Contrary to what many may think, we do not begin programming with a specific theme in mind. We watch, we take notes, and move on to the next film. Once in a while, we come together and we discuss what we've seen. If at the end trends emerge, they are a surprise to us. Each year is different.
This year is an incredibly strong year for documentaries and animation especially, both of which we received in greater numbers. Several of our documentaries tackled diverse cultural and social issues that are both local and international in scope – from a man's fight for his community's access to water in Colombia, to the Canadian Sikh harassed and wrongfully accused to be one of the Paris bombers in the hullabaloo of #Gamergate, to the Bowmanville Zoo controversy right at home in Ontario after video surfaced showing them whipping their tiger. I was massively impressed by the sophistication with which these stories were approached, especially the intimate, soul-baring film of a woman speaking candidly about her sexual abuse in an experimental mix of memory and myth.
The animated films are always a delight and my favourite bunch to go through. I feel like I say it every year, but it's absolutely true that Toronto Youth Shorts receives extraordinarily good animation pieces that are rich in both art and storytelling. We’ve been spoiled.
The content is not the only difference this year. Here on the programming front, we expanded our team with the addition of our Junior Programmers. Like us, they waded through hours and hours of content, went through what has been our largest submission yet from filmmakers under 18, attended several screenings of their peers, wrote pages and pages of notes (often by hand!), compiled their picks, and spent hours deliberating the selection to curate a program that represents the younger side of our youth demographic. Their voice and vision were an integral part of this year’s lineup.
Youth are increasingly growing up with an audience due to the likes of Facebook, Twitter, and livestreaming. The entry into experimenting with image and film comes early. Teens are now more than ever creating incredible award-worthy works that travel to film festivals around the world, and age is fast becoming insignificant as a determinant of quality.
But don't take our word for it. Swing by on the first Saturday of August at Innis and we'll show you!