U50 documentary traces the parallel histories of York and Toronto

Where the Sidewalk Begins: The University and the Global City, a new documentary film celebrating York’s 50th anniversary, explores the evolving identities of the University and the City of Toronto and how their histories intersect. It will screen next week.

Co-written by Peer Zumbansen (left), associate dean of research, graduate Studies & institutional relations at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, and Mars Horodyski, the film’s director, Where the Sidewalk Begins traces the parallel histories of Toronto and York University through the latter half of the 20th century and examines their challenges in a rapidly evolving global world.

“Cities are getting a lot of attention in the research world because of increasing immigration and globalization,” says Horodyski, who has completed a total of two documentaries and six narrative shorts. “I realized the University is like a city itself. It mirrors what goes on in the city.” Methods of generating, disseminating and implementing knowledge have become survival questions for city governments and universities alike.

So the idea to have the film examine how York has evolved over the last 50 years compared to Toronto was a natural one. “It was really natural for people to draw those parallels,” says Horodyski, winner of Ryerson University’s 2003 Norman Jewison Filmmaker Award for her film Lemonade and of the 2007 WorldFest Houston International Film & Video Festival Golden Remi Award for her latest short, Spoonfed. Her films have screened at various festivals, including the Montreal World Film Festival, the Atlantic Film Festival, the Commonwealth Film Festival and the Palm Springs International ShortFest.

Left: Mars Horodyski

“York really reacted to the increasing immigration and the diversification of the city,” says Horodyski. The film also looks at how the city can learn from the University, and vice versa, as both continue to transform. Universities around the world are in dialogue and contestation with their transnational urban environment and share many of the experiences of cities with questions of access, identity and competition.

Where the Sidewalk Begins features found footage of York and Toronto up against images of the real city where real people live and work, including the University, as well as interviews with key players in the development of both places.

Right: A still image from the film Where the Sidewalk Begins

The film is the culmination of the interdisciplinary work of an artist and a lawyer, two people who look at the world in different ways. The result, says Horodyski, is highly engaging. “I’m really excited.”

The film is a co-presentation of Cinemars and Osgoode Hall Law School’s Collaborative Urban Research Laboratory (CURL). Zumbansen is the director of CURL and is the Canada Research Chair in Transnational & Comparative Law of Corporate Governance at Osgoode.

Where the Sidewalk Begins was created using the new HD technology in CURL, a program of the Critical Research Laboratory, a research facility for interdisciplinary and multimedia research on transnational and urban governance, political economy and culture. CURL has a state-of-the-art digital and traditional film, photo and video production facility, complemented by film and sound editing suites, a meeting room, work stations and a screening room.

“The interaction and collaboration between law, urban studies and film provides a richer, more layered perspective on the evolution and many faces of the city and the University,” says Zumbansen. “Seen through the artist’s eyes, city and University regain their symbolic dimension, inviting the viewer to reflect on the prospects and promises of what cities and universities stand for.”

A reception and introduction to Where the Sidewalk Begins will take place Wednesday, June 17 at 7pm in the CIBC Lobby of the Accolade East Building, Keele campus, with special guest Mark Osbaldeston, the author of Unbuilt Toronto: A History of the City that Might Have Been, talking about the past 50 years in the city. The screening will begin at 8pm in the Price Family Cinema.

RSVP to Joanne Rappaport, research coordinator, Osgoode Hall Law School, at jrappaport@osgoode.yorku.ca.

By Sandra McLean, YFile writer