Professor Ali Kazimi earns Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts

Ali Kazimi (image: Arlene Moscovitch)

Ali Kazimi, a filmmaker, writer, visual artist and associate professor at York University, is one of eight recipients of the 2019 Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts.

Announced by the Canada Council for the Arts on Feb. 13, the award honours artists for their exceptional careers and excellent contributions to the arts.

Winners were selected by a peer committee, and will receive a $25,000 prize and a bronze medallion at a celebration to take place on March 28 at Rideau Hall. Additionally, some of their works will be displayed at the National Gallery of Canada in the coming months.

As well, original short films featuring each of the artists have been created in their honour.

Kazimi is an artist whose work explores themes of race, social justice, migration, history, memory and archive. He is an associate professor in the School of Arts, Media, Performance and Design at York University. He served as department chair for the Department of Cinema & Media Arts from 2015-16.

“His larger project of elucidating the often-underexposed histories and experiences of racialized peoples, and exploring complex intersections of colonialism, racism, and immigration through the moving image, has significantly contributed to Canadian cinema and video art,” said Karen Tisch, arts consultant and director general of the Koffler Centre of the Arts. Tisch nominated Kazimi for the award.

His critically acclaimed films have been shown at festivals around the world, winning national and international honours and awards. Highlights of his international critical acclaim include the Donald Brittain/Gemini Award for Best Social/Political Documentary; Golden Gate Award, San Francisco International Film Fest; Golden Conch, Mumbai International Film Festival; Best Director and Best Political Documentary, Hot Docs and audience awards for Best Documentary at the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival and Los Angeles Indian Film Festival.

Ali Kazimi (image: Arlene Moscovitch)
Ali Kazimi (image: Arlene Moscovitch)

His most recent feature documentary Random Acts of Legacy premiered at Hot Docs Canadian International Film Festival in 2017 where it won a Special Mention for Best Canadian Feature Documentary. It also won the Special Jury award at the San Diego Asian American Film Festival.

Kazimi’s retrospectives count the 1998 Images Festival of Independent Film & Video (Toronto), Pacific Film Archives/Berkeley Art Museum (2006), Mumbai International Film Festival (2008) and ViBGYOR International Documentary Film Festival in Thissur, India, (2009). On the small screen, his productions have been broadcast nationally (CBC, TVO, Vision TV, CBC Newsworld, Knowledge Network and SCN) and internationally (Channel 4/UK, PBS/USA). His directing credits include more than two-dozen episodes of television documentary series.

He has also served as cinematographer for productions such as the Genie Award-winning A Song for Tibet (1992), My Niagara (1993), Bollywood Bound (2001), The Journey of Lesra Martin (2002), Fig Trees (2008) and Rex versus Singh (2009).

Kazimi is the recipient of a prestigious John R. Evans Leaders Fund from the Canada Foundation for Innovation to set up the Stereoscopic 3D Lab @York. He was the founding filmmaker, in 3DFLIC (3D Film Innovation Consortium) an inter-disciplinary academic/industry partnership (2009-12). In 2013 he designed and taught The Principles and Practice of Stereoscopic 3D Cinema, the first graduate course of its kind in the country. His stereoscopic 3D installations have been shown in galleries across Canada.

In 2012, Kazimi authored the nationally acclaimed book, Undesirables: White Canada and the Komagata Maru – An Illustrated History (Douglas & McIntyre) which was a finalist for the 2012 City of Vancouver Book Award and the 2013 BC Book Prizes (Roedrick Haig-Brown Regional Prize).

He has mentored and supervised several graduate students whose thesis films have received critical acclaim, among them Kathleen Mullen’s film Breathtaking (2010); Jorge Lozan’s film Moving Still-still life (2010); Zaheed Mawani’s film Three Walls (2011), which won awards in Oberhausen and Atlanta and was nominated for Best Short Documentary for the Canadian Screen Awards (2013); and Vicki Lean’s documentary Until the Last River, which won the Nigel Moore Award for Youth Programming at DOXA (2015) and has been nominated for the Donald Brittain Award for Best Social/Political Documentary, Canadian Screen Awards 2017.

“Throughout their outstanding careers, these artists have moved us, provoked us and stunned us,” said Simon Brault, director and CEO, Canada Council for the Arts. “They have shifted our outlooks toward new horizons, compelling us to see the world differently and sometimes even to take a stand on certain issues. Above all, they have triggered reflections within each of us that go far beyond words and images.”

The public viewing of the Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts exhibition, showing some of the winners’ selected works, will be held in partnership with the National Gallery of Canada, in Ottawa on March 28 at 5:30 p.m. The exhibition will be on display at the Gallery until Aug. 5. Kazimi’s film Fair Play will be featured in the exhibit.

See more on the award recipients online.