TIFF’s Kiva Reardon on Programmes that Resist Closure

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Kiva Reardon is the Lead Programmer of the Contemporary World Cinema section of the Toronto International Film Festival and is the Founding Editor of the cléo journal. Kiva’s work, therefore, is underscored by a passion for democratising the medium of cinema; a passion that finds expression in the ground-breaking feminist work of the cléo journal and TIFF’s commitment to highlight the contribution of women to cinema, both on and off screen. She began her role on the TIFF programming team working alongside Cameron Bailey, TIFF’s artistic director and co-head, as Programming Associate, and then worked as the Programmer for films from continental Africa and the Middle East before taking on a larger role as Lead Programmer, Contemporary World Cinema.
She is also a programmer at the Miami Film Festival and Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, and has previously worked at the Doha Film Institute in Qatar. Her writing has been published in Filmmaker Magazine, The Globe and Mail, Hazlitt and others.

Directed by Women caught up with Kiva Reardon, and chatted about her journey as a curator and about curating an inclusive programme.

TIFF’s Contemporary World Cinema programmer Kiva Reardon, whose programme focuses on urgent narratives on social and political crises

DBW: How did you become a curator?

KR: I started writing about film after graduation while working at a PR firm and, eventually, after I finished my Master’s in Cinema Studies, I started writing full-time. In 2013, I started cléo journal, with the aim of getting more women to write about film. Through cléo, I met Cameron Bailey, who, one day in 2015, when I was working at the DOC Institute, called me to ask if I wanted to work as his Programming Associate. I obviously agreed. In 2017, I was promoted to International Programmer, Middle East and Africa, and this year to Lead Programmer, Contemporary World Cinema.

DBW: As a curator curating a programme, what are the 3 most important things you keep in mind?

KR: The audience. The art. Representation. Those aren’t ranked, but more a series of overlapping circles. It’s in the cross-sections that I like to find films that can push expectations.

DBW: What does your programme at TIFF focus on?

KR: I’m the Lead Programmer of Contemporary World Cinema, which is the beating heart of the Festival. I like to say that the “I” of TIFF; the “International” aspect is truly important to us. Along with my fellow programmers, we’re looking to find the best films from around the world. Some may be award winners, others might be making their premiere, but they all seek to engage with an urgency about the world we live in.

DBW: What are the highlights of this year’s programme?

KR: I’m really proud of the number of women in the lineup, as well as the record number of countries that are represented in Contemporary World Cinema.

DBW: Name a few of your favorites.

KR: Three Summers by Brazilian filmmaker Sandra Kogut stars Brazilian acting legend Regina Casé, who plays the caretaker for a cluster of luxury beachside condos. The film follows her over three summers, from 2015 to 2017, and documents how she negotiates life with loyalty, tact, and an ever-present keen eye for opportunity.

Bangladeshi filmmaker Rubaiyat Hossain’s Made in Bangladesh is a story of Dhaka’s garment workers and a woman’s struggle to organize her co-workers and resist the exploitative labour practices and the global trade apparatus supporting them.

Then, of course, there is Mati Diop, who is the first black female filmmaker to be in contention for the Palme d’Or. She is one of the most brilliant filmmakers in the line-up. Her film, Atlantics, takes a love story of two young lovers in Senegal and focuses on the poetic and thoughtful aspect of the multi-layered narrative, while the politics of economics and immigration simmer beneath the surface.

Other favorites include Hikari’s 37 Seconds (Japan), Jenna Bass’ Flatland (South Africa), and Sophie Deraspe’s Antigone (Canada).

DBW: How has your programming changed before and after the Share Her Journey campaign?

KR: I wouldn’t say it’s changed my programming work, but rather films that I was already keen to spotlight and share with audiences, are now getting the added push they deserve and the directors are afforded a bigger platform to talk about their work.

DBW: What, for you, is an example of a perfectly curated programme?

KR: Something that resists completist closure and instead inspires the audience to go and seek out more films, art or writing about what they’ve seen.

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