Sidebar proves its worth at festival

Though it may have previously been dismissed by some industryites and Toronto regulars as a ghetto or “sidebar of a sidebar,” as one wag has referred to it, Wavelengths, which programs experimental and avant garde works, is proving its worth by gaining a broader role at this year’s Toronto Film Festival.

Named for the seminal film by Canadian experimental master Michael Snow, Wavelengths, which brings together thematically grouped sets of shorts, has been expanded to include programming that was formerly slotted in the now-shuttered Visions section, adding a larger longform element to the sidebar.

This means that the program’s original core of four sets of grouped shorts (36 in all, including shorts preceding features) are matched up with a sizable set of features and midlength films highlighted by some of the hottest helmers in the festival world, including Athina Rachel Tsangari (“The Capsule”), Miguel Gomes (“Tabu”), Denis Cote (“Bestiare”), Tsai Ming-liang (“Walker”), Joao Pedro Rodrigues and Joao Rui Guerra da Mata (“The Last Time I Saw Macao”), Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel (“Leviathan”), Apichatpong Weerasethakul (“Mekong Hotel”), Wang Bing (“Three Sisters”), Carlos Reygadas (Cannes competish entry “Post Tenebras Lux”), Ying Liang (“When Night Falls”) and Matias Piniero (world premiering “Viola”).

The move can be read as a sign of the festival’s confidence in the lineup, growing audience support and, perhaps most of all, the programming leadership of Andrea Picard, who has steered the 12-year-old Wavelengths since 2005.

“It’s part of an overall effort to make the sections clearer and more curated,” says Picard, who has gained an international reputation for her acute eye in identifying rising film artists such as Ben Rivers, and for putting a spotlight on long-established filmmakers like James Benning and Nathaniel Dorsky, as well as such sublime items as Luther Price’s 35mm glass slides of decayed film, rated a major find at this year’s Whitney Biennale.

For this new Wavelengths, Picard has cited the curating tradition established in the U.S. by Amos Vogel, co-founder of the New York Film Festival, whose innovative approach placed avant gardists like Jack Smith alongside Luis Bunuel. “Boundaries between kinds of films have become more fluid,” Picard says. “Wavelengths and Visions have been melding for the past few years anyway, so that we included feature-length work (such as Benning’s “Ruhr”), with the sense that audiences who wanted to see Ben Rivers also wanted to see Lav Diaz,” the Filipino filmmaker known for his epic-length works totaling nine-plus hours.

“We now can not only bring together the short work with features,” says Picard, “but we have the flexibility and spectrum to include more midlength films like Athina Tsangari’s or Tsai Ming-liang’s films, allowing a way (to show that) world-class filmmakers are more interested than ever in making films of various lengths.”

Another bonus of the newly expanded Wavelengths: Unlike the shorts programs, which screen only once, the features will have multiple screenings, thus potentially expanding Wavelengths’ base of fans.

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