Toronto New Wave

The Toronto New Wave refers to a loose-knit group of filmmakers from Toronto who came of age during the 1980s and early 1990s. [1]


Atom Egoyan, John Greyson, Ron Mann, Bruce McDonald, Don McKellar, Peter Mettler, Jeremy Podeswa and Patricia Rozema, along with producers Camelia Frieberg, Alexandra Raffé, Colin Brunton, Janis Lundman and others came bursting on to the Canadian movie scene in the 1980s with fresh, original films that rejected not only Hollywood's formulaic dramas, but also the legacy of earlier English-Canadian cinéastes (such as Don Shebib and Don Owen) who had made downbeat films about heartbreak and loss.[2]

Feature filmmaking in Ontario in the 1980s may stand as one of the most significant developments in the history of this country's cinema.[3] Leading the way into features was Peter Mettler (whose 1982 film Scissere became the first student feature programmed by the Toronto Festival of Festivals, now the Toronto International Film Festival) and Mann (with two exceptional documentaries – Imagine the Sound in 1981 and Poetry in Motion in 1982). Egoyan followed in 1984 with Next of Kin, a fictional comic feature about identity.

Many of the young filmmakers (they were all under the age of 30) worked on each other's films. Mettler shot Egoyan's Next of Kin and Family Viewing (1987), Rozema's Passion: A Letter in 16mm (1985), Podeswa's Nion in the Kabaret de la Vita (1986) and McDonald's Knock! Knock! (1985), while McDonald edited Scissere, Egoyan's Family Viewing and Speaking Parts (1989), and Mann's Comic Book Confidential (1988). [4] McDonald also guest-edited the October 1988 “Outlaw Edition” of Cinema Canada that first publicized the existence of this new group of filmmakers. Despite the lack of a defining manifesto, the Toronto-based group existed through a close-knit sense of cooperation of a kind rarely seen in Canada since the growth of Quebec cinema in the early sixties.[2]

Two major events of the 1980s gave credence and cash to these young Toronto filmmakers. In 1984, the Toronto Festival of Festivals held the largest retrospective of Canadian films ever programmed in Canada. This event premiered Perspective Canada,[5] a Festival series that for 20 years was the most prestigious venue for launching English-Canadian features. Then, in 1986, the Ontario Film Development Corporation (OFDC) was founded, providing a much-needed funding alternative to the restrictions of the Ontario Arts Council and Telefilm Canada in Montreal. From the start, the OFDC was officially mandated to create an Ontario film culture. Under the guidance of its first CEO, Wayne Clarkson[6] (who, as the former head of the Festival of Festivals, had been partially responsible for launching Perspective Canada), it proceeded to do so.[7]

The breakthrough came in 1987 when Rozema's first low-budget feature, I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing,[8] won the Prix de la Jeunesse at the Cannes Film Festival. The film, and Rozema herself, received a tremendous amount of international press attention and Mermaids did something almost unheard of for an English-Canadian film: it made money at the box office.[9] In the same year, Montreal's Festival du Nouveau Cinéma famously concluded with Wim Wenders publicly reassigning the first-place prize money from his Wings of Desire to Egoyan, whose Speaking Parts had received a special mention. A number of key New Wave films followed in the wake this stunning successes: Egoyan's The Adjuster (1991) and Exotica (which won the International Critics’ Prize at Cannes in 1994); McDonald's Roadkill (1989) and Highway 61 (1991), both written by and starring McKellar; Greyson's Zero Patience (1994); and Mettler's The Top of His Head (1989) and Tectonic Plates (1992).[10]

In 1992, Geoff Pevere wrote a piece for retrospective of Canadian cinema that took place at the Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris (“Middle of Nowhere: Ontario Movies after 1980,” which was reprinted in Post Script in 1995).[3] In it he described this “Ontario New Wave” as “one of the most vital and productive booms in the history of the country’s cinema” and a major “semantic reversal” that saw the artistic heart of Canadian filmmaking shift from Quebec to Ontario during the 1980s. Cameron Bailey explored this notion deeper in an article for a Special Issue of Take One: Film in Canada, Summer 2000 (devoted to the history of filmmaking in Ontario) entitled “Standing in the Kitchen All Night: A Secret History of the Toronto New Wave,”[11] and later, Bailey's article was the basis for York University Prof. Brenda Longfellow's article (published in Toronto on Film): “Surfacing the Toronto New Wave: Policy, Paradigm Shifts and Post-Nationalism.”[12]

