York Film Downtown brings graduate works to the big screen

The Department of Film celebrates the work of recent alumni and current candidates in the master’s program in film production with a screening of graduate works from 2009 to 2011.

Dubbed “Depth of Field”, two free programs of short films will be screened tonight, March 7, at 7pm and 9pm at Toronto’s TIFF Bell Lightbox. A number of filmmakers will be available after the screenings for a question and answer session.

“These screenings offer a diverse range of remarkable abstract experimental work, clever documentaries and innovative short dramas,” said the event’s organizer, Professor Laurence Green, graduate program director of production & screenwriting . “We hope ‘Depth of Field’ will become an annual opportunity for York to showcase the talent from our graduate film program in a downtown setting with works by candidates who are on the cusp of completing the program alongside the thesis projects of our recent alumni.”

The programs are part of the new series York Film Downtown, which features free screenings and panel discussions with industry professionals on the art and business of cinema.

7pm screening

Refraction Series (8 minutes, 2009) offers an experimental approach to optics and some brilliant “visual music” composition in colour and light directed by Chris Gehman (MFA ‘09). Inspired by the ideas of early scientists like Ibn al-Haytham and Isaac Newton, who investigated the nature of light and visual perception, Gehman used everything from unmounted lenses and prisms, to CDs and liquids to generate a wide range of pure light and colours in motion.

Right: Refraction Series offers a visual music composition in colour and light

This visually arresting silent film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in 2008, and has since screened internationally at festivals including the Ann Arbor Film Festival in Michigan where it won the Peter Wilde Award for Most Technically Innovative Film in 2009.

A former director of Toronto’s Images Film Festival (2000-2004) and programmer at TIFF and Cinematheque Ontario,Gehman is an independent filmmaker, curator and critic based in Toronto. In fall, 2010, his films were the subject of a retrospective screening at the Canadian Film Institute (Ottawa). Gehman is also teaching a film course in the film Department this year, on contract.

Chelsea McMullan (BFA ‘06, MFA ‘10) directed Deadman (31 minutes, 2010) a documentary exploring two visions of the wild west. On screen, Matt Sandvoss enthuses over his plans to build a replica of an Old-West theme park complete with a saloon and gunfighters in British Columbia. In sharp contrast, Cree resident Gerald Carter explains the history of the town, Deadman’s Creek and is stunned by new commercial and real estate developments in the region. Their contrasting perspectives provide the drama. Deadman screened at TIFF and the Vancouver international Film Festival in 2009 among others.

Left: Deadman, directed by alumna Chelse McMullan, explores two visions of the wild west

McMullan won’t be able to attend the screening as she is currently in Treviso, near Venice, Italy participating in the Benneton Family’s artistic think tank Fabrica. During her year there she will explore a wide variety of projects in collaboration with the other 39 young resident artists in this unique talent incubator.

Ghost Noise (23 minutes, 2009) was directed by Marcia Connolly (MFA ’10) and explores the absolute intelligence, mischief and poetry of Inuit artist Shuvinai Ashoona. The film won the Lodestar Award for Best Canadian or International Film at the Dawson City Film Festival and has screened at festivals coast to coast including ImagineNATIVE and the REELARTISTS festivals in Toronto and Vancouver’s Women in Film festival among many others.

Right: Ghost Noise by Marcia Connolly explores the poetry of Inuit artist Shuvinai Ashoona

Other works on the 7pm program include dramas by current MFA candidates, like Cam Woykin’s Open Window, (9 minutes, 2010) in which a backyard birthday party is consumed by tension between the parents as a result of abusive relationships between the characters; and Rafal Sokolowski’s 7th Day, (24 minutes, 2011) that depicts two recent Toronto immigrants who try to beat prohibitive Toronto rents by working their taxicab 24/7 — while one is driving the other is sleeping in the miniature apartment in the trunk.

9pm screening

Bridge Kids (16 minutes, 2010), directed by Geoff Pugen (MFA ‘10) is mesmerizing collage of found footage, sci-fi cliches, and original drama, featuring telepathic children. Set in the near future, there are no adults, a tree house becomes a door to another dimension, and rocks release intuitive powers. Documentary, historiography and mythology collide and transform in a multi-format, multi-channel installation showing a virtual world of telepathic children and their attempt at reincarnation. Bridge Kids connects a research documentary on J.B. Rhine and the history of ESP/ Parapsychology, with a science fiction drama portraying an adolescent’s connection with the dead. Pugen screened the video at a widely publicized solo exhibition at Toronto’s TPW Gallery.

Left: Alumnus Geoff Pugen’s film Bridge Kids features found footage and telepathic children

Current MFA candidate Zaheed Mawani’s Three Walls, (26 minutes, 2010) traces the development of the office cubicle since its inception in the late 1960s to its current status as North America’s dominant form of office furniture. More than a bit of social history, this documentary captures the melancholic absurdity of the modern day office and examines the larger issues surrounding the shifting nature of white-collar work.

Right: Current MFA candidate Zaheed Mawani’s Three Walls, traces the development of the office cubicle since its inception in the late 1960s

Other films that complete the 9pm screening are Fabric (9 minutes, 2009), an experimental narrative about a woman trying to reconnect with her family directed by Coral Aiken (MFA ’10) and Uniform Activity, (20 minutes, 2010) a drama directed by Chris McCarroll (MFA ‘10) that shows the unwitting transformation of a middle-aged man as he methodically prepares for his first day at a new job. Plus two works by current MFA candidates including Tony Lau’s Left-Behind Woman, (21 minutes, 2011), a documentary examining the living conditions of women in rural China, and Krzysztof Pietrozsek’s Agape (23 minutes, 2011) a drama set in Nazi-occupied Poland about a widow in a relationship with a Nazi officer, who is placed in a life threatening situation by her eight-year old daughter.