Lights, camera, filmfest at Accolade

As part of the York University and the Faculty of Fine Arts celebration of the official opening of The Accolade Project, York’s new teaching, exhibition and performance complex, a week-long Fine Arts Festival, running March 20-26, will showcase an eclectic collection of films created by students and alumni of York’s Department of Film.

The inauguration of a high-tech cinema in The Accolade Project by the Department of Film features a showcase screening of award-winning productions by York students, past and present, who are making waves on the festival circuit. "A Toast to York Film" will be presented on one night only, Friday, March 24 at 7pm.

"A Toast to York Film" is co-hosted by York film professor, writer and broadcaster Seth Feldman and alumnus Larry Weinstein, a much-honoured director/producer and partner with Rhombus Media, the Canadian company renowned the world over for its performing arts programs. (Rhombus Media was incubated at York, as principals Niv Fichman, Barbara Willis Sweete and Weinstein were all classmates.)

Right: Seth Feldman

The first part of the playbill features a selection of shorts produced at York by film students who have gone on to win citations nationally and internationally.

The School (2003, 12 min.) "Grade two is for laughing, playing and… burying the dead." This dark, comedic fable by Matthew Miller and Ezra Krybus, based on the short story by Donald Barthelme, has played at more than 25 international film festivals, including Toronto, Austin, Palm Springs and Los Angeles. It won Best Canadian Short at the Atlantic Film Festival, the Gold Plaque for Best Student Narrative at the Chicago International Film Festival, and finished second out of 525 entries at the Manhattan Short Film Festival.

Benediction (2005, 11 min.), Tess Girard’s experimental, meditative documentary on loss, grief and memory, won a special jury citation at the national Student Film Showcase and went on to screenings at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and the Canadian Student Film Festival, Montreal, where it won the Norman McLaren Award.

Confessions of a Compulsive Archivist (2005, 7 min.), created by Mary J. Daniel, is a poetic, personal exploration of the impulse to hang onto things, be they physical or emotional. Festival showings include the Vancouver International Film Festival and Toronto’s Inside/Out Festival, Fabulous Festival of Fringe Film, and Images, where it won the Steamwhistle Award for Excellence.

The Unstrung Ear (2001, 12 min.), Ryan Redford’s picture-book melodrama about deaf ears and dilapidated architecture, has been seen in Toronto at TIFF and the Hispano-American film festival as well as festivals in Montreal and Clermont-Ferrand, France.

Hogtown Blues (2004, 18 min.), written and directed by Hugh Gibson, is a gritty urban drama set in Toronto’s immigrant community. A New York Times Critic’s Pick, it’s been screened at more than a dozen festivals worldwide, including Austin, San Jose, Brno, TIFF’s Student Showcase, where it won a special jury prize, and the 46th ZINEBI film festival in Bilbao, Spain, where it captured the Audience Award.

Left: Larry Weinstein

The second part of the program showcases two highly entertaining Rhombus Media productions directed by Weinstein: his acclaimed 6-minute cult classic, the humorous "domestic opera" Toothpaste (2001) starring Mark McKinney; and Burnt Toast (2005, 50 min.), a delightful suite of eight comic mini-operas featuring some of Canada’s leading vocal and stage talent, including international opera stars Isabel Bayrakdarian and Russell Braun, and actors Colm Feore, Paul Gross and York alumni Scott Thompson and Maurice Dean Wint.

Arguably Canada’s pre-eminent director of films on musical subjects, Larry Weinstein has worked on four continents with many of the world’s major cultural broadcasters. His productions have been seen in over 40 countries around the world and have garnered numerous awards, including multiple Geminis and Emmys, an Oscar nomination and the Louvre’s coveted "Classique en Images" Award.

Weinstein’s long list of credits includes September Songs: The Music of Kurt Weill; The War Symphonies: Shostakovich Against Stalin; Solidarity Song: The Hanns Eisler Story; Ravel’s Brain and Stormy Weather – The Music of Harold Arlen. His most recent productions are the feature documentary Beethoven’s Hair, Burnt Toast, and the whimsical Mozartballs, a tale of musical obsession.

The new cinema in The Accolade Project is a cutting-edge 500-seat facility with a 40-foot wide screen and 19-speaker Dolby Digital Surround Sound audio system. Equipped for projection in formats ranging from video to cinema-quality digital, it boasts one of only a handful of DLP Christie Digital projectors in the GTA. The cinema also doubles as a fully wired ‘smart’ lecture hall with a York U-designed, custom-built multi-media system.