Far from representing the culmination of Ontario's seemly long-standing attempts at establishing itself as a viable production centre for big-budget commercial features made in North America, the most important films from the 1980s and early 1990s represented a reaction to and a break from this commercial model. The films of Toronto's New Wave were almost all low-budget, independent productions made for less than $1 million. Taking the Canadian cinema's essential themes of identity and alienation, Toronto's New Wave films offered an image of the province as a place of deep-rooted yearning and detachment, where the absence of a strong sense of identity and the quest for an identity is an identifying characteristic in itself.

Unlike previous generations, this group of filmmakers avoided the easy lure of big money and bigger films in Hollywood. Instead, like their cinematic mentor David Cronenberg, they chose to stay and make a living in Canada, thus contributing greatly to the ongoing development of an indigenous film culture. However, project funding from the OFDC came to an end in 1996 with the June, 1995, election of the Mike Harris’s Conservatives, and one of the most creative and innovative periods in Canadian filmmaking history came to an abrupt end.

Key films
















  1. ^ PANEL: Prairie Postmodernists and New Wave Pioneers: 1980s Cinema « WFG :: Reflecting Light
  2. ^ a b Wise, Wyndham (Summer 1996). "Ontario's New Wave". Take One: Film in Canada. 5 (12): 34.
  3. ^ a b Pevere, Geoff (Fall 1995). "Middle of Nowhere: Ontario Movies after 1980". Post Script. 15 (1): 10.
  4. ^ The Toronto New Wave: Where Are They Now?
  5. ^ Pevere, Geoff. "Canadian filmmakers ride into TIFF without 'training wheels'". The Globe and Retrieved May 16, 2017.
  6. ^ Wise, Wyndham (2001). Take One's Essential Guide to Canadian Film. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. pp. 45–46. ISBN 0 8020 3512 4. Retrieved March 30, 2017.
  7. ^ Wise, Wyndham (Fall 1998). "The Canadian Film Centre at 10: An Interview with Wayne Clarkson". Take One: Film in Canada. 7 (21).
  8. ^ Austin-Smith, Brenda & Andrew McIntosh. "I've Heard the Mermaids Singing". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Historica. Retrieved May 16, 2017.
  9. ^ "I've Heard Mermaids Singing (1987) - Box Office Mojo". Retrieved 2018-01-04.
  10. ^ Morris, Peter, Ted Magder, Piers Handling, Wyndham Wise & Andrew McIntosh. "History of the Canadian Film Industry". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Historica.
  11. ^ Bailey, Cameron. "Standing in the Kitchen All Night: A Secret History of the Toronto New Wave". Retrieved May 16, 2017.
  12. ^ Pevere, Geoff (ed.) (2009). Toronto on Film ("Surfacing the Toronto New Wave: Policy, Paradigm Shifts and Post-Nationalism" by Brenda Longfellow). Toronto: Toronto International Film Festival and the Wilfred Laurier Press. pp. 109–134.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)

