Lights, camera…awards

Forty-nine original films will compete at the 36th annual Canadian Student Film Festival from Aug. 27-31. Among these coveted spots on the program are seven productions by York film students and alumni.

Right: The festival venue in Montreal. Photo by Sylvain Légaré.

These young filmmakers will be vying for the Kodak Imaging Award for Best New Canadian Student Director. In addition to bragging rights, this top prize – worth $5,000 –includes a 10-day trip to the 2006 Cannes Film Festival and screening of the winning film at the Kodak Emerging Filmmakers Showcase at Cannes.

York film students have won the Kodak Imaging Award for two years in a row. In 2004, Suzana Dinevski (MFA ’04) walked away with the prize for her thesis film The Children of 1948 (see the Sept. 17, 2004 issue of YFile). Dinevski followed in the footsteps of Wendi Marchioni (BFA ’04), who captured the award in 2003 for her third-year project Winter Days (see the Oct. 16, 2003 issue of YFile).

“It’s a great honour and experience for an emerging filmmaker to win top prize. The recognition is fabulous, as well as encouraging,” said Dinevski.

Looking to maintain the winning streak with their graduation productions are newly-minted York alumni John Ibbitson (For My Father), Tess Girard (Benediction), Farhad Farazmand (Mandrake) and Brendon Foster-Algoo (Mantis), all of whom graduated in June with a BFA in film. Also in the running are master’s student Shana MacDonald, with her film Self Seeking Frenzy, and fourth-year students Igor Drljaca (Rana) and Raha Esfahani (Misspelled Weather).

Here’s a glimpse of the York productions:

For My Father (8 minutes) is an alternative process film that serves as an apology from Ibbitson to his father, Alan Ibbitson, for years of misunderstanding and miscommunication between the two.

“My dad is the inspiration for my film which came from our lives together. As a child, it was hard for me being raised by a parent who is mentally challenged. I was too young to understand my father’s condition and, in turn, felt he neglected me. It was not until my adolescence that I was able to fully grasp and empathize with my father’s situation,” said Ibbitson.

Girard’s Benediction (11 min.) blurs the boundaries between narrative, experimental and documentary productions.

Right: Still image from Benediction

 “A meditation on loss and impermanence, it is a filmmaker’s last attempt to pay homage to those things left and leaving,” said Girard, who undertook all the creative and technical work for the entire production.

Farazmand’s Mandrake (17 min.) is the story of a Middle Eastern refugee and his American dream. Once caught working illegally, his dreams turn into nightmares. “No matter how hard I tried to avoid them, immigration themes such as culture shock, discrimination and isolation found their way into my stories,” said Farazmand who wrote, produced, directed, designed and scored the music for the film.

In Mantis (35 min.), writer, director and producer Foster-Algoo explores the story of Adam Merritt and his children, who endure emotional, psychological and physical abuse at the hands of his wife. When Adam finally takes a stand against the abuse, he faces an even tougher battle against a biased legal system which threatens to destroy his life and his family completely.

Right: Foster-Algoo (centre) speaks with the subjects of his film Mantis

“I wanted to explore the psychology of both the abused and the abuser and the impact of gender on these categories, as well as the double standards which exist in both the legal and social systems in society, through both the film’s form and content by turning the traditional “abused woman’s film” on its head,” explained Foster-Algoo.

Shana MacDonald stars in her film Self Seeking Frenzy (7 minutes) which she also produced and directed. An experimental film, it is a self-portrait that deals with the complexities of female sexuality. “The film is inspired by the films of Carolee Schneemann and the American Avant Garde film movement of the 1960s,” said MacDonald.

Rana (13 min.), written, directed and co-designed by Drljaca, is set in the midst of the Bosnian war. It tells the tale of Mirza and his grandmother, who are left to fend for themselves until a stranger enters their lives.

“I spent the first half of my life in Sarajevo, the city depicted in the film,” said Drljaca. “I was fortunate in having left before the major fighting occurred, but I had many relatives, including my father and friends who stayed much longer in the war zone.”

Written, directed and co-produced by Esfahani, Misspelled Weather (15 min.) tells the story of an eleven-year-old spelling bee winner who has qualified for the national championship, but is ensnared in the disquietude of her father forsaking the family. “The nature of family has always been an important issue for me,” explained Esfahani.

The Canadian Student Film Festival takes place within the framework of the Montreal World Film Festival, which runs Aug. 26 to Sept. 5. Renowned for its cultural diversity, the festival is presenting cinematic fare from 70 countries this year.

The oldest film festival in Canada, the Canadian Student Film Festival was founded in 1969 with the aim to discover and promote new talent. Passionate about the opportunity to offer student filmmakers well-deserved recognition for their work, the Montreal International World Film Festival incorporated the programming of the student film festival into its own in 1985.

For more information about the Canadian Student Film Festival, visit the Montreal World Film Festival Web site.

This article was submitted to YFile by Mary-Lou Schagena in the Faculty of Fine Arts.