York filmmakers in the festival spotlight at home and abroad

York filmmakers are starting the year off with a host of festival screenings and honours.

Second-year film student Amil Shivji is a co-director of Kevin Macdonald and Ridley Scott’s Life in a Day, called “the most elaborate crowdsourced arts project in history” by Wired magazine.

This groundbreaking documentary project invited global submissions of “slice-of-life” videos shot on a single day: July 24, 2010. Over 80,000 clips (more than 4,500 hours of footage) uploaded by amateur videographers from 192 countries were edited into a 90-minute film that offers an honest and inspiring glimpse into our world. All of the 333 contributors whose clips were selected are credited as co-director. On Jan. 27,  the production premiered to rave reviews on YouTube and at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah, where a distribution deal was signed with National Geographic.

Shivji, who holds a York University International Scholarship for Africa, shot his footage while home for the summer holidays in his native Tanzania. He recorded a day in the life of Bibi Aminajati Kalema, who takes care of the 34 children at Hiari Orphanage in Chang’ombe, Dar-es-Salaam. Shivji regularly visits the orphanage to spend time with the children when he is in Tanzania.

Also at Sundance, a Canadian film that generated a lot of buzz was Hobo with a Shotgun, a tongue-in-cheek exploitation feature produced by former York film student Niv Fichman (Hon LLD ’98), co-founder of Rhombus Media.

Recent graduate Gerald Fantone (BFA ‘10), who won best film and best screenplay for his production Play. Stop. Rewind at York’s juried student film festival, CineSiege 2010, has been invited to take part in the Berlinale Talent Campus. He’s one of 350 up-and-coming filmmakers, selected from some 4000 applicants from 141 countries, to attend this creative summit, running Feb. 12 to 17 in association with the Berlin International Film Festival.

Right: A scene from Gerald Fantone’s Play. Stop. Rewind, which won best film and screen play at York’s juried student film festival this past fall

The Talent Campus offers young filmmakers the chance to learn from prominent Berlinale guests and notable experts, to strengthen their own skills, and to clearly define their creative and strategic filmmaking goals. Hands-on training programs give the participants opportunities to work with experienced mentors on new film projects and to forge professional contacts for the future in an informal, supportive networking environment.

In Toronto, Kathleen Mullen (MFA ‘10) premieres her documentary Breathtaking Feb. 24 at the ROM as part of the Planet in Focus environmental film festival, where she is director of programming.

Left: Kathleen Mullen with her father prior to his death from mesothelioma, an asbestos-related cancer

With her film, Mullen takes on the asbestos industry through a moving exploration of her father’s death from mesothelioma, an asbestos-related cancer. Ranging from her family home in British Columbia to Quebec, India and Detroit, the filmmaker’s investigative journey paints a global, yet still personal picture of the many lives affected by the continued use of asbestos. The pay-what-you-can screening starts at 7pm and will be followed by a discussion with Mullen and special guests. The ROM Theatre is located at 100 Queen’s Park (side entrance).

Right: A scene from Mullen’s documentary film Breathtaking

Two York filmmakers are named among the six initial official selections of the 40th annual New Directors/New Films Festival presented by the Museum of Modern Art and Film Society of Lincoln Center, running March 23 to April 3 in New York City. Productions by alumnus Nicolás Pereda (BFA ’05, MFA ‘07) and former graduate film student Tudor Voican will be featured in this prestigious series, which is dedicated to the discovery of new works by emerging, dynamic filmmaking talent worldwide.

Pereda’s Summer of Goliath (Verano de Goliat) combines documentary and fiction as it intertwines the stories of people living in a small town in rural Mexico. Those people include a wife who suspects her husband of infidelity, her soldier son who wishes for a machine gun, and three brothers living with their single mother who can barely support them.

Summer of Goliath has been well-received on the festival circuit, including its North American premiere at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) followed by prizes at the Venice International Film Festival and Valdivia International Film Festival, Chile.

Left: A scene from Pereda’s Summer of Goliath

Voican was part of the team who wrote the screenplay for Bogdan George Apetri’s drama Outbound, also shown at TIFF in 2010.

The film follows a young woman on prison leave for a day to attend her mother’s funeral, who attempts to right the wrongs done to her in the midst of serving a five-year sentence for a crime she didn’t commit.

Over the years, the New Directors/New Films fest has introduced or cemented the status of many internationally-acclaimed directors including Chantal Akerman, Pedro Almodóvar, Agnieszka Holland, Spike Lee and Steven Spielberg.