Further reading

  • “Alienated Affections of Atom Egoyan,” Jose Arroyo. Cinema Canada. No. 145. October 1987.
  • “Atom Egoyan: An Interview,” Ron Bunnett. CineAction!. May 1989.
  • “Atom Egoyan’s Speaking Parts,” Tom Perlmutter. Cinema Canada. No. 162. April/May 1989.
  • “The Beginning of the Beginning,” Peter Harcourt, Self Portrait: Essays on Canadian and Quebec Cinema. Piers Handling, Pierre Véronneau, eds. 1980.
  • “A Feature Interview the Alexandra Raffé,” Wyndham Wise. Take One: Film in Canada Vol. 4 No. 10. Winter 1996.
  • “Flickering City: Toronto on Film until 2002,” Geoff Pevere. Toronto on Film. 2009.
  • “He Heard the Mermaids Singing: An Interview with Douglas Koch,” Wyndham Wise. Canadian Cinematographer. January 2010.
  • “History of Ontario’s Film Industry, 1896 to 1985,” Wyndham Wise. Take One: Film in Canada Vol. 9 No. 28. Summer 2000.
  • “Norman Jewison and Canada's New Generation of Filmmakers,” Bruce McDonald. Cinema Canada. No. 122. September 1985.
  • ”Paradox and Wonder: The Cinema of Peter Mettler,” Tom McSorley. Take One: Film in Canada Vol. 3 No. 7. Winter 1995.
  • “Roads Not Taken, Avenues Not Explored,” Peter Harcourt. Take One: Film in Canada' Vol. 3 No. 8. Summer 1995.
  • “Rockin’ on the Road: The Films of Bruce McDonald,” Marc Glassman. Take One: Film in Canada Vol. 3 No. 8. Summer 1995.
  • “Toronto New Wave,” Steve Gravestock. World Film Locations Toronto. University of Chicago. 2015.
  • “The True Meaning of Exotica,” Wyndham Wise. Take One: Film in Canada Vol. 4 No. 9. Fall 1995.
  • “Up from the Underground: Filmmaking in Toronto from Winter Kept us Warm to Shivers,” Wyndham Wise. Toronto on Film. 2009.
  • “Wayne Clarkson’s Risky Business: Ontario Feature Filmmaking Takes the OFDC Challenge,” Gail Henley. Cinema Canada. No. 128. March 1986.
Acid Western

Acid Western is a subgenre of the Western film that emerged in the 1960s and 1970s that combines the metaphorical ambitions of critically acclaimed Westerns, such as Shane and The Searchers, with the excesses of the Spaghetti Westerns and the outlook of the counterculture of the 1960s. Acid Westerns subvert many of the conventions of earlier Westerns to "conjure up a crazed version of autodestructive white America at its most solipsistic, hankering after its own lost origins".

Atom Egoyan

Atom Egoyan, (; born July 19, 1960) is an Armenian-Canadian stage and film director, writer, and producer. Egoyan made his career breakthrough with Exotica (1994), a film set primarily in and around the fictional Exotica strip club. Egoyan's most critically acclaimed film is the drama The Sweet Hereafter (1997), for which he received two Academy Award nominations, and his biggest commercial success is the erotic thriller Chloe (2009).His work often explores themes of alienation and isolation, featuring characters whose interactions are mediated through technology, bureaucracy, or other power structures. Egoyan's films often follow non-linear plot structures, in which events are placed out of sequence in order to elicit specific emotional reactions from the audience by withholding key information.In 2008, Egoyan received the Dan David Prize for "Creative Rendering of the Past". Egoyan later received the Governor General's Performing Arts Award, Canada's highest royal honour in the performing arts, in 2015.He was part of a loosely-affiliated group of filmmakers to emerge in the 1980s from Toronto known as the Toronto New Wave.

Bruce McDonald (director)

Bruce McDonald (born May 28, 1959) is a Canadian film and television director, writer and producer. He is known for his award-winning cult films Roadkill (1989) and Hard Core Logo (1996).He was part of a loosely-affiliated group of filmmakers to emerge from Toronto known as the Toronto New Wave.

Cinema Canada

Cinema Canada (1972–1989) is a defunct Canadian film magazine, which served as the trade journal of record for the Canadian film and television sector. The magazine had its origins in the Canadian Society of Cinematographers (CSC), which began publishing a bi-monthly newsletter under the name Canadian Cinematography in 1962. In 1967, the publication's name was changed to Cinema Canada. In 1972, the CSC approached George Csaba Koller and Phillip McPhedran of Toronto to produce a glossier format. However, this association lasted only four issues, after which McPhedran resigned for personal reaasons.Koller continued to edit and publish the magazine, which became independent of the CSC in the fall of 1973. It was scrappy, provocative and ashamedly nationalistic. In March 1975, a non-profit organization, the Cinema Canada Foundation, was formed, and in September of that year it was transferredto Jean-Pierre Tadros and Connie Tadros, who moved the editorial office to Montreal while maintaining a Toronto office. Jean-Pierre had been the film critic for Le Devoir and editor of Cinema Quebec and had been a contributor to Cinema Canada. At first it was published 10 times a years, then it went monthly until its last issue in 1989. In all, there were 169 issues published over the span of 18 years.

