Artistic director of the Toronto International Film Festival and Western alumnus Cameron Bailey graced the Mustang Lounge last night.
Joined by an intimate audience of faculty members and students passionate about film, he discussed the film industry and the history of festivals in Toronto, the conversation travelling around the world and home again.
The Arts and Humanities Student Council (AHSC) and Western Undergraduate Film Society (WUFS) welcomed the accredited film critic and artistic director as they ran through his series of accomplishments that brought him to TIFF. Modestly, Bailey took the stage and began expanding on his experience at the non-profit film organization while bringing the beloved dynamism seen in the identifiable Alumni Hall poster.
What was clear from his words was that TIFF's future, and the future of the arts, is an ever-changing reality subject to new developments in technology and funding.
Bailey stressed the importance of the humanities after graduating with an English literature and languages degree decades ago. He admits the same critical thinking he learned in the humanities during his time at university has been a fundamental lens he applies towards TIFF programming.
"We joke about [critical thinking] now more than ever because people toss it around a lot but it’s true," he begins. "There’s no more urgent time than now for training in critical thinking and I actually think you get that through the arts and humanities almost better than any other discipline because you’re forced … to think in a broad and a deep way."
Running through recent selections that made it big from the festival, two being Barry Jenkin's Moonlight and Damien Chazelle's La La Land, Bailey believes the power of critical thinking subconsciously trickles in at every film screening. It comes to light in every trip across the world to find the next visionary film and every meeting with the TIFF programming team to achieve the festival's cohesive theme. Curating beyond commercial media is Bailey's goal and has been a driving point in his output at every point in his life.
One of the most important takeaways from his talk was allowing different narratives to take up spaces. After relaying the history of Toronto's carnival and festival scene, literally allowing different communities to take up space in the city, he believes every film at TIFF strives to take up space in someone's mind. This philosophy allows people to lose themselves in the film – to live and breath another person's experience and understand more about the world.
If people walk away with this new enlightenment, there is no stopping where film will go in the future.
"When we show movies, we do it for lots of different reasons, but one of the main things people get out of it is the ability to understand other people’s perspectives," Bailey says. "It’s not that everything’s relative and every perspective is the same, you can understand your own perspective better if you can understand other people’s perspective and you can understand the power of somebody else’s perspective that might not be your own."
Ending off his presentation with a question and answer period, Bailey reminded audiences that he is simply a puzzle piece curating the film world. He chuckled about the brilliance of Netflix and the unpredictable reality of being in the arts. Stumbling into his career, he encouraged others to persevere with their passions in art.
In the hurricane of events where art funding is cut and films die, there is still an undying love for storytelling and people who are willing to sit down and watch a good movie. With this, art will never die but rather repackage itself in new mediums; a hopeful future in a developing film world.