York film students and grads make their mark

Independent filmmakers often say it’s a tough job getting noticed, but York filmmakers are making their mark all over the film scene both at home and abroad. This week, a couple of Yorkies rubbed shoulders with international movie stars from Hollywood to Bollywood at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), Canada’s top annual screen event.

Third-year York film student Nadia Litz stars alongside Canadian actors Don McKellar and Tracy Wright in the much-praised feature film Monkey Warfare, directed by Reginald Harkema. The film premiered at TIFF on Sept. 10 as part of the Contemporary World Cinema program. Litz plays a revolutionary who inserts herself into the lives of an off-the-grid couple of eBay entrepreneurs. Litz, who was featured on the cover of Toronto’s eye magazine on Aug. 31, has since been juggling interviews at TIFF with classes and assignments. Her other movie credits include The Five Senses (1999), Love That Boy (2003)and Evelyn: The Cutest Evil Dead Girl (2002) – the Brad Peyton short that inspired Harkema to cast her. Click here for details about Monkey Warfare.

Right: Don McKellar (left) and Nadia Litz in a scene from Monkey Warfare

The excitement for most festival-goers – aside from celebrity-spotting – is the abundance of world premieres. York film alumnus Brian Stockton’s autobiographical short, Saskatchewan Part 3, received its world premiere this week at TIFF, which also hosted the world premieres of Stockton’s Saskatchewan (2002) and Saskatchewan Part 2 (2003). Like the previous installments – all written, narrated, filmed and produced by Stockton (MFA ’05) – Saskatchewan Part 3 is a loopy melange of personal history, family mementos and Saskatchewan lore blended with a bone-dry sense of humour. The series has been well received by critics. NOW magazine’s Cameron Bailey said, “Miss at your peril: Saskatchewan . . . Stockton’s grounded, deadpan voice-over, combined with the homely seduction of the images, keeps the tether strong between private myth and real life.” Click here for film details. (See also the June 13, 2005 issue of YFile.)

Earlier this month, Marilena de la P7, a 45-minute fiction film co-written and co-produced by graduate screenwriting student Tudor Voican, was shown at the Telluride Film Festival in Colorado, and is now winging its way across the continent to the Atlantic Film Festival in Halifax. Set in Bucharest, Romania, the film tells the story of a teenager who falls in love with a prostitute. It received its official premiere at the legendary Cannes Film Festival in France in May (see the May 19 issue of YFile).

Right: A scene from Marilena de la P7

In August, the short thriller Disfingered, by York film alumnus Dave McGrath (BA ’06), was a winner at the Young Cuts Film Festival in Montreal, taking top prize for best special effects. The film is about an office worker who awakens after a night of drinking to find his little finger missing. A twisted mystery begins to unfold when a new finger continues to go missing each time he goes to sleep. With no memory of how or what is happening, he desperately tries to put a finger on the answer before he runs out of them. Click here to view McGrath’s film.

The Young Cuts festival also featured two productions by fourth-year York film students: Dusty Mancinelli’s Death to Charlie, which was nominated for best film, and Ryan Knight’s Away From The Line. Click here  for a candid interview with Knight.

Looking ahead, The Rhythm of Youth, a seven-minute documentary created by filmmaker and York alumnus Brendon Foster-Algoo (BFA ’05), will be screened in film festivals in Toronto, South Korea and the United States during the next two months. Foster-Algoo’s film is about an untraditional family: 11-year-old Steven Eliopoulos, who plays drums in a rock band with his older brothers, is also being raised by them. Foster-Algoo started shooting the film in 2002 when he was still a student in York’s Department of Film.

And York film alumnus John Ibbitson (BFA ’05) wil lhave his film, Behind Closed Doors, shown at the Starz Denver International Film Festival taking place in November.

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