Hailing it as “one of the best film schools in Canada”, the Canadian Film Centre’s Worldwide Short Film Festival (WSFF) is honouring York University’s Department of Film with a dedicated retrospective screening at the Royal Ontario Museum on June 1.
Now in its 17th year, WSFF is the leading venue for the exhibition and promotion of short film in North America and is one of the world’s premier short film festivals. This year it presents 275 films from 36 countries and offers one of the largest prize packages for short film in the world. Along with public screenings, WSFF hosts a professional development symposium and the largest short film marketplace in North America.
Left: Director Scott Boyd (BFA ‘07) heard about a death-defying world record attempt by a dangerously cool-headed magician and decided to turn it into a short film of epic proportions. The result is the 2007 short film Escape Clause, which will be screened as part of the WSFF’s tribute to the Department of Film
WSFF’s York University Retrospective celebrates the department’s 40th anniversary and the outstanding creative talent it has nurtured over the years. The festival programmers delved into the archives of York student productions to select a collection of films made in the past decade. Interspersed in the 76-minute program are a number of one-minute segments from The 40 Film, a specially curated collection of snippets spanning the department’s entire history. (The 40 Film premiered last September with an alumni preview downtown at the Camera Bar and a party on the Harry W. Arthurs Common at York’s Keele campus. See YFile, Sept. 27, 2010.)
“We’re very pleased to help York University celebrate this milestone,” said WSFF director Eileen Arandiga. “What’s truly exciting about this program is the variety of shorts and the mature talent of these young filmmakers. There’s no denying it – York University’s Film Department shines.”
“We’re delighted to cap our 40th anniversary celebrations with this retrospective at the Worldwide Short Film Fest,” said Professor Anmon Buchbinder, chair of the department. “The featured productions are an excellence representation of the remarkable work our students are doing.”
The retrospective comprises six shorts, all of which were nominees or winners at CineSiege, the department’s annual juried film showcase, in the year they were produced.
Current student Vu Van (Franco) Nguyen’s short fiction film Plants out of Sunlight (2010) makes its world premiere at WSFF. It tells the story of Mia, who works her fingers to the bone at a thankless factory job and longs for a better relationship with her son, who’s taken to staying out all night and sleeping all day.
|Above: The character Mia in Vu Van (Franco) Nguyen’s 2010 short fiction film Plants out of Sunlight
The WSFF retrospective is yet another feather in the cap of Hugh Gibson (BFA ‘04), who has enjoyed international festival success with his gritty drama Hogtown Blues (2004). The film portrays a Russian immigrant woman living in Toronto who tries to patch up her fractured relationship with her father, for the sake of her son. Hogtown Blues has been seen at more than 20 festivals, including Toronto, Montreal, Austin, Palm Springs, Brno and Bilbao, where it won the audience award.
|Above: Vladimir Radian in a scene from Hogtown Blues
Luo Li (BFA ‘05, MFA ‘09), winner of Toronto’s 2011 Images Festival Prize for his thesis feature Rivers and My Father, created the experimental short Fly in 2005 as an undergraduate student. The film weaves together ink, paintbrush and experimental filmmaking techniques to form an astute exploration of flight and calligraphy.
Left: A scene from the 2005 film Fly
Director Scott Boyd (BFA ‘07) heard about a death-defying world record attempt by a dangerously cool-headed magician and decided to turn it into a short film of epic proportions. Having screened at festivals across Canada and on television in the US, UK and Italy, his documentary Escape Clause (2007) receives its Toronto premiere at WSFF.
Tess Girard (BFA ‘05) created her hauntingly beautiful documentary Benediction (2005) as a homage to her recently deceased grandmother. The film has earned many accolades, including a showing at the Toronto International Film Festival and a special citation at TIFF’s Student Showcase as well as the prize for best overall production at the Canadian Student Film Festival in Montreal.
Right: A scene from the doucmentary Benediction (2005)
The School (2003), co-directed by Matthew Miller (BFA ‘03) and Ezra Krybus (BFA ’03), is a darkly comedic fable that asks: “Is it death which gives meaning to life, or is it life which gives meaning to death?” – Edgar Gibson’s elementary school class finds out the hard way. The School was the jury’s selection for outstanding achievement at CineSiege 2003 and went on to become a hit on the international festival circuit. It has screened at more than 25 fests worldwide and won numerous awards, including best Canadian short at the Atlantic Film Festival and the gold plaque for best student narrative at the Chicago International Film Festival.
|Above: Students participating in a classroom experiment that involves planting beans in a scene from the dark fable The School
The York University Retrospective unspools Friday, June 1at 4:15 pm at the ROM, 100 Queen’s Park. The cinema is accessed by the south entrance. Tickets are available online, at the WSFF box office in Cumberland Terrace, 2 Bloor St. West (entrance on Cumberland between Bay and Yonge, 10am to 6pm), or at the door one hour before the screening. Tickets are free, in person, for students with ID.