I had the pleasure of attending the York U Department of Film's 3rd Year Finish Line screenings at the Price Family Cinema this past week. Fellow TYS programmer Julia Crocco and I took in 7 (!) hours of video and film over the course of a two-night program that emphasized documentary and experimental narrative. Though we were consistently impressed by the talent on display, a few works in particular really excited us.
Emmerek Vanleur's documentary Cultivate which followed a young man seeking closure after his experiences on a fundamentalist religious farm, managed a rare feat in documentary filmmaking by telling a riveting story while remaining emotionally honest. The short kept us on the edge of our seats, developing a sense of suspense usually reserved for fiction film and long-form works. Following a different tradition in documentary filmmaking, Peter Howie's Pizzo (Extortion) investigated the fascinating and surprisingly shadowy world of the Windsor, Ontario pizza business.
At the other end of the spectrum, Daria Savic's experimental short Dynasties provided viewers with an immersive, almost meditative experience. By blending audio interviews with dreamlike images, the film offered a unique and complex take on what the program called “age-old themes of domestic abuse and family.”
As always, our hats are off to all the filmmakers who participated, and we can't wait to see them again at the 4th Year Finish Line.
4th Year Screening
I went to York so it goes without saying that I attended York's 4th year film screenings. I love seeing what they churn out every year. As I tweeted right after it, some good stuff was seen!
This year in particular offered us a wider and more diverse range of stories. I was pleased to see a number POC stories and casts – the films were cohesive, intelligent, well acted and realized. We also noticed that York filmmakers this year experimented a lot with forms of digital communication depictions on screen. It's here! The trend of on-screen-messaging has officially hit York as well!
Blue Eyed Drunks by director Abdul Malik was one that particularly impressed me in that respect, with its unique use of typography and design in a story about two out of place immigrants dealing with their new world. In a similar vein there was Net Folk, which gave us a a look into the Millennials and the growing digital sphere, particularly the interaction of people on and offline.
Standouts in fiction from both nights were Muna, the story of a child soldier, and The Gift, a couple's strained relationship set at the time of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Henry and I also really liked The Crocodile and the Capybara, which was a story of two brothers' doomed relationship, with shades of fairytale fantasy. Henry pointed out to me that he's coming to view these sibling stories as a permanent York fixture, and thinking back to my own screenwriting classes I have to agree. I even wrote one that was work-shopped. What can I say, sibling relationships are inherently interesting to me as an only child. Kristina Mileska (TYS2013 and 2014 award winner) and Andy Kloske's Asteroid was a highly anticipated film for us, having screened another film by them last year at the festival (Florence and the Fish) and I'm pleased to say our faith was rewarded.
There was documentary as well: I enjoyed Haunted by Presence for its rich visuals and deliberation on art and the process of creating, and A Woman Departed which was described as “a letter to a loved one, lost”.
There was also a larger number of alternative and experimental films this year. As they are not my forte, I feel my commentary should stay limited, but I did find Magician's Machina visually rich and arresting. Aforementioned Abdul Malik was the DOP and if he's reading this he knows to definitely include it in a future demo reel as he really shines here.
I hope we have the opportunity to offer some of these up for viewing again at our 2015 festival!
Submissions are still open and this year we've made it easier for our applicants – you can submit online with less hassle and paperwork. Click here to submit your film, or scroll up to find our submissions page!