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The Toronto International Film Festival’s Best “Next Wave” Selections for Teens

The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is always a hotspot for the upcoming year’s promising, artistic and boundary pushing films. But, perhaps a little known part of the festival is TIFF’s “Next Wave” festival, featuring films that cater to, or centre around young adults. All of the films within the Next Wave Festival are selected by a committee of young adults, ranging from the ages of 14-18. Without a doubt, the 2018 selection accurately portrays different social issues that today’s teenagers face.

The Next Wave Festival contains 11 different films, some foreign, some Hollywood, some Canadian. With actors ranging from local artists, to big names including, Jonah Hill, Elle Fanning and Amandla Stenberg. Among the selection, there are certainly a few standout films, that wildly challenge the stereotypical high school dramas that exist for teenage audiences:


Firecrackers is one such film from director, Jasmin Mozaffari. It is an intriguing depiction of two teenage girls from a small town, who are looking to move away to New York City together in hopes of starting new lives. However they are held back from their freedom by their ties to their hometown.

Much of the plot of the movie focuses on overcoming sexual harassment, but it also challenges the typical social stereotypes of girls and traditional femininity. A film like this leaves the opportunity for discussion when it comes to defining what is “feminine” with young girls, and teaching youth how to reconsider social sanctions such as gender norms and expectations.

Giant Little Ones

A Canadian film directed by Keith Behrman, Giant Little Ones, touches on the life of a teenage boy, and the series of events that occur following the divorce of his parents. Seventeen year old, Franky must come to terms not only with the separation of his family, but also the the outcome of a sexual encounter with his male best friend.

Giant Little Ones approaches sexuality as many young people now do, as a spectrum, or as something that is fluid, and has to be explored. A film that gives honest insight into understanding the perception of sexuality of teens today is something that is entirely necessary for progress in accurate and honest LGBTQ+ representation within films.

The Hate U Give

DF-05926 – L-R: Russell Hornsby, Regina Hall, Amandla Stenberg, and Common in Twentieth Century Fox’s THE HATE U GIVE. Photo Credit: Erika Doss.

The highly anticipated movie The Hate U Give is starring Amandla Stenberg, and directed by George Tillman Jr. Based off of the bestselling YA novel of the same title by Angie Thomas, the film follows Starr, a high school girl, whose world is drastically altered when her best friend is shot dead by a white police officer.

The film does not shy away from real life problems that affect young adults in their communities, Starr’s story of taking action against the wrongdoings in her life is inspiring, particularly to audience members who witness injustices in their own lives.

All films within the Next Wave Festival share messages that will speak to the youth of today on a level that is more personal and socially forward than films that are produced within the major mainstream media. TIFF runs until September 16.

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Featured Image Courtesy of Connie Tsang 

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Sarah Abernethy is a seventeen year old writer from Toronto, Canada.

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