Documentary film has a remarkable power to educate, inspire and be a catalyst for social change. Filmmakers shine a spotlight on critical issues and use the medium to bring their messages to audiences around the world. The Planet in Focus film festival, now in its 16th year, returns in 2015 and continues to raise awareness about environmental issues.
Planet in Focus was founded by York University alumnus Mark Haslam (MES ’99, MFA ’00) to promote awareness, discussion and engagement on a broad range of environmental issues. York’s continued participation in the festival will be marked this year with satellite events on campus and downtown events featuring York U delegates, notable alumni and faculty involvement.
Headlining the opening night gala on Thursday, Oct. 22, is the Toronto premiere of the feature documentary After the Last River (2015/88 minutes), the thesis production of recent York graduate Victoria Lean (MFA ’14, MBA ’14). The screening, sponsored by York’s Department of Cinema & Media Arts, takes place at 6:30pm at the Royal Cinema (608 College St.), followed by a Q&A session with Lean and other special guests. Tickets are available online.
Billed as a “spectacular point-of-view documentary,” After the Last River connects personal stories from the Attawapiskat First Nation to entwined mining industry agendas and government policies. It paints a complex portrait of this isolated part of northern Ontario that is a homeland to some and a profitable new frontier to others.
After the Last River won the Nigel Moore Award for Youth Programming at its world premiere earlier this year at the DOXA Documentary Film Festival in Vancouver. It has since been shown at Ottawa’s One World Film Festival, Cinema Politica in Montreal and the Yellowknife Film Festival, among others.
Planet in Focus also hosts the Toronto premiere of Strange and Familiar: Architecture on Fogo Island (2014/55 minutes), co-directed by visual art and art history Professor Katherine Knight and cinema and media arts alumna and cinematographer Marcia Connolly (MFA ’10). The screening takes place Friday, Oct. 23, at 6:30pm at Jackman Hall, Art Gallery of Ontario (317 Dundas St. W.). Tickets can be purchased online.
Strange and Familiar documents the striking designs and impact of architect Todd Saunders’ artist studios and the Fogo Island Inn, which have transformed the remote rocky outcrop off the coast of Newfoundland into a geotourism destination. The film picked up prizes for Best Atlantic Documentary and Best Cinematography at the Atlantic Film Festival in Halifax last month. It is screening at nine festivals around the world in just over six weeks, including the Lisbon Architecture Film Festival and the Architecture & Design Film Festival in New York.
A highlight of Planet in Focus is the Festival Forum, a full day of screenings and talks with guest experts in the fields of food/GMOs, mining, seed security, economics, ethics and e-waste. York U students are invited to join the debate on Saturday, Oct. 24, starting at 11:30am at Innis College (2 Sussex Ave.). Complimentary tickets are available at the door on a first come, first served basis (student ID required).
For the full Planet in Focus program and screening schedule, visit the festival website.
Planet in Focus on campus
As a prelude to the fest, a free public screening of Cosima Dannoritzer’s The E-waste Tragedy (2014/84 minutes) will be held in the Nat Taylor Cinema (N102 Ross Building) on Tuesday, Oct. 20, at 12:30pm, followed by a panel discussion with the filmmaker. This eye-opening investigation probes the toxic, often illegal global trade in the 50 million tons of electronic waste – computers, TVs, mobile phones, household appliances – discarded annually in the developed world.
FES will also host a special screening for high school students and their teachers on Thursday, Oct. 29, from 10am to 2pm. The playbill features The Little Things, an engaging look at what a group of professional snowboarders are doing to embrace sustainability, and Return to Ryan’s Well, an inspiring story showing how one person can make a lasting difference. The films will be followed by a panel discussion with FES faculty members. Admission is free for participating schools. More information and registration is available online.