TIFF NEXT WAVE FILM FESTIVAL Friday through Sunday (February 15 to 17) at TIFF Bell Lightbox. tiff.net/nextwave Rating: NNNN
It may be taking place in February rather than May this year, but the TIFF Next Wave festival still offers the appealing mix of edge and innocence that distinguished its 2012 program.
Next Wave 2013 kicks off at the Lightbox Friday night with the Battle Of The Scores - a live competition in which six high school bands perform original scores for short films - and shifts into film-fest mode Saturday and Sunday.
The slate includes Sara St. Onge's Toronto-set Molly Maxwell (Saturday, 7 pm), starring Lola Tash as a 17-year-old student who bonds with her English teacher (Charlie Carrick), and South African surfing drama Otelo Burning (Sunday, 4:45 pm), which arrives fresh from the Toronto Black Film Festival.
Irish sci-fi romance Earthbound (Sunday, 1 pm) casts Rafe Spall (Irrfan Khan's wide-eyed interviewer in Life Of Pi) as a Dubliner who's grown up believing he's an alien thanks to a deathbed confession by his dying dad (David Morrissey). Writer-director Alan Brennan awkwardly mashes up rom-com beats with sci-fi elements, but Spall and Jenn Murray (late of the BBC horror series The Fades) have great chemistry.
If you're chasing a more retro vibe, you can spend your Saturday watching John Hughes movies - Some Kind Of Wonderful at 3 pm, Pretty In Pink at 5 pm, The Breakfast Club at 7:15 pm, Ferris Bueller's Day Off at 9:30 pm and Sixteen Candles at midnight - and then catch Ghost Graduation (Sunday, 2:45 pm), Spanish director Javier Ruiz Caldera's extremely Hughesian comedy about a high school teacher (Raúl Arévalo) helping five dead students finish their senior year so they can stop haunting his school.
Finally, there's 5-25-77 (Saturday, 3:15 pm). Patrick Read Johnson is screening his autobiographical drama as a work in progress, and given that he's been working on it since 2006, I'd wager this is the only chance you'll ever have to see it.
Freaks & Geeks' John Francis Daley plays the director's teen self, who became obsessed with Star Wars after a visit to Douglas Trumbull's studio led to his seeing a rough cut of George Lucas's blockbuster-to-be. It's deeply personal and incredibly awkward, and I have my doubts that Johnson will ever be willing to let it go... so if you can only see one movie this weekend, make it this one.