York to the Power of 50: Film artifacts donated to archives

A remarkable array of film footage, scripts and other materials from an award-winning Canadian production company will now call York University home.

The generous donation from Rhombus Media Inc. contains more than 25,000 elements derived from 24 productions. These include documentaries such as Beethoven’s Hair (2005), the National Ballet of Canada’s production of The Four Seasons, the feature films The Red Violin (1998) and Childstar (2004), and the critically acclaimed television series Slings & Arrows (2003 to 2006).

This is not the first time the production company has donated to the University; previous donations of footage and soundtracks from 40 films from the Rhombus library were made to York’s Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections in 1995, 1999 and 2001. Altogether, the collection provides scholars, students and filmmakers with rich resources that inform the creative process and the development of 20th-century creative talent in Canada and abroad.

“York University has demonstrated an unyielding commitment to fine arts since its founding 50 years ago,” said Rhombus Media co-founder Larry Weinstein (BFA Spec. Hons. ’80, Hon. LLD ’98). “Niv, Barbara and I [Rhombus co-founders] are thrilled that the legacy of our creative output will be preserved in its archives for the benefit of scholars, students and future generations of filmmakers.”

Right: A scene from the Academy Award-winning feature film The Red Violin. The violin shown in the image can now be found in the Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections at York University.

Highlights from the collection include master cuts as well as film and audio elements, scripts and the original prop violin from the Academy Award-winning film The Red Violin, national and international film posters for all of the company’s productions, and production photographs from the television mini-series Yo-Yo Ma: Inspired by Bach (1997). 

Founded in 1979 by Weinstein, Niv Fichman (Hon. LLD ’98) and Barbara Willis Sweete (Hon. LLD ’98), Rhombus Media has since become Canada’s leading producer of performing arts-related film and television. Over the years, the company has earned several Primetime Emmy and International Emmy Awards, one Academy Award, countless Gemini Awards and numerous international festival tributes, restrospectives and citations for excellence. The company’s more recent productions include the Paul Gross-directed First World War film Passchendaele (2008) and the documentary Inside Hana’s Suitcase (2009).

Left: York grad Larry Weinstein

Anna St. Onge, York archivist for digital projects and outreach, arranged and described the extensive collection, and noted that the value of the donation lies in the “full range of production, editing and master film elements.

“The range of documentation – from casting notes to production reports, rough cuts to final proofs – demonstrates the creative process, the development of initial ideas by Rhombus staff to a polished final product," says St. Onge. "It also illustrates the collaborative context of Canadian filmmaking and the networks of Canadian culture-makers in the areas of film, theatre, dance and music.”

Gifts to York University Libraries count toward the University’s $200-million anniversary fundraising campaign, York to the Power of 50, which is now in its final phase.