A home for Canadian nationalists and cinema activists in the 1970s, Cinema Canada became the voice for The Council of Canadian Filmmakers, a lobby group of filmmakers and industry professionals campaigning for a quota for Canadian movies in the American-owned theatres. The Toronto office became a hub for the emerging Toronto New Wave in the 1980s, and Bruce McDonald edited Cinema Canada's "Outlaw" issue in the fall of 1988. Toronto's staff included, at one time or another, Tom Perlmutter (future National Film Board of Canada Commissioner), John Harkness (influential film critic for Now weekly), Cameron Bailey (future Toronto International Film Festival co-director) and Wyndham Wise, who would go on to publish and edit Take One: Film and Television in Canada (1992–2006).

The impending GST and removal of postal subsidies in 1991 were the official reasons given when the magazine folded. The underlying truth, however, was that Cinema Canada had lost its reason for being. The production climate in Canada had changed considerably from the days in the early 1970s, and the magazine eventually lost its constituency.

Cinema Canada provides a unique and rich historical resource for scholars of Canadian cinema and the original documents and papers are held as a special collection in TIFF's Film Reference Library in Toronto.

Cut-throat Records

Cut-throat Records (also known as Cut-throat Productions) is a record label created and run by Canadian musician Nash the Slash. It has been active from 1978 to the present. Cut-throat is also the name of Nash's recording studio, originally located above the Roxy Theatre on Danforth Avenue in Toronto.Although the label has been used primarily for Nash's own music, it has also issued a single by Toronto new wave group Drastic Measures, and a CD by Nash's group FM.

The label's slogan is "Music in a particular vein", possibly a reference to the early Mad Magazine slogan, "Humor in a jugular vein". Nash claims the label name was inspired by his observation that the record industry is a cut-throat business, in addition to being an appropriate match to his horror movie persona and name.

The company logo is a human skull, often positioned on the label with an eye socket over the centre hole. Record labels are usually black and white, often using reversed colours on side two. Another logo of a stylized gas mask with headphones, is used on some CD releases, usually positioned with the mouth over the centre hole. Nash has been using this logo since 1980 (which pre-dates CDs), and by coincidence the original logo's mouth resembles the prongs holding a CD in a standard jewel case.

In 1978 Nash dedicated the Cut-throat label to rock critic Jeffrey Morgan when he autographed Morgan's copy of Bedside Companion, writing: "To Jeffrey Morgan I dedicate the label!"

Don McKellar

Don McKellar (born August 17, 1963) is a Canadian actor, writer, and filmmaker. He was part of a loosely-affiliated group of filmmakers to emerge from Toronto known as the Toronto New Wave.

Jeremy Podeswa

Jeremy Podeswa (born 1962) is a Canadian film and television director. He is best known for directing the films The Five Senses (1999) and Fugitive Pieces (2007). He has also worked as director on the television shows Six Feet Under, Nip/Tuck, The Tudors, Queer as Folk, and the HBO World War II miniseries The Pacific. He has also written several films.

In 2014, he directed episodes five and six of the fifth season of the HBO series Game of Thrones, earning a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series for the latter episode. He returned the next season, directing the season premiere and the second episode. He also directed the season premiere as well as the season finale of the seventh season.

John Greyson

John Greyson (born March 13, 1960) is a Canadian director, writer, video artist, producer, and political activist, whose work frequently deals with gay themes. Greyson is also a professor at York University's film school, where he teaches film and video theory, film production, and editing. He was part of a loosely-affiliated group of filmmakers to emerge in the 1980s from Toronto known as the Toronto New Wave.

Greyson has won accolades and achieved critical success with his films—most notably Zero Patience (1993) and Lilies (1996). His outspoken persona, activism, and public image have also attracted international press and controversy.

List of apocalyptic films

This is a list of apocalyptic feature-length films. All films within this list feature either the end of the world, a prelude to such an end (such as a world taken over by a viral infection), and/or a post-apocalyptic setting.

