Law alumnus brings his Oscar-nominated short to York

Above: from left, Osgoode alumni Jerry Levitan and Bobby Rotenberg at a screening of I Met the Walrus in Osgoode’s Moot Court

Jerry Levitan made a triumphant return to Osgoode Hall Law School’s Moot Court Room Tuesday, where he recalled performing in the annual mock trial, and promptly admitted he got a ‘D’ on his trust law exam. But the dozens of assembled faculty members and students weren’t there to hear about his law practice – he’s known as the liquor licence king of Ontario – or to get words of legal or academic wisdom from a York alumnus (BA ’76, LLB ’79) who also doubles as the children’s entertainer, Sir Jerry.

No, they waited, nibbling on free popcorn as Levitan struggled through that day’s snowstorm, to see his little movie, a five-minute animated short film, titled I Met the Walrus, which has been nominated for an Academy Award. (See story in the Jan. 25 issue of YFile.)

Right: from left, Levitan chats with Mamdouh Shoukri, York president & vice-chancellor, and Sheila Embleton, vice-president academic

Osgoode Dean Patrick Monahan, who was a student with Levitan, invited the producer to talk about the making of the film, which is based on an interview he did with Beatle John Lennon in 1969 at Toronto’s King Edward Hotel, when Levitan was just a 14-year-old fan. Levitan described the details of his escapade, including stories he told Lennon and how he managed to record the exchange on a tape-recorder borrowed from local radio station CHUM.

The tape from that interview stayed in storage, until fellow Osgoode alumnus and then editor-publisher Bobby Rotenberg (LLB ’79) encouraged Levitan to write the story for his Yuppie magazine TO in 1988.

Finally, in 2005, Levitan decided he wanted to do something more with the archival gem and set about looking for a filmmaker who could do it justice. That’s when he found Josh Raskin, (nephew of Paul Axelrod, dean of York’s Faculty of Education) who pulled together the team to create the award-winning animated message of peace that has been making the rounds of film festivals around the globe, and won a prize at 11 of them.

Right: Monahan presents Levitan with an Osgoode gold pin as a good luck charm

After a screening of the film, Monahan presented Levitan with a gold Osgoode pin and promised that, if he wore it to Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre, it would guarantee him an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film.

York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri also brought his best wishes and promised that, this year, for the first time, he would actually watch the entire Academy Awards broadcast, just to see Levitan win.

The Moot Court was suitably dressed for the occasion with a red carpet at the entrance where a dedicated team of Osgoode helpers made popcorn.

Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2007 will be presented in Los Angeles on Sunday, Feb. 24, and televised live on CTV starting at 8pm.