The Reel Artists Film Festival, Toronto
I discovered the gem that is the Reel Artists Film Festival (RAFF) through my work with the Canadian Art Foundation’s young patron group, the New Contemporaries. RAFF is more than a not-to-be-missed event; it is a weekend experience-to-surrender-yourself-to extravaganza. Every February, the Toronto art set and RAFF loyalists celebrate artists through revealing and compelling documentaries (N.B. RAFF has a Calgary satellite in March). Film premieres, an opening night gala, and a directors’ panel round out the festival which takes place under one roof at Toronto’s TIFF Bell Lightbox at King & John, a.k.a. an art buff’s clubhouse, from February 22 – 26.
Festival programming announcements come in January — that’s a full month to curate your weekend film picks and determine what to wear among the art stars and gallerinas at their legendary opening night gala. This year will be no exception with the Canadian premiere of Director Matthew Akers’ feature-length doc: Marina Ambramović: The Artist is Present (on the heels of its Sundance premiere).
Executive Director Ann Webb and her team at the Canadian Art Foundation work tirelessly to lock down the best films, whisk artists to premieres, and galvanize our local art community for yet another memorable festival. This year’s programming echoes the currents of resistance we saw unfurl in 2011, from the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street. Performance artist Marina Ambramović certainly embodies the way artists engage in acts of “resistance” every day and she will indeed be present at RAFF’s Opening Night Gala. Marina was last in Toronto 30 years ago to perform Nightsea Crossing with Ulay at Nathan Phillips Square in 1982. Watch the film closely: keen viewers may catch a glimpse of that historic performance. Oh, and if you miss the premiere, there’s a repeat screening of Akers’ doc (sans panel discussion with Marina and the filmmakers) on Sunday.
Other films on our list: the Toronto premiere of Oliviero Toscani: Rage of Images (one of a handful of films this year on photographers), which turns the lens on Toscani, whose Benetton campaigns pushed boundaries and buttons throughout the 90s. We’re also seeing How Are You, which documents the early years of art world ‘bad boys’ Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset as well as their 2009 Venice Biennale installation The Collectors.
Post-Sunday brunch we’re all about the afternoon shorts — a new programming element for the festival. The first batch includes a Todd Selby film on artist Christine Sun Kim, who explores making sound tangible (Christine is deaf since birth) followed by a web series (in fact, all the shorts originated on the web) imported from the Tate Modern.
Pro tips: For those of you who want to attend multiple screenings, get the weekend pass for $85. For a protein-kick, try the salmon at Canteen and sub in the quinoa—after all, there are 20 films to go to-and- fro.
Tatiana is Founder and Director at Knot PR, a Toronto-based communications agency that works with lifestyle, fashion and culture clients, including this year’s Reel Artists Film Festival. She has sat on RAFF’s committee for three years and is a founding Co-chair of the Canadian Art Foundation’s young patron program: New Contemporaries.