The world premiere of Roger Waters The Wall as part of TIFF last night was already a raucous affair before the new concert film based on the Pink Floyd singer' 2010 tour of the same name had even started screening.
Outside of the Visa Screening Room, a small but vocal (and punny) group of Israeli supporters, brandishing signs that read things like "Hey, Roger Waters, leave those Yids alone" protested Waters' appearance on the red carpet and heckled theatre-goers for attending the screening in the wake of the outspoken singer's condemnation of the actions of the Israeli state.
Inside, someone pointed out that it was the septuagenarian rock star's birthday, and a large portion of the audience launched into a clumsy but impassioned rendition of "Happy Birthday" as he hit the state to introduce his film.
"I knew that somebody would have to point out that I'm seventy-fucking-one years old!" he quipped before getting more serious about the project and his hopes that it comes across as a "more universal and ecumenical and anti-war and humanitarian than the original version that I did with my much-loved old colleagues from Pink Floyd, Dave [Gilmour] and Rick [Wright] and Nick [Mason]."
Waters also pointed out that his reimagined take on Pink Floyd's iconic 1980 "The Wall" tour had launched in Toronto on October 15, 2010, so he was quite happy that a Toronto audience would be the first to see the film as well.
Juxtaposing footage from a number of shows on the tour with a road trip that Waters took to commemorate the loss of his grandfather who died in World War I and the loss of his father in World War II, "Roger Waters The Wall" takes the themes of isolation and loss that were explored in the original Wall tour/concept album and blows them up to a global level, tackling the universal cost of war and corporatism. Despite the personal narrative running through the film, though, Waters is quick to point out that the story is so much bigger than him now.
"I think I examined that nearly 40 years ago now," Waters said about his father's death in a half hour Q&A with his co-director Sean Evans and TIFF head honcho Piers Handling. "And I'd like to think that Sean and I have examined some other things in the making of this movie, and the putting together of the show that preceded it. So I think it's much more now than just about my story about the loss of my father and much more hopefully about the potential that we all might have to prevent the loss of many fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters and children all over the world if we find a different way of organizing our politics and our commerce in ways that don't require that we murder each other willy nilly all over the world."
Handling obliquely referenced the protestors outside by asking Waters about how hard it is to be so publicly political, but Waters didn't take the bait.
"I'm not really here tonight to defend myself. I've no interest, really, in fighting with anybody on this happy occasion."
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Waters was, however, happy to discuss his concerns about police brutality, bringing up Jean Charles de Menezes, a Brazilian man who was brutally murdered by French police on the Metro because they suspected him of being a terrorist, who is memorialized in the film.
"That kind of state terror deserves our condemnation, whoever it is, wherever it is, all over the world," he said.
Waters also spoke out against climate change denial.
"The fact that some of the powers that be, particularly the commercial world, are trying to convince us, for instance, that climate change has nothing to do with man. That it's actually the will of God and these cycles have been following an ice age, then a big warm bit, then a cold bit -- for billions of years, and that the fact that people are prepared to believe it against all the evidence that we have. All our knowledge based upon empirical evidence goes to show that what these guys are saying, the naysayers, big oil and the Koch brothers and those people, is absolute nonsense. Everywhere, young people should be standing up and saying 'That is bullshit!'"
Although Waters shows no signs of slowing down at 71 (he casually mentioned, in passing, that he's written another piece that could turn into a "Wall"-style concert and maybe even a film down the road), he also stressed the importance of the youth taking up the cause.
"It's super important that we all collaborate with each other to wring the last drop of life out of this existence and if young people don't pick up the torch and carry it forward into the future, well then we can all drift into a miasma of decay and commerce and wander around like zombies until we're all dead and it's all over."
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