Be daring, bold and fearless, but most of all cherish your curiosity, Piers Handling, director and CEO of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), told graduating students Monday at York’s 2011 Spring Convocation ceremony.
Handling received an honorary doctor of laws degree from York at the ceremony for students graduating from York’s Faculty of Fine Arts and Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies.
Left: Piers Handling, director and CEO of the Toronto International Film Festival, received an honorary doctorate from York
He referenced his favourite poet, Philip Larkin, who described the novel as having a beginning, a “muddle” and an end. “Ideas rarely travel in a straight line. Creativity is often very random. Trial and error, intuition and experimentation are the way we move ideas forward,” said Handling. “Much of what you will confront in your future will be this muddle in all its richness.”
Words like “measurables” and “deliveries” fill today’s world, he said, adding he is always being asked to measure the success of certain programs at TIFF and of TIFF as a whole. “Success has always been valued, but today there is so much more data available to measure success. At times, the measurement of success can seem insensitive to other values that are equally important.”
Handling told graduands he saw a play in London several years ago about two different teachers. One was results-oriented and encouraged his students to pass their exams so they could attend a prestigious university. The other was more unorthodox and less results-oriented, believing in “learning for its own sake” and looking down upon the exam process.
Right: From left, Piers Handling, York Chancellor Roy McMurtry and President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri
“I think this is a healthy tension to hold in balance as you set out on your own career paths. Some learning and experiences will be very focused, but there will be other learning and other experiences that will come to you in far less focused ways,” said Handling, who has organized several international programs, including major retrospectives of Canadian, Latin American, Italian, Polish, Portuguese and Hungarian cinema as part of TIFF.
“Like Larkin’s ‘muddle’ you will work out how to put these two together for creativity and invention and innovation. Indeed, life itself is always full of the unpredictable,” he said.
In his parting words, Piers told the graduating students: “Embrace the muddle, be kind to each other and throw yourself into every project with passion, care and respect.”