York filmmakers are a reel big deal

York filmmakers have been reeling in accolades from film festivals far and wide. From Toronto’s Reel Asian International Film Festival to England’s Falstaff International Film Festival, recognition continues to pour in for faculty, staff, students and alumni of York’s Film Program.

A number of students, faculty and alumni received nods at Toronto’s Reel Asian International Film Festival closing gala and awards ceremony held Nov. 19, 2009, at The Royal Cinema.

Alumna Lesley Loksi Chan (BFA Spec. Hons. ’08) received the $500 Animasian award for Live Long and Prosper, a multimedia performance art film she co-created with Serena Lee. This playful tribute to lessons learned from their grandmothers launched the festival at the opening gala.

Left: The art film Live Long and Prosper pays tribute to life’s lessons

The experimental documentary Rex vs. Singh by film Professors John Greyson and Ali Kazimi won the National Film Board (NFB) Award for Best Canadian Film/Video. The prize includes $2,500 towards the development of their next project. For more information about the film and other festivals where it has been screened see YFile, Aug. 20, 2008.

Right: A scene from Rex vs. Singh

Third-year film student Sonia Hong, former student Olga Barsky and alumna Claire Lowery (BFA Spec. Hons. ’09) wowed the Reel Asian judges and audience in the So You Think You Can Pitch? competition with their proposal for A Dragged Out Affair: The Musical, a seven-minute film that tells the tale of a forbidden affair between two drag queens. The prize package includes over $10,000 worth of production, post services and artist’s fees at Charles Street Video and the opportunity to screen the work at the 2010 Reel Asian International Film Festival.

On the west coast, film alumni took the top two awards at the Vancouver Asian Film Festival, which ran Nov. 5 to 8. Alumnus and Film Department staff technician Gilbert Kwong (MFA ’04) won the NFB Best Canadian Short Film Award with his production When Swallows Stop Singing, about a Canadian immigrant who returns to Hong Kong for his father’s funeral.

Left: Gilbert Kwong’s When Swallows Stop Singing took the top two awards at the Vancouver Asian Film Festival

Cuong Ngo (BFA Spec. Hons. ’09) placed second for The Golden Pin, a 2009 CineSiege nominee. The film explores the story of a young man caught between the expectations of his Asian family and the demands of his heart.

Right: Cuong Ngo’s The Golden Pin

North of Vancouver, York screenwriting graduate student Ryan Smith’s Good Image Media screened in the Whistler Film Festival’s Shortfest Two program on Dec. 4. Shot last summer with a group of his fellow University of British Columbia film grads, the film’s dramatic plot follows a junior accountant who discovers financial misconduct in a client’s books and leverages the situation to fulfill a dark fantasy.

Left: A scene from graduate student Ryan Smith’s film Good Image Media

Toronto’s Latin media festival AluCine, held Nov. 12 to 28, had many ties to York, starting with the executive director Sinara Rozo and the artistic director, Jorge Lozano who are both studying in the Department of Film’s MFA program. York filmmakers were well represented in the festival presentations.

Alumna Lina Rodriguez (BFA Spec. Hons. ’05) contributed Yellow, Blue, Red to the festival’s performance program. A study of the Colombian flag, the work integrates live performance with video in an exploration of nationhood. Retrato Oficial (Official Portrait) by Francisca Duran (MFA ’08) is an experimental short which animates the dissimulation and reconstruction of the storied liberator of Chile, 19th-century revolutionary and republican Bernardo O’Higgins, and the historical reach of the late 20th-century dictator Augusto Pinochet.

Current MFA student Geoffrey Pugen’s Zenith is an experimental work that documents a woman’s participation in a ceremonial self-transformation. Film Department technician Marcos Arriaga was on the program with Tales of Winter, a production focusing on societal indifference towards homeless people. Film Professor John Greyson showed his experimental short 14.3 seconds, which uses scraps of celluloid footage rescued from the Iraq Film Archive that was destroyed by US bombing in 2003.

Overseas, Hossein Shahin Karbalaeetaher’s (MFA ’09) Naked Til Night was nominated for the Best International Feature Film Award at the Falstaff International Film Festival in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. This 75-minute drama follows a pair of cinephiles on an unexpected journey into a mysteriously dark world.

Right: Naked Til Night was nominated for the best international feature film at the Falstaff International Film Festival

Looking back, the past year saw York film successes at numerous high-profile international film festivals including at the Berlinale (see YFile, Feb. 6, 2009), Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival (see YFile, April 21, 2009) and the Toronto International Film Festival (see YFile, Sept. 11, 2009).