CineSiege celebrates film’s rising stars

CineSiege, the Department of Film’s annual celebration of outstanding student productions made in the previous academic year, played to a full house downtown at the Royal Cinema on Monday, Oct. 20.

Above: At left, Jim and Chrisoula Mirkopoulos of Cinespace Studios, the sponsors of the event, with students and faculty from the Department of Film at the pre-show reception

Following a pre-show reception, where the filmmakers had the opportunity to meet the jurors and industry sponsors, the screening kicked off with a montage (edited by Emi Paternostro) of all 22 nominated productions. The clip reel gave the audience a taste of the great talent of York’s up-and-coming filmmakers, and added to the building anticipation of the jury’s award selections.

Right: Celebrating at the pre-show party are, from left, film students Tess Marie Garneau, Shanon Fewster, Jana Jeffery and Matthew Yippchuck

Brenda Longfellow, chair of the Department of Film, welcomed the crowd and congratulated the teams behind the nominated films, their peers in the program and the faculty and staff who support their efforts. “Maybe I’m biased, but I can’t imagine a better place to study film than York U,” she announced to a loud endorsement from the crowd.

Film Professor Ali Kazimi took over as master of ceremonies for the evening. “One hundred and ninety-eight wonderful productions were made at York last year, of which 22 were shortlisted for CineSiege jury to review,” he said. “We get to see six tonight, but all 198 have something to celebrate.”

Left: The marquee at the Royal

The CineSiege 2008 jurors – Hussain Amarshi (Mongrel Media), Susan G. Cole (NOW Magazine), Deirdre Logue (Vtape) and John Paizs (Canadian Film Centre) – were on hand to present the awards and explain their choices.

Symone Roper’s Seize the Day, depicting a day in the life of a young man struggling to balance his own interests while supporting his family, took home the award for Best Fiction Film. Paizs commented: “The jury was impressed by the way the acting and writing in this film established strong and distinct characters. We felt it captured, with refreshing authenticity, a variety of places and sensibilities, and gave a different sort of take on the worlds of responsibility and criminality.” 

Right: The CineSiege jury, from left, Susan Cole, Hussein Amarshi, John Paizs and Deirdre Logue

The nod for Best Documentary went to La Consecuencia de la Lluvia, directed by Maria-Saroja Ponnambalam. This exploration of the poor barrios of Caracas, Venezuela looks at communication gaps between the community’s residents and their council leaders. On behalf of the jury, Cole applauded the film’s “gripping opening, vibrancy and spontaneity, strong visual sensibility, and the definite energy in the active camera work.”

The jury also selected two honourable mentions in the documentary category: Criterion Cell directed by Aliyyah Fazil and Fort Severn by Danielle Hebscher.

Left: John Paizs (left) and Symone Roper

Morning Will Come, winner of Best Alternative Film, was directed by Pouyan Jafarizadeh Dezfouli. The film deals with issues of gender identity, set against the backdrop of traditional cultural values and expectations. Amarshi said the jury “loved the inventiveness of the film, with its echoes of Derek Jarman” and praised the production as “beautiful, compelling and complex.” The honourable mention went to No One Thinks About the Garden directed by Tara Khalili.

In the Craft Awards category, the Kodak Award for Best Cinematography, presented by Silvana Marsella, went to Joshua Fraiman for his work as director of photography for A Stir in the Forest. Sound designer Daniel McIntyre was recognized for Best Sound for his work on Demise (which he also directed). The nod for Best Editing went to Mike Boers and Matt Nayman for Outpost 62. The jury created a special honour, the Creative Courage Award, for director Matthew Yipchuck’s The Myth of Persephone.

Right: Susan Cole (left) and Maria-Saroja Ponnambalam

At the close of the screening, Faculty of Fine Arts Dean Emeritus Phillip Silver presented a final award for Excellence in Support to Cinespace Film Studios and the Mirkopoulos family, thanking them for their sponsorship of CineSiege for the past six years. Chrisoula Mirkopoulos accepted a framed, signed CineSiege poster on behalf of the family.

CineSiege is an annual showcase screening of outstanding productions of the previous year by students in the Department of Film at York University. It features a juried selection of short films, chosen by leading lights of the Canadian film and media scene. The winning films are picked by the jury from a shortlist of up to two dozen productions, nominated from all the films produced by students in all levels of the program each year.