York film professor’s award-winning feature still going strong

York Professor Amnon Buchbinder’s latest feature film, Whole New Thing, a captivating coming-of-age drama about a 13-year-old boy who develops a passionate crush on his homosexual teacher, continues to receive international attention.

Right: A scene from Whole New Thing with Daniel MacIvor, left, and Aaron Webber

While the film was released commercially in Canada last year, American audiences had to wait until last month for its theatrical release in the US. It opened in New York City on April 6 at Quad Cinemas and on April 20 at the Laemmle Sunset 5 Cinema in Los Angeles.

The film received favourable reviews from US critics. Here are some of the comments:

"To its enormous credit, the movie remains on high ground. It recognizes that growing pains don’t inevitably lead to scandal and catastrophe. They are discomforts to be endured for as long as they last. If you’re lucky, they can also be valuable learning experiences." – Stephen Holden, The New York Times

"Buchbinder handles its delicate scenes with a careful grace and a fidelity to naturalism. Webber does a fine job, turning in a surprising nuanced performance and truly inhabiting his character. He and the compelling MacIvor are the clear standouts." – Christopher Wallenberg, New York Blade

"Director Amnon Buchbinder and co-writer Daniel MacIvor engage the audience with nuance and complexities of character. Well-written and well-acted!" – Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times

"A sweet film with a winning charm." – Gary Kramer, San Francisco Bay Times

"Touching. Perceptive." – Bill Stamets, Chicago Sun-Times

Following its critically-acclaimed premiere at the 2005 Toronto International Film Festival, Whole New Thing went on to become a hit on the festival circuit.

Left: Amnon Buchbinder

The film has also received international accolades. This past November, at the 2006 Mezipatra Czech Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, Whole New Thing became the first production ever to win both of the festival’s top prizes. Buchbinder was on hand to receive the Jury Award for Best Feature Film and the Audience Award for Best Film at a ceremony preceding the festival’s closing night film.

In October, Whole New Thing edged out the competition for Best Narrative Feature at the 2006 Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival and it captured Best Feature at the 2006 Out Takes Dallas Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.

In July, the film won the Grand Jury Award for Outstanding International Narrative Feature at the 2006 Los Angeles Outfest. During the same month, It was selected by audience ballot as one of the top 10 of some 150 films at the 2006 Brisbane International Film Festival in Australia.

Meanwhile, Buchbinder’s book, The Way of the Screenwriter, published in Canada by House of Anansi Press in 2005, was released last fall in the US, where it continues to win acclaim from experienced screenwriters. Stewart Stern, two-time Oscar nominee and Emmy Award-winning writer of the film classics Rebel Without a Cause (1955), Rachel Rachel (1968) and Sybil (1976), said: "This book is a gift that elevates the reader far beyond the rich information it supplies. It shines a clear light through the labyrinth we all have to pass through to do our best work."

Buchbinder joined the faculty in York’s Film Department in 1995, where he teaches screenwriting at both the undergraduate and graduate level. He is currently working on a new film to be titled "The Travelling Medicine Show".

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