Images Festival Film Toronto

5 films to watch at the Images Festival

The Images Festival is a celebration of film and video that has been a staple for avant-garde and non-narrative works in Toronto for 24 years. While next year is officially the festivals quarter-life crisis, it seems more confident than ever of where it lies and what it represents to the city and to artists and filmmakers. The second oldest film festival in the city, Images has cemented itself as the alternative for filmmakers to present their works, whether long or short form, experimental or narrative, on screen and off.

To make it easier for you, I've already browsed through the catalogue and screeners until my fingers were paper-cut and torn, to showcase some of the things I believe are a must see. One of the benefits of Images is that most of the on-screen programs are on the pay what you can model, I usually suggest between $5-10.

1. Rivers and My Father, Thursday March 31st, 7pm, The Royal Cinema, $12 advance/

Images Film Festival

Director Luo Li's strong documentary/fiction hybrid opens up this years festival with a study of memory and personal narrative in Rivers and my Father. Li attempts to connect threads from his memories of his life, growing up on the banks of the Yangtze and his fathers perception of his memory. The father character narrates changes that Li puts into effect immediately through the use of repetition and change in an attempt to define personal and shared stories. Water is the main character however, always present no matter what version of history Li chooses.

2. Same Same But Different, Friday April 1st, 7pm, Workman Arts, St Anne's Parish Hall. PWYC

Images Film Festival

In this program, my favourite is Versions by Oliver Laric. A disembodied voice explains that no image is unique anymore, just our perception of it, while featuring Disney films that have copied their own animation style shot for shot, films who repeat the same sets and the use of photoshop on repetitive imagery. Also in this program is Magic for Beginners by Jesse McLean, a study of fan culture and the catharsis found in fantasy, longing and obsession. Disturbingly long shots of people crying into the camera are cut with fans packing into parking lots for their favourite stars and a narrative about the joy of television.

3. Disorientation Express, Monday April 4th, 6:30pm, Jackman Hall, Art Gallery of Ontario, PWYC

Disorientation Express

This program contains stories about travel and movement, whether it be a long shot of starlings taking cover on a power line for the night in Starlings (At Nightfall) or dogs whirling around a dog track in Greyhound Track. Whether or not they get anywhere is not the point of this program. Locomotives are also featured, such as in Berlin Tracks and Trains are for Dreaming. As most of this program is shot on 16mm, it adds an extra layer of nostalgia for places we've passed and may not return to again.

4. Traces, Portraits, Memories and Remains, Thursday April 7th, 9:30pm, Jackman Hall, Art Gallery of Ontario, PWYC

Images Film Festival Toronto

People are highly important in this program, as lives and spaces are dissected and met with startling intimacy. A young boy with a dire medical condition speaks about losing his friends in Death Match, while Everybody's Nuts exposes the dark side of a subdivision torn by two major industries. We can meet Irma, former women's professional wrestling world champion and currently a singer-songwriter, or we can view the day to day activity in a hair salon in Mozambique in Blue Salon.

5. Fucked Up & West of Zanzibar, Saturday April 9th, 8:30pm, Toronto Underground Cinema, $12 advance/$15 at the door.

Fucked Up Band

Last but very much not the least, the Closing Night Gala for Images is none other than Polaris Prize winners from 2009, Fucked Up as they play a live accompaniment to the zany film West of Zanzibar. A dark tragedy played out in two parts, Lon Chaney plays a simple magician whose wife cheats on him with Lionel Barrymore. After a scuffle, he loses the use of his legs, his wife is killed and he flees to Zanzibar, bitter, broken and scorned. While there, his use of magic and illusions causes locals to suspect him of voodoo and the plot thickens...

Also recommended, the Reframing Africa program and the spotlight feature on Canadian Artist James McSwain. Check blogTO later this week for an update with some of my top picks for installations and other events at the festival.

The Images Festival runs from March 31st to April 9th.

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