York Shorts showcases six grad-student films from past decade

York University’s Film Department showcases the diversity, originality and excellence of works by rising filmmakers in its graduate program with York Shorts, a screening of six thesis productions created over the past decade.

Ranging from festival favourites to rarely-seen cinematic gems, this hand-picked selection of fiction, documentary and alternative films will be presented in the Nick Mirkopoulos Screening Room, 004 Accolade East Bldg., Keele campus, on one night only, Thursday March 20, as part of the third annual York Fine Arts Festival.

On the program:

Paul Lee: The Offering (10 min., 1999, 35mm cinemascope, Dolby Digital Surroundsound)

The Offering premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival and has been seen at 471 festivals in 59 countries, bringing home 65 awards. The film is an elegiac meditation on the passing of life told through the story of love and friendship between a Japanese monk and a novice, from their initial encounter to their final parting.

Left: A scene from Paul Lee’s The Offering

Lee’s other directorial credits include the multi-award-winning festival hits These Shoes Weren’t Made for Walking (1995) and Thick Lips Thin Lips (1994). He also produces films for others, especially first-time filmmakers, international co-productions and educational films exploring human rights and social justice.

Lee has organized and curated film festivals on four continents, and is currently the director of operations and strategic planning for the New York-based Soulbird Music Project.

Olivia Merriman: Her Spoon and the Sea (24 min., 2004, DV Cam)

Olivia Merriman’s meditative reflection on the theme of the artist and her environment condenses two years of a girl’s life into a compelling visual diary.

Right: Olivia Merriman’s film Her Spoon and the Sea integrates a variety of techniques

The film depicts the protagonist’s personal and artistic journey to create a film about a sculptor and her own "sculpting" – re-working the images she collected. An open-process video project, the film integrates a variety of techniques and formats, including mini-dv, Digital 8, Super-8, computer-generated text and scanned images.

Sara Marino: Bear (22 min., 2000, 16mm)

Adapted from Marian Engel’s Governor General’s Award-winning novel, Bear, Sara Marino (right) has created a controversial short film, which explores a woman’s relationship with a semi-domesticated black bear. The film was pre-selected for Cannes and shortlisted for the Sundance film festival, but both deemed the content inappropriate for their audiences. Bear has gone on to other festival success, including launching Planet In Focus, Toronto’s international environmental film festival, and taking the prize for best Canadian short in the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival.

A producer/director for CBC Television’s "The Nature of Things", Marino’s filmmaking centres around human relationships with animals. Her other credits include Wilhelmina Josephina (Audience Choice Award, Atlantic Film Festival Viewfinder), a black comedy about a girl who mows the head off her mother’s pet lynx; Game Over: Conservation in Kenya for "The Nature of Things", featuring world renowned scientist Dr. Richard Leakey; and Day of the Groundhog, a natural history comedy for Animal Planet USA.

John Kneller: Separation (6:30 min., 2007, 16mm)

Hailed as "one of Canada’s best-known experimental filmmakers" (Take One ), John Kneller is recognized internationally for his distinctive creative approach, which often includes optical printing and colour manipulation. His short film Separation engages directly with the illusionary processes that make a colour image in motion picture film.

Left: Images from a 1950s home movie are manipulated by John Kneller in the film Separation

The film manipulates a 1950s home movie containing found footage of Quebec winter sports and carnival scenes by recreating and then deconstructing a three-strip red, green and blue colour separation technique first developed in the 1930s.

Separation is one of three shorts comprising Kneller’s thesis production, Continuum. He has worked on numerous other films, developing visual techniques for highly inventive mainstream and experimental projects.

Gilbert Kwong: A Moth and a Butterfly (40 min., 2003, 16mm, mastered on HD Cam – 24p)

Gilbert Kwong’s gripping drama, A Moth and a Butterfly, explores frustrated love, repressed desire and boredom between two gay brothers from Hong Kong who reunite in Toronto. The film premiered at Switzerland’s Locarno Festival and was featured at Toronto’s ReelWorld Film Festival and many other festivals. Its international accolades include the Distinguished Award at the Hong Kong Independent Film & Video Awards and Best Canadian Male Short Film Award at Toronto’s Inside Out Toronto Lesbian & Gay Film and Video Festival.

Right: Gilbert Kwong’s A Moth and a Butterfly explores the frustrated love, repressed desire and boredom between two gay brothers from Hong Kong

Kwong worked as an advertising photographer and news cameraman before turning to filmmaking. His current projects include serving as director of photography on a production about a dying child, and his own short film about a Chinese immigrant.

John Caro: Bastard (23 min., 2001, Betacam SP)

John Caro (left) draws on his own experiences and family history to confront the negative stereotypes surrounding illegitimacy and single mothers in his personal documentary, Bastard. Using interviews, archival material and video diaries, the film recounts a positive story of a family’s healthy development without the presence of a paternal figure.

Caro’s work has been screened at Raindance, Docupolis, The One Minute Film & Video Festival and the International Tel-Aviv Film Festival. He has worked as director, producer and editor on many productions, including feature films, animation and documentaries. Other credits include a five-year stint as set decorator at Pinewood Studios, working on films such as Aliens, Legend and Full Metal Jacket. He currently teaches creative arts at the University of Portsmouth, England.

The screening is free and open to the public. Visit the Fine Arts Festival Web site for more information on all the events.