Is vision a gift or a burden?
That’s the question indie filmmaker Steve Sanguedolce, a contract faculty member in the Department of Film and a Fellow of Winters College, addresses in his latest production. His new feature documentary, Blinding, makes its Toronto premiere at Pleasure Dome this weekend (details below).
Blinding tells the story of three people grappling with the personal and political implications of things seen and seared into memory. A writer who has gradually lost his sight, a former police officer and a military pilot who has witnessed genocide struggle to come to terms with dramatic shifts in their perception of themselves and the world around them.
Shot on 16mm and meticulously hand-coloured, Blinding has garnered acclaim from critics and festival panels around the world. Don O’Mahony of Ireland’s Corona Cork International Film Festival praised the film as “modern day alchemy … a ravishing feast of textures and tones”, and Seattle Gay Scene hailed it as “a complex and compelling narrative of unusual beauty and power”. Mostly recently, it won special mention at the prestigious Camerimage International Film Festival of the Art of Cinematography in Bydgoszcz, Poland.
While Blinding is Sangedolce’s debut screening at Pleasure Dome, the organization has longstanding connections with York film artists, and in turn reflects York’s strong presence in Toronto’s flourishing avant-garde film community. Feeling that “… there was not a wide enough range in the curating of experimental film in the city”, York film Professor Philip Hoffman co-founded the film and video collective with four others in 1989. For more than two decades, Pleasure Dome has provided a home for alternative media art and support for the artists who create it, fostering boundary-pushing explorations in a rapidly evolving art form.
Over the years, York faculty members, students and alumni have participated in screenings and installations, contributed to Pleasure Dome’s critical anthologies, and served as members of the collective. “Pleasure Dome’s curatorial focus on aesthetically challenging work has made it an ideal venue for York students and graduates,” said Eli Horwatt (MA ‘09), a PhD candidate and a member of the 2011-2012 programming collective.
A scene from Blinding
In addition to Horwatt, the current 12-member collective includes three alumni of York’s film program: David Frankovich (BFA ‘07), Sharlene Bamboat (MA ‘09) and Alexis Mitchell (MFA ‘11). Past members include John McCullough, associate professor of Cinema and Media Studies at York, and alumni Linda Feesey (BA ’82, MFA ‘02), Jon Davies (MA ‘04), Tracy German (MFA ‘06), Lisa Kennedy (BFA ‘06), Larissa Fan (MFA ‘08) and Jacob Korczynski (BA ’02, MA ‘04).
Horwatt attributes this strong showing to the encouragement and example of York’s film faculty, who specialize not only in the creation and production of artistic works but also the critical study and analysis of diverse, non-traditional forms of the medium. The relationship has emerged as a creative cycle, in which York’s commitment to training and mentoring young filmmakers and scholars provides Pleasure Dome with a steady chorus of fresh voices, and Pleasure Dome’s ability to carve out places for artists to exhibit their work opens doors for students and faculty alike.
Blinding is Sanguedolce’s fifth feature. His provocative, intensely personal films such as Rhythms of the Heart (1990), Away (1996) and Smack (2000) have earned him more than dozen international awards and critical commendation as “a celluloid magician” (Gemma Files, eye Weekly) and “one of the country’s most daring diary filmmakers” (Cameron Bailey, NOW). As well as an award-winning filmmaker, Sanguedolce is also an award-winning teacher.Last year he was a recipient of the President’s University-Wide Teaching Award at York (see YFile, May 17, 2010).
Pleasure Dome presents Sanguedolce’s Blinding, followed by a Q&A session with the filmmaker, on Saturday, Jan. 21 at 7pm at Innis Town Hall, 2 Sussex Ave. Next month, Sanguedolce brings the film to York’s Keele campus for a screening Feb. 14 at 12:30pm in the Nat Taylor Cinema.