TORONTO — You will likely find future Oscar contenders and boutique theater releases at the Toronto International Film Festival, which is now in its 41st year and runs through this weekend. But the festival also curates a choice selection of experimental works under its Wavelengths banner — choice fare for cinephiles looking outside the box, or who don’t care for the box at all. And Wavelengths lead programmer Andréa Picard calls the section’s four annual shorts programs its crown. Each screening consists of short films from some of the most daring artists working today from around the world. These are among the standouts.
Wasteland No. 1 – Ardent, Verdant
Best known for her trippy animations often involving photography of intricate yarn work, here Jodie Mack instead contrasts the mechanical and the botanical. The first half of Wasteland No. 1 – Ardent, Verdant is a montage of close-ups of computer motherboards. The rapid editing makes the shifting configurations of nodes circuitry look like a rapid pan over a cityscape, the accreted dust lending it a vacant air, as if it’s a radioactive quarantine zone. The second half of the film depicts hills covered in poppies in bloom, the color contrast cranked to a maximum saturation. The result is like a study by way of speed-reading; we’re in and out in a few minutes, but the images of dueling landscapes are stamped on our minds regardless.
Sky Hopinka filmed the Standing Rock protest camp last winter, the scenes telling no particular story, instead capturing scraps of experience, such as entering the site via truck or confronting police on a ridge. This is less a straight depiction of the protest than a depiction of its memory — reinforced by interviews with water protectors that were recorded after the events in question over Skype. Thus, rather than capture the feeling of being there, this documentary channels the feeling of “what now?” (as alluded to by the title) in the aftermath of the events.
Turtles are always home
By her own count, Rawane Nassif has lived in “seven countries, 10 cities, and 21 homes” since leaving her native Lebanon in 2006. She evokes her transitory existence via some absolutely brilliant photography. She presents a series of still shots, each of which at first appears to be of an average city façade — the outdoor seating at a restaurant, an alleyway, a storefront — only for an edit or even a simple change of focus to recontextualize what you’re looking at. A riverfront seems interrupted by a gray blob, and then the focus shift reveals that we are seeing Nassif pointing her camera at a reflective window, with the river behind her. We see the alluring advertisements on a window, then a shot of the inside of the building reveals that it is empty. The clever framing and vivid colors make this a riveting watch.
The black activist poetry of the 1960s from Detroit’s Broadside Press is brought alive again by locals standing against the city’s now-depleted spaces. Among the various poems recited, Margaret Walker’s “Harriet Tubman” acts as the connective tissue in Ephraim Asili’s film. The thread is woven from Tubman’s legacy to that of the black radicals of the Civil Rights Movement to the activism still being done today. History, art, geography, and politics are unified.
Mr. Yellow Sweatshirt
In an eight-minute single shot angled down from above (a gum-stuck-to-the-ceiling’s eye view, if you will), a man struggles to get a subway turnstile to read his metro card. Pacho Velez and Yoni Brook bring unquestionably the funniest of the category’s films, with expert physical comedy from the lead actor. Beneath the frustration any metropolitan citizen can recognize is a near-elemental struggle — remember, “man vs. technology” is one of the basic types of literary conflict.
Hydrangeas have flourished in the Azores since the plant was introduced there. In the world of Jorge Jácome’s short, the flowers completely take over the islands, driving out most other life. This forms the backdrop for a horticulturally slanted take on the sci-fi “men on a mission” genre, as two soldiers set out on an assignment in the petal-smothered wilderness. Jácome further twists expectations by turning their journey into a love story, taking the homoeroticism of military comradery to its furthest conclusion. Vivid lavender tones and flower-blanketed locations make this small short look more alien than most hundred-million-dollar blockbusters.
The latest work from the Harvard Sensory Ethnography Lab, which has traveled around the world documenting the sights, sounds, and small mechanisms of humans working in or traveling through various locations. In this case, director Laura Huertas Millán observes Mexican weavers at work, practicing a tradition which predates the Spanish and was once the focal point of familial organization in Mesoamerican culture. Careful attention to repetition and the nuances of craft and skill make even the most mundane details a compelling watch.
The Wavelengths program continues at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) through September 17.
Memories So Fair and Bright
Kimetha Vanderveen’s paintings are about the interaction of materiality and light, the bond between the palpable and ephemeral world in which we live.
Artists Contemplate Sovereignty in Santa Fe
The Santa Fe Art Institute’s 2024 International Thematic Residency focuses on what sovereignty means for artists from across the world.
When I Am Empty Please Dispose of Me Properly
Ayanna Dozier, Ilana Harris-Babou, Meena Hasan, Lucia Hierro, Catherine Opie, Chuck Ramirez, and Pacifico Silano explore the myths of the American Dream at Brooklyn’s BRIC House.
How Did Early Modern European Craftspeople Pass On Their Knowledge?
A new book about object making critically examines a written history of working with materials.
Dual Portrait of Old Master Rachel Ruysch Holds a Trove of Secrets
The Metropolitan Museum of Art has just acquired the rare painting, which depicts the Dutch artist at work surrounded by her signature flora.
Pratt’s 2023 Fine Arts MFA Thesis Exhibition Is On View in Brooklyn
The two-part exhibition features the work of 41 graduating artists across disciplines, including painting, sculpture, printmaking, and integrated practices.
Did Van Gogh’s Disdain for the Eiffel Tower Inspire “Starry Night”?
Art historian James Hall argues that van Gogh replaced the Eiffel Tower with a towering cypress tree and its inaugural light shows with the night sky.
Greek Museum Welcomes Dogs For World Stray Animal Day
Furry friends and their pawrents can visit Athens’s National Museum of Contemporary Art for free this weekend.
The Milton Resnick and Pat Passlof Foundation Presents The Feminine in Abstract Painting
Curated by Jennifer Samet and Andrea Belag, this group exhibition in NYC explores the feminine through aesthetics, as opposed to identity or gender.
Ai Weiwei Recreates Monet’s “Water Lilies” Using 650,000 LEGOS
It’s the artist’s largest LEGO artwork to date.
Did a Simpsons Episode Predict the Florida “David” Outrage?
The episode, which aired 30 years ago, made a dark prediction about conservative politics in 2023.
NYU Steinhardt Opens 2023 MFA Thesis Exhibitions
Taking place at 80WSE Gallery in New York’s Greenwich Village, Part I is on view from late March through April while Part II opens in May.
Coasting the Topography of South Asian Futurisms
As part of Hyperallergic’s Emily Hall Tremaine Journalism Fellowship for Curators, Sadaf Padder presents an exhibition to offer insight into her curatorial process.
I’m a Florida Drag Queen and I’m Scared
I’m truly at a loss for what to do for work and what kind of life I can expect to live.