Meat pie Western

Meat pie Western, also known as Australian Western or kangaroo Western, is a broad genre of Western-style films or TV series set in the Australian outback or "the bush". Films about bushrangers (sometimes called bushranger films) are included in this genre. Some films categorised as meat-pie or Australian Westerns also fulfil the criteria for other genres, such as drama, revisionist Western, crime or thriller.

The term "meat pie Western" is a play on the term Spaghetti Western, used for Italian-made Westerns, relating in both cases to foods which are regarded as national dishes.

Opera film

An opera film is a recording of an opera on film.

Patricia Rozema

Patricia Rozema (born August 20, 1958) is a Canadian film director, writer and producer. She was part of a loosely-affiliated group of filmmakers to emerge in 1980s from Toronto known as the Toronto New Wave.

Peter Mettler

Peter Mettler (born September 7, 1958) is a Swiss-Canadian film director and cinematographer. He is best known for his unique, intuitive approach to documentary, evinced by such films as Picture of Light (1994), Gambling, Gods and LSD (2002), and The End of Time (2012). He has also worked as a cinematographer on films by Atom Egoyan, Patricia Rozema, Bruce McDonald, and Jennifer Baichwal, and has collaborated with numerous other artists, including Michael Ondaatje, Fred Frith, Jim O'Rourke, Jane Siberry, Robert Lepage, Edward Burtynsky, Greg Hermanovic, Richie Hawtin, Neil Young, Jeremy Narby, and Franz Treichler.

He was part of a loosely-affiliated group of filmmakers to emerge in the 1980s from Toronto known as the Toronto New Wave.

Picture of Light

Picture of Light is a 1994 Canada-Switzerland poetic feature documentary from Peter Mettler filmed in Churchill, Manitoba, on two trips in 1991 and again in 1992. It is one of the key films of the Toronto New Wave.

Romanian New Wave

The Romanian New Wave (Romanian: Noul val românesc) is a genre of realist and often minimalist films made in Romania since the mid-aughts, starting with two award-winning shorts by two Romanian directors, namely Cristi Puiu's Cigarettes and Coffee, which won the Short Film Golden Bear at the 2004 Berlin International Film Festival, and Cătălin Mitulescu's Trafic, which won the Short Film Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival later that same year.

Shaking the Foundations

Shaking the Foundations is the fourth studio album by the Toronto new-wave band Rough Trade. It was released in 1982 and became a hit in Canada in 1983, spending 21 weeks on the charts, peaking at #9 in February, putting it at #1 on the CANCON listing.The only standard single release from the album was "Crimes of Passion" b/w "Endless Night", which peaked at #18. Both this and the title track were included on the 10-track 1985 greatest hits album Birds of a Feather: The Best of Rough Trade. "I Want to Live" b/w "Numero Fatale" and "The Sacred and the Profane" (the last track being from the previous album For Those Who Think Young) was released as a 12-inch picture sleeve disc.

Take One (Canadian magazine)

Take One (published Montreal, 1966–1979) (ISSN 0039-9132, OCLC 40366931)Founded by three "graduates" of the McGill Film Society—Peter Lebensold, Adam Symansky and John Roston -- Take One was the first serious English-Canadian film magazine. This—first of the two Canadian film magazines entitled Take One—gave due attention to the newly emerging Canadian film scene, but was international in scope.

The Psychedelic Furs

The Psychedelic Furs are an English rock band founded in London in February 1977. Led by singer Richard Butler and his brother Tim Butler on bass guitar, the Psychedelic Furs were one of the many acts spawned from the British post-punk scene. Their music went through several phases, from an initially austere art rock sound, to later touching on new wave and hard rock.The band scored several hits in their early career. In 1986, filmmaker John Hughes used their song "Pretty in Pink" for his movie of the same name. The band went on hiatus after they finished touring in 1992, but later regrouped in 2000 and continue to perform around the world; despite this, they have not released a full-length studio album since 1991's World Outside.

Wyndham Wise

Wyndham Paul Wise is a Canadian film historian, critic, editor and publisher. He was the founder and editor-in-chief of the film magazine Take One: Film & Television in Canada (1992-2006).

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