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Toronto Film Festival Dailies

TIFF 2022: September 8–18

The 476th Toronto International Film Festival runs September 8–18, 2021. in Canada's most vibrant and exciting metropolis, it has become one of the most important film events on the festival calendar.

Showcasing more than 300 films and hosting industryites from around the world, Toronto can "make or break" films looking for international distribution and a chance at Oscar gold. From glitzy red carpet premieres to challenging art films to cutting edge new media, the Festival offers something for every taste.

Past Coverage 2014 2015 - Coverage 2016 in French   English


TIFF Interview with Director: Stephanie Johnes for MAYA AND THE WAVE


TIFF 2022


by Emmanuel Itier

Interview with Director: Stephanie Johnes


Watching, “Maya and the wave”, the new documentary by maverick filmmaker Stephanie Johnes is like surfing a perfect wave: at times on the edge of a precipice and sometimes, gently reaching to the shore to find inner peace. Peace within is the path followed by Maya Gabeira, the protagonist of “Maya and the Wave”, from being an outcast she came to rock the tribe of big waves surfers and she is now one of the rare women being celebrated in this man man’s world. Stephanie Johnes proves, as a filmmaker, that she knows how to seize the moments with her many cameramen, catching Maya in more than one tour de force performance. “Maya and the wave” is, a must see, at the Toronto film festival and before heading to the ocean, next summer, to surf life with style and a big smile.



Q: Why the choice of doing this documentary, what inspired you to do it?


Stephanie: I was very curious about Maya Gabeira because I’m an athlete and I love to surf. I have always been fascinated by people who can surf big waves. I was very surprised there are very few women been able to do so, like Maya. She is the most accomplished in this sport and I felt compelled to tell her story. I was wondering what it is for her to be in this sea of men and facing big waves.



Q: Were there the temptation to do a drama versus a documentary?


Stephanie: Not at all as I’m a documentary filmmaker and this is what I know about filmmaking. I’m sure that someday someone will do a biography about her.



Q: What challenges did you face making this documentary?


Stephanie: Technically it is very challenging to film people surfing. You have to be very far out in the ocean. I realized I would have to work with people specializing in this type of filming. Therefore, I had different guys filming: some on jet skis, some drone pilot operating, and some others who filmed with an extreme long lens from the land. That takes a lot of skills I didn’t have. For my part, I mainly focused on the personal story about Maya and her family. And that part took ten years to film! The timeline was the ultimate challenge. When you do a documentary, you don’t know how the story is going to unfold. Her story took ten years to unfold.




Q: Anything surprised you about Maya, what did you discover about her that impressed you?


Stephanie: Maya, like many athletes, is extremely driven, focused and she trains extremely hard. She takes her career very seriously. But I was surprised to find out she also was a very funny person. It’s great to be around her, she is full of life. She has great human qualities.



Q: Was she a creative collaborative person to work with?


Stephanie: Not really, what she did was to give me access to her life, her family, and plenty of footage I needed to make this film. She let me really focus on putting it all together. She was very accommodating with me to meet at the right times and right places to be able to capture visually what I needed for this doc. She was also a good partner at filming technically the surfing footage. Athlete can cooperate with their own go pro camera for example. There was a lot of coordination with the various cinematographers filming her. You wouldn’t catch her surfing unless that was a constant communication with the rest of the crew, that’s really important.



Q: What is this film truly about for you?


Stephanie: For me it’s truly a story about belonging. You can see it at the beginning when Maya describes herself as someone not fitting in. She really wants to belong and to be part of this tribe of surfers she admires. She tries to prove herself many times, as we can see in the movie, and she is all the time rejected. She is criticized and cast out. We realize, by the end of the movie, that the reason is because it’s gender bias and misogyny. She is a perfect and a brilliant athlete, but she is rejected because she is a woman in a world of men, for the most part. There aren’t too many women in this tribe of big waves surfers. I think this is a good theme that will resonate with people, women or men. It resonates with anyone who feels alienated.




Q: TIFF, what does it represent to you?


Stephanie: It’s a big career highlight for me! It’s a special moment because it’s such a Premiere film festival. As a filmmaker you dream to be in Sundance and TIFF. It’s pretty cool, and we all are excited. Especially Maya who chose not to see the movie before the festival, as well as her family. So, I can’t wait to see her reaction when she sees the movie on the big screen the night of the Premiere in Toronto. It will be a very special moment for sure. I’m also curious to see who is going to buy it and to release it.



Q: Any final word as a take-away for your film?


Stephanie: I hope people enjoy this amazing visual ride. I hope they also enjoy the amazing music in the film. It’s phenomenal. It’s a fun 95 minutes full of heart and good feelings. I hope it makes also people think about our culture still being gender bias and how it needs to change. We need to be recognized when it’s deserved!


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About Toronto Film Festival Dailies

The Dailies from Toronto

Contributing editors: Bruno Chatelin 

Laurie Gordon Animaze International Film Festival Le Miaff!
Leopoldo Soto Huatulco Food and Film Festival Director
Gary Lucas Guitar hero Performing artist live score to classic and horror film
Mike Rabehl Programmer and Buyer Cinequest Film Festival San Jose Tiwtter: @cqmike
Vanessa McMahon  




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