Over the first weekend of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), the largest film festival in North America, over a dozen Carleton University students, most majoring in Film Studies, descended upon the metropolis to watch some of the most exciting filmmakers debut their latest work. The trip was organized by Film Studies professors Malini Guha and Aboubakar Sanogo, and generously supported by the School for Studies in Art and Culture (SSAC).
Film Studies MA candidate Landon Arbuckle, was unequivocal about the significance of a trip like this for him as a scholar and as a cinema lover.
“The TIFF trip as a whole gives us the chance to take in as much content in our field as we can in the short amount of time that we have there,” Arbuckle said. “I’ve gone three times now, and every year I seem to inch a bit more outside of my comfort zone in what content I choose to see.”
It’s true that TIFF offers films from all over the world, in dozens of languages and with their filmmakers and stars on hand to answer questions at Q&A sessions after screenings. Professors Sanogo and Guha organized a more intimate session with with Indian director Bornila Chatterjee and her producer, Tanaji Dasgupta.
On Thursday, September 7, students saw Chatterjee’s latest film, The Hungry, which is a loose re-telling of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus set in modern-day India. On Saturday, students met with Chatterjee and Dasgupta at the University of Toronto, a meeting that Arbuckle called “especially enriching.”
“We were able to hold an open discussion with the filmmakers, which ended up going much over the one hour time slot that we had planned for,” Arbuckle said. “The film had not actually had its official premiere yet, so we were afforded the unique chance of seeing it before many other people had. As such, the filmmakers were actively searching for feedback and inquiries into what we, as students, believed worked and didn’t about the film. They were very forthright about what they thought they had not been able to accomplish with it, and this vulnerability took me by surprise as I happened to really enjoy The Hungry.”
It is rare to be afforded this kind of access to filmmakers and how they think, and Arbuckle believes it is a very valuable experience as a student of film.
Guha says that the TIFF trip is a natural extension of the Film Studies program itself and its goals of collectivity. “I love the sense of community that is fostered through the TIFF trip, where students and faculty can engage in informal conversations about films they just saw, recommend films to each other as well as find each other in line and watch films together,” she says.
Whether speaking with directors or simply taking in a variety of the latest and most interesting cinema from around the world, the trip to TIFF was a chance for Film Studies students to take part in the ways that the medium they study truly have an impact on the world around them.