Ryerson grads’ documentary to screen at national film festival

From left to right: Ilana Pluchik,Elaine Zlotkowski, Ramya Jegatheesan, Althea Manasan (from left to right), pose at the Toronto Urban FIlm Festival at the Drake Hotel. (Courtesy Greg Bunker)

From left to right: Ilana Pluchik,Elaine Zlotkowski, Ramya Jegatheesan, Althea Manasan (from left to right), pose at the Toronto Urban FIlm Festival at the Drake Hotel. (Courtesy Greg Bunker)

Three Ryerson graduates have been nominated for Canada’s National Screen Institute (NSI) Online Short Film Festival.

Emerging filmmakers and alumnae from the master of journalism program, Althea Manasan, Elaine Zlotkowski and Ramya Jegatheesan, along with York University graduate Ilana Pluchik, produced and directed the short documentary, The Missing, which looks at the oil paintings of Toronto artist Ilene Sova’s The Missing Women Project.

Sova’s project features 30 large-scale portraits of women who disappeared in Ontario between 1970 and 2000. Eighteen of the portraits were displayed at the Creative Blueprint Gallery in Toronto, in an effort to draw attention to the stories of victims who have been largely ignored by police. The Missing is a continuation of Sova’s efforts.

The Missing was the second project for the four directors and founders of Beyond the Rabbit Hole Productions. Their first short film, Footprints, is silent and a minute in length, and won big at the Toronto Urban Film Festival, which they entered without any expectations. “Sometimes you just have to throw yourself in there,” Zlotkowski said.

The film, which the festival showed on 290 screens across 60 subway stations, is a showcase of the city’s diversity. It won the festival’s Viewers’ Choice Award as well as the Emerging Toronto Filmmakers Award.

The four say they were surprised by their success, and Zlotkowski admits she thought it was a fluke. “We considered it an honour just being selected for the competition,” she said.

Manasan attributes their decision to continue making films to the awards Footprints received. “I’d say that’s when we were like, ‘we can do this thing,’” she said. Soon after, the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival caught their attention. They were given a theme, and had five days to shoot and edit their film. The result was a rough version of The Missing. When they didn’t place in the festival, they decided to re-edit and submit it to the NSI. The group is currently waiting for word on how their documentary ranks.

“I hope that this (festival) pushes us again,” Manasan says.

After submitting to the NSI, the part-time filmmakers have put their productions on hiatus to work on other pursuits. They do, however, have another project in mind, focusing on a new form of opera in Toronto.

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