Reeling in the praise

Award-winning York student and alumni productions have been lighting up the screen on the international film festival circuit in recent weeks.

Marilena de la P7 (Marilena from P7), a 45-minute drama co-written and co-produced by graduate screenwriting student Tudor Voican, won the US $2,500 Best Short Film prize at the 36th International Film Festival Molodist in Kiev, Ukraine in late October. Set in Bucharest, Romania, Marilena de la P7 tells the story of a 13-year-old-boy who falls in love with a prostitute and decides to steal a trolleybus to impress her.

Right: An image from the film Marilena de la P7

This was just the latest in a string of honours for the production. Following its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival last spring (see the May 19 issue of YFile), it went on to successful festival screenings in North America and Europe (see Sept. 15 issue of YFile), winning Best Romanian Film at the Transylvania International Film Festival in Romania and Best Feature at the 11th Milano Film Festival in Italy.

There was a strong York presence at the 7th annual ImagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival, an international showcase of productions by indigenous peoples at the forefront of innovation in film, video, radio and new media, held in Toronto in October. The Awards Gala was co-hosted by Cree actor, choreographer and York theatre Professor Michael Greyeyes. York film alumna Pamela Matthews (MFA ’06) and graduate student Marnie Parrell were honoured amongst the most daring and distinctive indigenous voices in cinema and media arts from around the world.

Matthews’ thesis production, A Shot In The Dark, a documentary about the Ipperwash crisis and the death of native activist Dudley George (see the Jan. 4 issue of YFile), was screened to a packed, appreciative house. Her film Is Nanabush Still Alive? Legend and Myth Meet the Urban World won Best Drama Pitch, an award of $5,000 given by the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network.

Parrell showed her short film, About Town, and received an honourable mention in the Best Experimental category for Women in Canada: A Trilogy. The editing skills of graduate film student Katharine Asals were on display in Shelley Niro’s short film, Tree.

Maricones (Faggots) a film by alumnus Marcos Arriaga (MFA ’03) about the lives of two gay men in Peru, won third place for Best Documentary Film at LesGaiCineMad, Madrid’s international lesbian and gay film festival, in November.

Three York film students and alumni were featured the 10th Reel Asian International Film Festival,a showcase of contemporary independent works by local and international Asian filmmakers held in November in Toronto.

Alumna Hohyun Joung (MFA ’05) won the National Film Board’s Best Documentary Award for her thesis production, Umma (Mother), a feature-length personal exploration of the relationship between her mother’s religious fanaticism and the patriarchal family structure in contemporary South Korea.

Right: Hohyun Joung’s film Umma explores her mother’s religious fanaticism and the patriarchal family structure in South Korea

Graduate student Jane Kim presented Paper, Scissors, Rock, a rock ‘n’ roll short that fuses archival footage and personal memories to describe a moment of liberation. Also on the playbill was fourth-year student Joyce Wong’s Banana Bruises, a delicately satirical love story that follows the lives of two bullied introverts as they try to find romance. Banana Bruises was seen earlier this fall at the Film Department’s CineSiege event

York film talent was also on view at FILM IS DEAD! LONG LIVE FILM! the Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto’s 25th anniversary celebration of film, filmmakers and celluloid-based performance. Graduate student Franci Duran’s The First Thing Ever Filmed received its world premiere screening on Nov. 22 and alumna Lina Rodriguez (BFA ’05) performed at the festival after-party on Nov. 29. Impeded Streams and Stains II – Isis’ Altar, a film-based installation by alumna Tracy German (MFA ’06) and sculptor Marta Cela can be seen until Dec. 20 at Trinity Square Video, 401 Richmond Street West, in Toronto.

Right: Tracy German’s film-based installation Impeded Streams and Stains II – Isis’ Altar

Carl Bessai (MFA ’89) boasts numerous credits as a director, producer, cinematographer and writer (and occasional actor) in feature film, television and documentary. He took the spotlight as part of Cinematheque Ontario’s recent series on the contemporary film scene in Vancouver, Only Happy When It Rains: The Roots and Rise of the Vancouver New Wave film festival, where he presented two of his feature films: the reflective Lola (2002) and the eco-horror zombie movie, Severed (2005).

Bessai’s crime thriller, Unnatural & Accidental, which he directed, filmed and co-produced, received its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September and has gone on to play at the international festivals of Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Halifax and Sudbury. The film explores the mysterious disappearance of aboriginal women in Vancouver’s notorious downtown Eastside. Hailed as “hair-raising… dynamic and disturbing” with a four-star rating by SEE Magazine, it opened Dec. 1 at the Carlton Cinemas in Toronto.

Right: York film student Nadia Litz (right) offers co-star Don McKellar a marjiuana cigarette in the film Monkey Warfare

And on Dec. 15, the newly refurbished Royal Cinema on College St. in Toronto will reopen its doors with a showing of Reg Harkema’s Monkey Warfare starring Don McKellar, Tracy Wright and third-year York film student Nadia Litz (see the Sept. 15 issue of YFile).

This article was submitted to YFile by Miguel Rocha, a graduate assistant in the MFA program in film production at York University.