Toronto’s Images Festival showcases York’s film talent

Little girl on a cloudy day from the film"What a Young Girl Should Not Know"

This year, Toronto’s Images Festival, the largest and leading international fest for experimental and independent moving image culture in North America, features 88 productions from 26 countries. Ten of them – more than 10 per cent of the programming – are by York University film students and alumni.

The festival launched April 12 and Right Ascension, a program devoted to short works from Toronto focusing on the experience and representation of space, was part of the programming on the opening weekend. Clint Enns, who is currently pursuing his master’s degree in Cinema and Media Studies, was one of three York filmmakers featured in the program. His short Connecting with Nature, billed as “an instructional video that lies somewhere between the realms of infomercial and guide to spiritual enlightenment”, casts a new lens on a favourite Canadian pastime: gardening.

stain gleass art work at International Animation FestivalThe experimental film “Children of the Sun” a psychedelic feast for the eyes by Nikolas Tsonis (BFA ’11), was a CineSiege 2011 nominee and was screened at the Images Festival and the Savannah International Animation Festival

Kyath Battie, who is working towards her MFA in production, presented Temps Mort, a video that explores the ominous feelings evoked by depopulated architectural spaces. Sound effects extracted from the movie Alien contribute to the science fiction-like ambiance. Battie credits York’s setting as an inspiration: “Temps Mort reflects the fascinating, alien-like nightscapes I experienced wandering around campus last winter,” she said.

Also on the program was Rock, a video featuring sumptuous panoramic shots of volcanic rock by alumnus Geoffrey Pugen (MFA ’10), whose work is seen at galleries and film festivals in Canada, the US and across Europe.

Little girl on a cloudy day from the film"What a Young Girl Should Not Know" Alumna Emily Pickering’s tender film “What a Young Girl Should Not Know” won Best Alternative Film at CineSiege 2011

Three productions heralded last fall at CineSiege, York’s annual juried student film showcase, were featured April 15 in Image’s S is for Student program. What a Young Girl Should Not Know, winner of Best Alternative Film at CineSiege 2011, is a tender offering of “embroidered lessons in femininity and coming of age” by Emily Pickering (BFA ’11). Josh Schonblum, currently in his final year of study in York’s film production program, contributed Tell Me if Anything was Ever Done, which won Best Sound at CineSiege 2011. Children of the Sun, a “psychedelic feast for the eyes” by Nikolas Tsonis (BFA ’11), was a CineSiege 2011 nominee. It unspooled at the Savannah International Animation Festival concurrently with its Images Festival screening.

A woman sitting on a chair in a dark room holding a bag next too a TV and lamp from the film "Tell Me if Anything was Ever Done"Josh Schonblum’s “Tell Me if Anything was Ever Done

More productions by York alumni will be featured this weekend.

Fresh from winning the Tom Berman Award for Most Promising Filmmaker at the Ann Arbor Film Festival last month, recent grad Simone Rapisarda Casanova (MFA ’11) presents his thesis production, El árbol de las fresas (The Strawberry Tree) Friday, April 20 at 7pm in Jackman Hall at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Hailed as “a mesmerizing cinematic poem” (Festival Scope), The Strawberry Tree is an intimate, feature-length documentary about the inhabitants of the remote fishing village of Juan Antonio, Cuba. Rapisarda Casanova shot the film shortly before the village was destroyed in a hurricane. Listen to his interview with CIUT FM’s Daniel Garber about the making of the film.

View a trailer of the film.

While the AGO screening marks The Strawberry Tree’s Canadian premiere, it’s already been touring the international festival circuit for several months. In addition to Ann Arbor, it was recently featured at film fests in Turin, Berlin and Miami. Upcoming engagements include the Locarno International Film Festival, Switzerland and the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam.

A scene from "The Strawberry Tree" clothes on a line blowing in the wind with a body of water behind it  A scene from “The Strawberry Tree” by Rapisarda Casanova

Rapisarda Casanova credits his time at York as a pivotal period for his professional development. “It was a great opportunity for me to mature as a filmmaker,” he said. “For the first time in several years, I was immersed in a very dynamic and stimulating environment that encouraged me to pursue my experimental film work.”

Also on the Images playbill April 20 at the AGO is Protocol, an experimental short by Lina Rodriguez (BFA ‘05), showing in the Sidewalk Stories program at 9pm. Originally shot in Super 8, it offers a glimpse of the imposing Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas in Cartagena, Colombia.

As part of the festival’s off-screen programming, Joshua Bonnetta (BFA ‘04) presents Strange Lines and Distances, a two-channel audiovisual installation focusing on Guglielmo Marconi’s first transatlantic radio broadcast. Adding another York connection to the festival, alumna Irene Bindi (MA ’05) has written a monograph to accompany Bonnetta’s installation, which is on view at YYZ Artists’ Outlet to April 21.

Alumna Larissa Fan (MFA ’08) is represented in festival’s grand finale on Saturday, April 21 at 8pm.  Her hand-processed, black-and-white ode to the secret world of moon jellyfish, The tide goes in, the tide goes out,screens as part of the closing night gala.

For full details on the program and schedule, visit the Images Festival website.