York U co-hosts prestigious Visible Evidence documentary film conference


York University will co-host the largest international gathering of scholars, filmmakers and students who work in the field of documentary studies when the Visible Evidence XXII conference comes to Toronto Aug. 19 to 23.

visible evidenceEstablished in 1992, the annual Visible Evidence conference is a unique interdisciplinary forum for emerging research and ongoing debate in the field of documentary media.

The conference has been a crucial testing ground for landmark research, and is known as the most important event for nurturing and presenting new research. It addresses the history, theory and practice of documentary media.

This year, the conference is co-hosted by the Department of Cinema & Media Arts in the School of Arts, Media, Performance & Design (AMPD) at York University along with the School of Image Arts, Ryerson University and the Cinema Studies Institute, University of Toronto.

Organizers say the event offers a model of collaboration between the universities, as well as partnerships with central institutions working in the area of documentary media including Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival, the National Film Board of Canada, the Goethe Institute, imagineNATIVE Film and Media Arts Festival, Institut français and TIFF Bell Lightbox.

Events and special presentations running as part of Visible Evidence will take place at each university campus and select locations in Toronto, including the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema and TIFF Bell Lightbox.

Brenda Longfellow
Brenda Longfellow

York U organizers AMPD Cinema & Media Arts Professors Brenda Longfellow, Seth Feldman and Barbara Evans and Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies Humanities Professor Gail Vanstone planned the conference launch. It features a screening of documentaries by Canadian Indigenous filmmakers at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema Wednesday, Aug. 19 from 5:30 to 8:30pm. Co-presented by imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival and Bloor Hot Docs, the event is free and open to the public. There will be a traditional First Nations welcome and a special tribute to filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin, the director of more than 40 documentaries on issues affecting Aboriginal people in Canada. Her most recent film, Trick or Treaty? (2014) was the first film by an indigenous filmmaker to screen in the Masters program at the Toronto International Film Festival, Hi-Ho Mistahey! (2013). Trick or Treaty? will be screened at the opening along with work by other independent women filmmakers.

“The independent women filmmakers – Alanis Obomsawin, Tracey Deer and Alethea Arnaquq-Baril – who will discuss their work at the opening launch have fascinating backgrounds and come from such diverse areas in Canada – Montreal (Abenaki and Mohawk) and Iqlauit, Nunavit,” said Vanstone.

Gail Vanstone
Gail Vanstone

With more than 300 papers to be presented at approximately 80 panels, plus 15 films to be screened, the four-day schedule is overflowing with thought-provoking content. Presenters come from all over Europe, Australia, Asia and North America.

Conference participants will explore the following themes: Documenting the North; The Charge of the Real: Art, Documentary and the Social; Genocide/ Trauma/ Memory Projects; Archival Activism: Counter-Surveillance and Citizen Journalism; and Expanded Documentary and Immersive Technologies.

“Between the scholars presenting and the depth of the subjects to be explored, Visible Evidence promises to be an exceptional gathering,” said Longfellow, who is chair of the Visible Evidence organizing committee. “We received an impressive number of proposals and it was a difficult choice to narrow it down to our focused themes. We are proud of the lineup we present.”

Barbara Evans
Barbara Evans

On Friday, Aug. 21 when York University hosts the conference, there is a free, public screening of Universe Within, the final instalment of the Emmy-winning Highrise Project. A prime example of interactive, online documentary, the film is a multi-year, collaborative documentary experiment at the National Film Board of Canada. Its subject focuses on vertical living around the world. Director Kat Cizek and senior story developer Heather Friese will be available for questions after the screening, which takes place at 5:45pm in the Sandra Faire and Ivan Fecan Theatre in Accolade East Building.

York University scholars chair nine panel discussions and present seven papers including Feldman’s presentation “Big Nemo’s War: Winsor McCay and The Sinking of the Lusitania,” Evan’s “Jenny’s Dogsled Journey: The Arctic Diaries of Jenny Gilbertson” and Cinema & Media Studies doctoral candidate Genne Speers’ “Towards a Final Image of the World: Aerial Evidence of the First World War”.

Screenings include works by two Cinema & Media Arts Professors, Philip Hoffman’s Aged (2014) and Slaughterhouse (2014), and works in progress by John Greyson as part of a presentation called Interrobanging’: Aesthetic Interventions in a Post-Visual Landscape. Professor Ali Kazimi, chair of the Department of Cinema & Media Arts welcomes conference goers into the Stereoscopic 3D Lab to experience his 3D installation Real Presence: Fair Play.

Seth Feldman
Seth Feldman

In conjunction with the Visible Evidence conference, the 2015 Summer Institute in Cinema & Media Arts at York University is offering a graduate seminar in contemporary documentary and the course titled, “Interactive and Expanded: Documentary Innovations in the 21stCentury” will provide an intensive immersion in contemporary documentary theory and practice for students both before, during and after the conference. Prominent speakers from the conference will offer workshops for graduate students enrolled in the course. The course, which began Aug. 17, runs to Aug. 26. Students are encouraged to follow their own interests and are required to attend at least eight conference events or panels.

“Visible Evidence is a remarkable opportunity for our students to connect directly with scholars from around the world who share their passion for documentary film,” said Feldman. “Documentary is a quickly evolving idea and it is the intention of this course to help students follow that evolution into the future.”

For more on the conference, visit http://www.visibleevidencexxii.ca.