TIFF 2013 Interview: TIFF Cinematheque Programmer Brad Deane talks about this year’s festival and discusses his greatest TIFF experience


Editor’s Notes: The following interview is part of our coverage of the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival. For more information on the festival visit http://tiff.net and follow TIFF on Twitter at @TIFF_NET.

While working in the TIFF Adult Learning Department this past summer, I learned about the many programmes TIFF offers and the initiatives that motivate their productions. Being from Vancouver—knowing only of VIFF—I had no idea what year long festival programming would be like. Even now, after living in Toronto for a year, completing a Cinema Studies Masters degree and interning at TIFF, there are areas of TIFF programming that I am continually learning about. The scope of TIFF is phenomenal and incomparable. This interview is to help the general TIFF patron to better understand one specific area of TIFF: The Cinematheque.

To give you a bit of history: in 2007, construction began on what is now the TIFF Bell Lightbox. “To be completed in 2009” as a central hub for the Toronto International Film Festival, the diverse programmes once situated in office buildings spread throughout downtown were intended to be held under one roof (Ahearn). This initiative indicates the growing significance and community involvement in the festival: original programmes were improved upon, others were developed, and TIFF—a base for Toronto’s film culture and collectives—became larger in scope. Funded by a generous sponsorship by Bell, moderate investments by other major companies, government grants, and donations, the $173-million Lightbox opened in September 2010, launching—at this time—a number of comprehensive, all-year programmes and resources such as Adult Learning and the TIFF Film Reference Library. Each of these programmes, and all the resources at TIFF Bell Lightbox, are open to the public, purposed “to get a conversation started within our larger communities” (tiff). With hundreds of employees, over 30 departments, and a number of services, events, and exhibitions, the impact of the Lightbox on Toronto’s general public, educational institutions, and film scholars is quite remarkable.

Without further ado, I now present to you our interview with TIFF Cinemathque Programmer Brad Deane!

Kamran: For those caught unawares, could you describe what TIFF Cinematheque is exactly?


Brad: TIFF Cinematheque is both a programme at the Festival and a year-round screening initiative which is dedicated to championing the history and culture of cinema through carefully curated retrospectives, national and regional spotlights, experimental and avant-garde cinema, and exclusive engagements of classic films, including many new and rare archival prints.

Note: For example, this summer’s ‘Century of Chinese Cinema’ Programme was the biggest retrospective of Chinese Cinema to ever be established in North America. Many of the prints were donated by archival institutions, and would be impossible to see if not for TIFF’s initiative to collect and screen for the public such rare prints.

Kamran: How does programming—or the methodologies behind the programming—differ between Cinematheque and other TIFF Festival programmes, particularly Galas and Special Features?

Brad: The rest of the Festival  programmes the best in contemporary cinema while at TIFF Cinematheque we have over 100 years of the best of world cinema to choose from. However, to narrow it down a bit we focus on programming from new restorations of classic films.

Kamran: What is your role in year-long Cinematheque programming, and how does year long programming compare with the festival?

Brad: Our year-round programming is very similar to what we do at the Festival but greatly expanded. At the Festival we focus on new restorations of classics while during the year our programming is organized more by director retrospectives, national spotlights and thematic series.  In our year-round programming we not only show classics but also new up-and-coming directors, such as our recent spotlights on Mia Hansen-Løve, Nicolas Pereda and our upcoming series on Nicolas Winding Refn and Claire Denis.

Note: Retrospectives on Jacques Demy and Leos Carax were programmed this summer. The Demy retrospective was coupled with a programme entitled “Paradise Regained: Demy’s Favourites.” Complementing the director retrospective, this programme provided screenings of classics—most of which were projected as 35mm prints.

Kamran: Do you expect the audiences for Cinematheque screenings to be different from the audiences of other TIFF Festival programmes? What would you say is the key demographic for TIFF Cinematheque?

Brad: The hope is that we can cross borders. We show films from a wide range of countries, styles and genres, so there should be something for everyone. Our programme at the Festival is also free to make sure that there are no barriers for anyone to attend- all you need is curiosity and to get to the cinema early to make sure you get your free ticket.

Kamran: What is your process in deciding which films to screen, and who other than yourself is involved in this process?

Brad: We select the films for the Festival programme as a committee, composed of our year-round TIFF Cinematheque programming team: myself, James Quandt, Jesse Wente and Noah Cowan.

Kamran: Out of the Cinematheque screenings, which are you most passionate about? Which feature is the absolute must see Cinematheque film, and why?

