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October 24, 2002 YES: 30 years of originality and vision



by Chris Paré

Three decades of independent student cinema were marked last week when Concordia University’s film production students held the 30th annual Year-End Screenings (YES). The event, held from May 7 to 10, showcased 70 films over four nights to packed auditoriums.

While only six first-year films get selected, all students from second year on, including master’s students. are eligible to submit.

The screenings seemed like a full-blown festival at times. There were no maverick filmmakers accepting statuettes, however, nor stealthy seat-fillers to take your place should the need to go to the bathroom arise. It was a modest affair, but one that spoke volumes with its substance.

Melanie Garcia has finished her second year in film production. She is one of six people in her class who was selected to direct a production this past year based on the script she submitted.

Her film, Recollection, is the story of Joe, a nondescript guy who wakes up on a friend’s floor and proceeds to try and piece together the events of the previous evening. She says the shoot was unexpectedly smooth, something she was not expecting but does not hesitate in crediting to her program.

“Some people need film school and some people don’t,” she said. “I’m not someone who could take their tuition money and use it for a short film instead. Some people who could do that because they’re extraordinarily gifted, but for me, it’s to meet people, work with profs, get their advice, and to produce work that is supported by the university. I need that right now.”

YES Organizer and Cinema Students Association member Ragnar Keil worked on five films this past year, but did not get to direct his own. Keil, who is going into his third year, was too busy to be disappointed. In fact, he was buoyed by the success of this year’s screening.

“I was surprised that there was such a good response,” he remarked Saturday afternoon while still struggling to finish that night’s program. “We weren’t counting on so many people showing up for the first night.”

The proof is in the numbers, or in this case, ballots. Unlike previous editions, this year’s organizers gave audiences (already primed on reality-show democracy) the opportunity to vote for the favourites, with the top five from each night going on to the final screening on Saturday night.

“We think it enriches the program; people are very interested in that judging by how they responded. The [ballot] boxes were very full. They’re happy to have their say,” Keil said.

Democracy is a heavy burden when the field of competition is this good. Documentaries weigh in next to animated shorts and experimental montages, each more ambitious than the next. Some films weren’t even out of the gate before they were stepping up to the podium, like Mathieu Grondin, who already collected a Kodak prize in photography for Capitalism & Schizophrénie, his hyper-surreal ode to Last Year at Marienbad.

Grondin is not alone. Nurjahan Akhlaq and Emily Frasier are among many film production students garnering honours outside the school for the strength and vision of their work. If this year’s offerings are any indication of what future film students can conceive, events like this should continue in perpetuity.