Twist (1992): Ron Mann’s Satirical Documentary of 1960s Popular Dance

The closing night gala of the 1992 Toronto Film Festival was Ron Mann’s satirical documentary, “Twist,” which chronicles the sub-culture of this phenomenally popular dance in the 1960s. In a fast-paced mix of interviews and rare archival footage, “Twist” brings back all the lewd fun of the dance–and the mad whirl of the whole era.

The young Jewish-Candian director Mann was born in 1958, six years after his father came to Toronto, where he purchased Mann’s TV & Stereo Ltd., which he has owned and operated for 35 years. After graduate work at the University of Toronto, he began making Super 8 films, soon winning awards from the Chicago Film Festival: for Imagine the Sound (1981) and Poetry in Motion (1982).

“My mother painted,” Mann said in a press conference, “she was the creative side, my father the practical.” The director vowed he would watch Twist at the gala, but never again (“I see too many things I want to change”). Asked about his ethnic background, Mann said: “My family is Jewish, but I don’t belong to anything. My spirituality was drugs, hitchhiking, Kerouac, John Cage and certain lyrics of Frank Zappa. But religious or not, even Mann can’t deny the importance of the family in artistic matters. “My mother taught me to twist when I was 3,” he noted, “and I taught my son to twist.”