Every year, TIFF comes to town and saturates the Toronto film scene with Oscar-worthy films, huge celebrities, and countless different pictures to choose from. This year’s audience was granted incredible movies such as American Fiction, Zone of Interest, and The Boy and the Heron, yet possibly the best film of the festival slipped underneath everyone’s radar. Flipside, directed by Chris Wilcha, is a documentary that had its official world premiere at TIFF this fall. Coming modestly to Toronto without a distributor under its belt, this unknown documentary dazzled the audience leading to an immediate standing ovation as soon as the credits rolled.
Flipside follows director Chris Wilcha as he reflects on his past creative failures and the disappointment that followed, whilst still recognizing a life well lived inside of all the regret. From an outside perspective, Wilcha is not a failure at all. His first documentary The Target Shoots First was critically acclaimed, leading him to win an Emmy for directing episodes of This American Life and being a commercial director for countless famous brands. Yet, Wilcha is haunted by hard drives upon hard drives of documentaries that were never finished, which is exactly where Flipside begins. Following stories of Judd Apatow, obscure comedian Uncle Floyd, esteemed jazz photographer Herman Leonard and the owner of the titular record store Wilcha formerly worked at in his youth called Flipside, the audience is presented with beautiful stories of these individuals’ unachieved dreams. The film flips back and forth between all these different people with impeccable editing, an impressive soundtrack, and an incredibly clear creative talent from Wilcha.
These separate plotlines are all equally engaging, connected by conversations of the harrowing disappointment of not accomplishing everything an individual sets out to do in their lives. All of these separate sections of the film were meant to be independent documentaries, yet over the years, none of these stories had the pleasure of being completed. This causes every section to feel extremely intimate and well cared for as they were supposed to be feature-length works. Flipside acknowledges this and uses all of these lost stories, impeccably weaving them into one another to create an intensely impactful documentary about a creative person’s decision to not follow their dreams in the pursuit of a normal life.
While autobiographical documentaries often have the potential to be self-absorbed, pretentious, or idle, Chris Wilcha instead offers something deeply relatable for the audience. Especially for younger individuals, the pursuit of creativity can seem utterly terrifying, yet this film offers hope by showing the comfort that can be found with not everything working out. Within its hour-and-a-half-long runtime, Flipside displays to the audience the beauty in the untied stories that never get finished and the roads that were never taken.
Flipside does not currently have a distributor, yet everyone should be excited to view this film and incredibly hopeful that Chris Wilcha continues to create in whatever way he decides.