And then there were seven

Late last month, York’s Department of Film held its fourth annual CineSiege film festival: a juried showcase of outstanding films produced by students at all levels in the program last year. Seven films were chosen to hit the big screen downtown at the Bloor Cinema. A jury of five leading lights from the film and media industry selected these films from a shortlist of 22, nominated by Film Department faculty from the entire pool of 179 productions made at York in 2004-2005.

Right: Chelsea McMullan (left) with juror Kevin McMahon

Before the screening, the entire creative team behind each of the nominated films was invited to a reception to meet the jurors. Making up the impressive CineSiege jury were Kevin McMahon, documentary filmmaker and co-founder of Primitive Entertainment; Emily Morgan, VP programming of Alliance Atlantis; Ingrid Randoja, movie critic and deputy editor of Famous magazine; Lisa Steele, a new media and video artist; and, Sudz Sutherland, filmmaker.

It was only when the cast and crew were seated did they find out if their films got the nod from the jury. The productions selected by the CineSiege jury include: Fly! by Luo Li (BFA ’05); Misspelled Weather by fourth-year student Raha Esfahani; In a Perfect World by fourth-year student Chelsea McMullan; Benediction by Tess Girard (BFA ’05); Ruby Read by Lara Mrkoci (BFA ’05); Marianne by fourth-year student Will Beauchamp; and God’s Goodness by fourth-year student Marc Betsworth.

At the conclusion of the screening, jurors explained their picks and handed out a series of recognition awards. Fourth-year student Matthew J. Lloyd won the Kodak Award for Excellence in Cinematography for Misspelled Weather. Director Luo Li picked up the Excellence in Alternative Film Award for Fly! Director Chelsea McMullan was honoured for Excellence in Documentary Film for her production, In a Perfect World.

The Excellence in Screenwriting Award was shared by second-year graduate film student Katherine Collins and Marc Betsworth for God’s Goodness. As director of God’s Goodness, Betsworth also took the prize for Excellence in Fiction Film.

Right: Jim Mirkopoulos (left), Barbara Evans, Film Department Chair, Chrisoula Mirkopoulos, and Phillip Silver

Two awards went to productions not shown, but were nevertheless recognized for outstanding achievement in specific aspects of the craft of filmmaking: Excellence in Editing was shared by Jacqui Okum (BFA ’05) and fourth-year student Jacob Templin for Take ‘er Easy, and Excellence in Sound went to soundman Nicolas Pereda (BFA ’05; first-year graduate film student) for The Fall of the Tree.

The Excellence in Support Award was presented by Faculty of Fine Arts Dean Phillip Silver to the Mirkopoulos family, who  through their company Cinespace Film Studios –  have sponsored CineSiege for the past three years and have agreed to renew their sponsorship for the next three.

Left: Matthew Lloyd(left) and Nicolas Pereda

Many of these up-and-coming filmmakers have already had their films presented in professional settings both in Canada and internationally. McMullan was nominated for Best Director and won Best Documentary for In a Perfect World at the YoungCuts Film Festival in Toronto last month. Li’s Fly! won the prize for Best Student Film at the Images festival in Toronto in April 2005 and won the student competition in Feb. ’05 at Windsor’s International Festival of Experimental Film & Video Art. Betsworth won in the narrative category for his film The Patient at the 2004 Student Shorts Festival in Toronto and his documentary on émigré Sudanese doctor Abdel Bashir, one of four segments in the series Doctors with Borders, was aired on OMNI TV last spring.

Pereda’s production Cycle, co-directed by McMullan, which was shortlisted for last year’s CineSiege, was screened last year at the Tirana International Film Festival in Albania, the Santiago International Short Film Festival in Chile and the Student Shorts Festival in Toronto (where it received the experimental award), and this past April at Toronto’s AluCine film festival. Pereda’s current projects include work on an interdisciplinary opera, titled Seneca, slated to be remounted in Mexico City next month. Now a student in the Graduate Program in Film at York, he recently received a prestigious Royal Canadian Academy of Arts – C.D. Howe Scholarship for Art and Design, valued at $5,000, for his proposed thesis project: a fiction/documentary film set in Mexico, on the social contexts of poverty and migration to the US. 

Visit the CineSiege Web site for more on this annual juried film festival.