Twelve Columbia Films to Screen at Toronto International Film Festival

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Twelve films by Columbia students, alumni or faculty members have been chosen to screen at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. A total of 23 Columbia filmmakers were involved in the making of the selected films, four of which are features and four shorts.

Film Program Professor Katherine Dieckmann’s fourth feature film, Strange Weather, will receive its world premiere at the prestigious festival, which is noted for introducing audiences to many of the year’s Academy Award contenders. The film stars Holly Hunter as a grieving mother who travels the Deep South in search of retribution.

Johnny Ma’s ’15 first feature film, Old Stone, will receive its North American premiere at the festival; it has already screened at the Berlin International Film Festival, where it received critical acclaim from such sources as Variety, which praised the film “a remarkably mature debut.” Produced by Jing Wang ’15 and Chi-an Lin ’10, the film follows a cab driver in urban China as he wades through a cruelly indifferent bureaucratic system after accidentally hitting a man with his car. The film was photographed by cinematographer Ming Kai Leung ’06, with Pei-Ju Hsieh ’14 serving as script supervisor and Avram Dodson ’15 as assistant editor.
Sarah Adina Smith’s ’05 CC second feature film, Buster’s Mal Heart, is also receiving its world premiere at Toronto; the film, which stars Mr. Robot’s Rami Malek as a mysterious fugitive, was produced by fellow Columbia graduate Jonako Donley ’05 CC. Also recieving world premieres are The Levelling, the story of a rural family recovering from a suicide written and directed by Hope Dickson Leach '05,  Tramps, a romantic adventure set in New York City produced by Jamund Washington '10, and Catfight, a madcap black comedy line produced by alum Maddie Shapiro '14 will also be showing. By the Time It Gets Dark (Dao Khanong), a feature comprised of multiple narratives that together illustrate a history of Thailand, directed by Anocha Suwichakornpong '06 and also photographed by Ming Kai Leung, will receive its North American premiere after debuting at the Locarno Film Festival earlier this year. Jesús, edited by Andrea Chignoli '07, depicting the volatile relationship between a wayward teen and his disapproving father will also show.

Current student Mounia Akl’s short film Submarine is also scheduled to screen at the festival. The short received its world premiere earlier this year at the Cannes Film Festival, and took the Best Director prize at this year’s Columbia University Film Festival (CUFF), where it was also chosen to screen among Jury Selects. The short was produced by Cyril Aris ‘16 co-produced by Andrew K. Li ‘16, co-written by Clara Roquet ’16 and edited by George Sikharulidze ‘16.

Sikharulidze has two short films at the festival this year: Red Apples, which he directed and which was written and produced by Ophelia Harutyunyan ‘15, was also selected. The short received the Best Film award at CUFF this year. Also screening is Francisca Alegría’s short And the Whole Sky Fit in the Dead Cow’s Eye; produced by Birgit Gernböck, the film received Jury Selects honors at this year’s CUFF. Producer Julia Thompson’s short film Battalion to My Beat will also screen at the festival; it was also selected this year by the Atlanta International Film Festival, the Dallas International Film Festival and the Seattle International Film Festival.

The Toronto International Film Festival will begin September 8 and run through September 18.

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Columbia University School of the Arts offers MFA degrees in Film, Theatre, Visual Arts, and Writing, an MA degree in Film Studies, a joint JD/MFA degree in Theatre Management & Producing, a PhD degree in Theatre History, Literature, and Theory, and an interdisciplinary program in Sound Arts.