provokes me to start difficult conversations and question my opinions on different subjects.

One film that I was very drawn to was Flocken, a Swedish film directed by Beata Gårdeler. Flocken trails a young girl in a small town following her sexual assault accusation against a fellow schoolmate. It explores the incredibly important issue of victim blaming by shadowing Jennifer, the young protagonist, as she deals with the unbelievably emotional and straining consequences of legal accusation. Familial relations, friendship, and reputation are all challenged and questioned throughout her experience, and the film is important and relevant for any young audience.

In my opinion, a good film is one that you are still thinking about several days later. I believe that each new film released, whether created by a high school student or a professional filmmaker, is a new opinion on a matter that our world has been studying forever. Each film is the collective opinion and perspective of all those involved in the filmmaking process, and is given to the audience as a suggestion, an opportunity to develop the view themselves should it resonate. When a film remains in my head long after I have watched it, I believe it is because its message and opinion connected with my views and experiences and impacted the way I look at the explored topic. Good films may influence one’s mood during the screening, but do not necessarily have lasting impacts or provoke true reconsideration of one’s perspective.

I hope that the festival encourages young people across the city to come together to watch film, and to enjoy making film. Toronto has such a strong film-loving community and Next Wave encourages teens to get involved. Because Next Wave aims to show diverse films that teens everywhere can connect to, I hope that every audience member walks away having felt some type of impact from the stories being explored. Most importantly, I hope that the films we are sharing start important conversations with young people all around Toronto!

Dasola Dina

Dasola Dina

Dasola Dina

If there are two things I could talk about endlessly it’s my love for musicals (my all-time favourite being Jonathan Larson’s Rent) and issues of social justice. My absolute favourite thing to do is volunteer in my local community and with this I take my interests in photography, film, and graphic design to plan events and provide volunteer opportunities for young people. I think it is so important to have creative spaces for young people, which is why I love planning the TIFF Next Wave Film Festival.

Before watching Ayanda I had never before seen young actors speaking my native tongue of Yoruba in such a widely released production – this particular moment of no-captions-necessary was a very proud moment for me. I especially connected with the namesake character of film, Ayanda. I admired her determination and resilience in spite of so many obstacles. Despite the film taking place in South Africa and my not being able to speak on behalf of all Africans, as a Nigerian I very much appreciated the authentic depiction of community and cultural values. The respect Ayanda had from so many members of her community – respect that transcended gender stereotypes – was so commendable.

There is such a thrill associated with heading over to a movie theatre with a group of friends or family and common excitement amongst the group. What I love most about film is that no matter my mood or what happened that day, the story and characters are able to transport me into a whole new world that is an extension of reality.

I hope that when people walk out of theatres during the festival they feel their experience as young people are represented. Thankfully, representation within the film industry is something that is being addressed more and more every day. When selecting the films for the festival, it was our conscious effort to make sure we have as many human experiences and perspectives as possible.

Alice Liu

Alice Liu

Alice Liu

I’m a visual artist and wannabe photographer and filmmaker. I love films because they’re so visceral and it’s almost like the small things in our regular life come alive in ways that we don’t experience in person. Film is the most immersive art medium and it’s basically an amalgamation of everything I love. Oh, I’m also an analog enthusiast! As for the future, I hope to attend art or film school. I’m still figuring myself out.

I’ve been talking about my love for Enid Coleslaw (from Ghost World) since I first wrote my essay for my Next Wave application, so it feels like we’ve come full circle. I’m really excited that we have it in the festival because it’s such a universal film about the nuances of friendship, teen angst and just being confused. Ghost World was a film I discovered early on in high school that really articulated a lot of feelings I had at the time, so I can’t wait for other teens to discover it as well. I’m also super ecstatic about Mustang, Microbe and Gasoline, and Songs My Brother Taught Me. All of them are spectacular films that every young film lover should see.

I think a great film keeps you thinking long after you leave the theatre. For me, it’s usually the visuals that will linger in my mind. I just geek-out over cinematography and art direction, to be completely honest. All the films in the festival are great! They’ll give you a genuine sense of the countless lives and stories around the world.

I hope everyone has a great time [at the festival]! It’s such a rare opportunity for young film lovers to have a community like this and I want them to be able to walk away knowing that there is a place for them. The first time I went to the festival two years ago, it was also my first time at TIFF Bell Lightbox. Being in that space and realizing there is an entire organization dedicated to everything film-related was comforting to me as a suburban kid.

TIFF Next Wave Film Festival 2016 runs from February 12 to 14. See complete program here.

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