The Images Fest is marking its 25th edition in high style. In addition to the usual aggregation of experimental film and video from around the world - mostly screening at the AGO's Jackman Hall - Images looks backwards in a few interesting ways.
Four retrospective programs screen shorts that played at the first Images in 1988, each one selected and introduced by a festival founder or programmer. Former NOW film critic and current TIFF artistic director Cameron Bailey presents Richard Kerr's American travelogue Last Days Of Contrition in the first program, screening Friday (April 13) at 8 pm.
And the fest literally looks backward with Toronto: Cinema City, an exhibition at the Images Hub at 401 Richmond's Urbanspace Gallery. Curated by Eric Veillette, it celebrates the history of Hogtown's movie palaces through archival photographs and memorabilia. (My grandfather ran the Orpheum at Bathurst and Queen, so this one had me at hello.) The exhibit will be open for the run of the festival; Veillette hosts a panel discussion, Defining Cinema Space, Friday (April 13), 3 pm, in the gallery.
We're not totally stuck in the past, mind you. Images 25 has plenty of contemporary programming.
East Hastings Pharmacy, part of the shorts program titled A Place In The World (Monday, 7 pm), is a 45-minute documentary about a Vancouver drugstore where people on a methadone program come to be witnessed taking their daily dose, as legally mandated. Director Antoine Bourges paints a stark portrait of these alternately desperate and hopeful "clients" as they interact with sympathetic, unflappable pharmacist Shauna Hansen.
Ben Rivers's Two Years At Sea (Sunday, 9 pm) is a mesmerizing black-and-white widescreen feature that follows a bearded man through his rural life. Who is he, and what's he doing? If you've seen Rivers's 2006 short This Is My Land, you'll have an advantage, but it's not necessary. Just sink into the new work and let it carry you along.
Simone Rapisarda Casanova's The Strawberry Tree (April 20, 7 pm) is a documentary about the small Cuban village of Juan Antonio - which was destroyed by a hurricane less than a month after Casanova finished shooting. We're told this up front, and as a result, the footage of unremarkable village life is haunted by our knowledge of impending doom. It's a sort of accidental gravitas, and it's incredibly moving.
Wrapping things up with a rock vibe worked so well last year that Images is doing it again. Yo La Tengo perform their original soundtrack to the short films of Jean Painlevé, The Sounds Of Science, live at the Toronto Underground Cinema at 8 pm on April 21.
Yes, it's the same program that's been available on the Criterion Collection Science Is Fiction DVD for several years, but the experience will be very different with a big screen and a live band.