York Film & Video graduate catapults into limelight

Fresh out of York University’s Film and Video Program, Hugh Gibson (BFA ’04) has already attained a high level of distinction in his profession.

Left: Hugh Gibson

In May, he rubbed shoulders with the likes of actors Uma Thurman and Billy Bob Thornton, director Quentin Tarantino, producer Harvey Weinstein and movie critic Roger Ebert as a Kodak-American Pavilion intern at the Cannes Film Festival. (See the May 10 issue of YFile.)

Now, his creativity has catapulted him into a limelight that many independent filmmakers only dream of achieving. His fourth-year graduation production, Hogtown Blues, has caught the attention of a string of international film festivals.

Hogtown Blues will be screened Sept. 14 and 17 at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in the new Short Cuts Canada program, which features singular achievements in short films in the past year by Canadian filmmakers, from veteran directors to emerging artists. This year, 435 shorts were considered and 38 selected. Gibson’s film will be in good company, showing alongside the likes of Guy Maddin’s Sissy Boy Slap Party and Sombra Dolorosa, Sook-yin Lee’s Girl Cleans Sink and Cameron Bailey’s Hotel Saudade. The festival runs Sept. 9-18.

“Canada First and Short Cuts Canada put our national cinema and our emerging filmmakers at the very front and centre of one of the grandest stages for films today,” TIFF co-director Noah Cowan told a news conference. He added, “Canadian films have grown up and now stand shoulder to shoulder with world cinema.”

Hogtown Blues will be presented in Toronto fresh from screenings at the Montreal World Film Festival on Aug. 31 and the Palm Springs International Short Film Festival on Sept. 3. Renowned for its cultural diversity, the Montreal World Film Festival presents cinematic fare from around the globe, with some 400 films from more than 70 countries being shown from Aug. 26 to Sept. 6. Located in the beautiful Coachella Valley desert in Southern California, the Palm Springs International Short Film Festival is America’s largest celebration of the short film art form, with more than 300 short films screening in its international line-up from Aug. 31 to Sept. 6.

Additionally, Gibson’s attention-grabbing film will be screened at the Cinéfest Sudbury International Film Festival in the Canadian Shorts program. Running from Sept.18 to 26, the festival will feature more than 100 Canadian and international films.

Right: Vladimir Radian in a scene from Hogtown Blues

“Filled with bold provocative images and featuring daring knockout performances, Hogtown Blues is a gritty urban drama that will get under your skin and linger there long after the credits,” said Gibson. “The film is set in Toronto which is home to scores of refugees, many of them doctors and teachers who mop floors and work on assembly lines just to survive. Among them are a single mother and her estranged father who must confront their dark and rugged past.”

Left: From left, Mitch Daniels and Araxi Arslanian in Hogtown Blues

Hogtown Blues was written and directed by Gibson and co-produced at York University by Gibson and his classmate Carl Elster (BFA ’04) of Midnight Lamp and Filmplain Productions. The production/creative team was made up entirely of York Film & Video students. Shot on Super16 Kodak film and finished on digital video, the 19-minute production stars Vladimir Radian (Beyond Borders, The Sum of All Fears) and Araxi Arslanian (2002 Venice Film Festival prize-winner My Name is Tanino).

Production Credits

  • Writer/Director: Hugh Gibson (BFA ’04)
  • Principal Cast: Araxi Arslanian, Vladimir Radian, Mitch Daniels
  • Co-Producers: Carl Elster (BFA ’04) and Hugh Gibson
  • Cinematography: Carl Elster
  • Production Designers: Carl Elster and Hugh Gibson
  • Editor: Mike Tersigni (BFA ’04)
  • Sound Recordist: Conall Pendergast (4th-year BFA student)
  • Sound Editor: Steph DaCosta (3rd-year BA student)
  • Sound Designer: Sam Stokell (BFA ’04)
  • Grip/AD: Pavel Patriki (BFA ’04)

Hogtown Blues received its premier public screening on York’s Keele campus last spring as part of The Finish Line, the Department of Film & Video’s year-end showcase of student productions for 2003-2004. It was also one of 10 productions chosen from film schools across Ontario for the first annual Student Showcase of the Toronto International Film Festival Group held in May 2004.

For more information about the film and its upcoming screenings, e-mail Hugh Gibson at hugh.gibson@sympatico.ca or Carl Elster at filmplain@sympatico.ca.

This story was submitted to YFile by Mary-Lou Schagena, communications, Faculty of Fine Arts.