Brad: Of course all seven of our films are must-sees but if I have to highlight two, they would be MANILA IN THE CLAWS OF LIGHT and SHIVERS. Filipino filmmaker, Lino Brocka is one of the great masters in the history of cinema but unfortunately his films have been very difficult to see for many years as most of the prints are in poor condition. We were thrilled when we heard that Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Foundation had restored MANILA IN THE CLAWS OF LIGHT. MANILA tells the heart-wrenching story of a young provincial man who travels to the big city in search of his long lost love but when he arrives he encounters obstacle after obstacle and struggles to survive. It’s a film that guarantees to leave an impact on the audience with its combination of melodrama and realism to depict the harsh conditions of living under the Marcos regime in the 1970s.

David Cronenberg’s body horror classic, SHIVERS,  about an apartment overrun by a parasite that turn its inhabitants into sex-crazed zombies is just as scary of a social critique today as the day it was made. This screening is extra special as it will be the first showing of the new digital restoration of the film which was restored by TIFF and overseen by David himself.

Kamran: What is the greatest experience you’ve encountered during past TIFF festivals?

Brad: I remember seeing Bela Tarr’s Werckmeister Harmonies at my first festival in 2000, I was exhausted and could barely keep my eyes open but when the film started I felt like I couldn’t blink as I didn’t want to miss a frame. Soon I could hear the seats banging one after another as people streamed out of the theatre; I couldn’t believe how anyone could not be affected by the intense beauty of this film. I staggered out of the theatre after the screening, feeling like I couldn’t watch another movie, nothing could ever measure up, and luckily it was the last day of the festival.

Kamran: An incredible film, no doubt. To see that in the comfortable TIFF cinemas during a festival must have been extraordinary. Glad you stayed awake! At the TIFF website, you state that Andrea Picard is your favourite Festival programmer (outside of yourself), and you speak highly of the Wavelengths programme. I too admire the relatively neglected Wavelengths programme. What can you tell us about Wavelengths as well as the other seemingly neglected festival programmes, and, furthermore, could you give us your thoughts on the categorization of festival events?

Brad: The world of cinema feels like it has never been as conservative or as commercial as it feels today and I think Wavelengths is extremely important because it provides context and gives a safe home for filmmakers who dare to continue working in formally challenging ways. However, I don’t think I would call the programme neglected, the screenings are mostly sold out and the audiences are filled with curious filmgoers, as well as top critics, curators and filmmakers from all over the world- it’s often as hard to get a ticket as to some of the hottest Hollywood films in the Festival.

Kamran: That’s great to hear. While I’ve been under the impression that the casual filmgoer wouldn’t be interested in formally challenging films, I’m excited to see how TIFF is able to collect a community of film lovers who need not be cinephiles to enjoy the works. The films I am most excited for—Nathaniel Dorsky’s Song and Spring—are part of the Wavelengths series, amongst a plethora of other great works. Finally, for a quick and fun final question, what film or films do you expect will receive the highest acclaim at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival?

Brad: I’m not sure of acclaim since it depends who you ask but some of my favorites in other programmes are: BASTARDS, A TOUCH OF SIN, STRANGER BY THE LAKE, ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE and GRAVITY.

Kamran: Some great choices, indeed—all of which I have short listed for my own viewing. Looking forward to them. Thank you for participating in this interview. I know that the Cinematheque series at TIFF 2013 will be an excellent one!

So, there you have it. Please keep in mind that access to Cinematheque screenings are based on a first-come-first-serve policy. Moreover, these are FREE events, so be sure to arrive with plenty of time to be let in. The screenings include:

An Autumn Afternoon (Yasujiro Ozu, 1962) - September 11, TIFF Bell Lightbox 4, 4:00 p.m.

Gun Crazy (Joseph H. Lewis, 1959) - September 9, TIFF Bell Lightbox 4, 12:00 p.m.

Hiroshima mon amour (Alain Resnais, 1959) - September 8, TIFF Bell Lightbox 3, 9:45 a.m.

Le Joli Mai (The Lovely Month of May, Chris Marker, Pierre Lhomme, 1963) - September 7, TIFF Bell Lightbox 4, 12:45 p.m.

Manila in the Claws of Light (Lino Brocka, 1975) - September 6, TIFF Bell Lightbox 4, 12:15 p.m.

Roma, citta aperta (Rome, Open City, Roberto Rossellini, 1945) - September 10, TIFF Bell Lightbox 4, 5:15 p.m.

Shivers (David Cronenberg, 1975) - September 5, TIFF Bell Lightbox 3, 3:30 p.m.

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Kamran Ahmed

Staff Film Critic. Visit my personal blog at Aesthetics of The Mind
Kamran's areas of interest include formalism, realism & reality, affect, and notions of the aesthetic. With experiences as a TA, an event panelist, a presenter at conferences from UofT to Harvard, and a writer of a self-authored film blog, Kamran would like to share with others his profound interest in the profilmic in the hopes of inspiring, in them, a similar love for film.