TIFF Wavelengths 2021: …And We’re Back!

Image for this story

A comprehensive rundown of all of the films playing in this year's Wavelengths program at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Written by Michael Sicinski

Before Wavelengths, and the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in general, were so rudely interrupted by a global pandemic, the section was known for reliably presenting some of the most innovative filmmaking happening around the world. 2020, as you may recall, featured a considerably scaled-back TIFF. Only three films that year carried the Wavelengths designation, but they were good ones: Sofia Bohdanowicz’s lovely short film Point and Line to Plane, and two feature films, Ephraim Asili’s The Inheritance and Nicolás Pereda’s Fauna.

Now Wavelengths is getting back up to full-tilt, although still with a smaller-than-usual slate of films. The 2021 edition contains six feature films and only seven experimental shorts. The decision to ease back into the presentation of complicated film and media work is understandable on some level. Covid is still a concern, and the festival has to balance a number of considerations, including the exposure of festival staff during live screenings, and how that compares with the number of festivalgoers likely to buy tickets for those events. Cost/benefits analysis is always at work where big film festivals are concerned, but now there is the added exigency of human wellbeing. 

Still, the pandemic and subsequent quarantines seem to have led to a spike in creative production. The New York Film Festival’s Currents section, North America’s other high-profile showcase for experimental film, is fairly engorged this year, suggesting that there is a lot of work out there waiting to be shown. The fecundity of the art-film scene, contrasted with the handful of Wavelengths slots made available by TIFF, suggests that ace programmer Andréa Picard had an even tougher task than usual, defining the section by hard choices between large numbers of very worthy films.

I hope that Wavelengths returns to its previous size next year; in no way do I want to suggest that less is more. Still, 2021 represents one of the best line-ups Picard has ever produced. Selections that were no doubt difficult if not agonizing to make have nevertheless resulted in an echelon of excellence, setting the bar high for all future Wavelengths presentations.

*Note: I have chosen to include one film that is playing in the Short Cuts section, but is very much of a piece with the selections in Wavelengths. What is film criticism without a bit of cheating?

Continue reading here.