Andrea Picard has the most judicious eye in the industry. The programme she curates at TIFF, Wavelengths, has been world-renowned for its unflagging discrimination – for the taste it makes manifest in its wildly audacious selections. Artists consider an invitation to screen at Wavelengths a testament to the quality of their work, because Picard’s seal of approval is proof enough that any given movie must be good.
That responsibility Picard does not take lightly. Indeed, year-round she works uncommonly hard even for a programmer, seeking out moving-image art wherever it may be found. She travels to film festivals across the world
hoping to discover something new. She visits art biennials and the private studios of aspiring artists, bypassing the studio system entirely. And she watches many, many films: the open call for Wavelengths submissions brings in shorts and features by the thousand, and Picard scours them all to pluck out what’s worthy. “It’s my job to view and evaluate all the work,” she explains. “But it’s also my job to find a really thoughtful way of curating the work for the programme — a way that makes sense as a whole and still let’s the work breathe.”
Wavelengths can sometimes seem an aberration in the context of TIFF: it’s the rigorously artistic part of a rather more mainstream whole. But Picard speaks fondly of that contrast. “It shows TIFF has this diversity,” she says. “We have galas and celebrities – and then we have Bruno Dumont and Nathaniel Dorsky.” Such filmmakers may avail themselves of a platform considerably larger than they’d probably enjoy at festivals concentrated on experimental cinema exclusively; the red carpets rolled out for the galactic mega-stars are the same ones walked by the obscure auteurs. “We invite so many people from around the world and then we put these films on the same platform, in the same cinemas.”
The effect, Picard says, is representative of the medium: it’s precisely because the avant-garde curios at Wavelengths and the starstudded gala premieres elsewhere are so unalike that the festival remains so rich and intriguing. The variety on display says a lot about the diversity of motion pictures. “TIFF represents the range of cinema,” she says. “Cinema ranges from entertainment to a pure art form — and so does the festival. It’s not just celebrity-driven, but artistdriven too.”