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Fourth-year Film students screen 14 thesis films at the historic Winter Garden Theatre

Image Arts Film Festival showcases student talent during the two-night event
By: Aya Elmeligy
May 09, 2023

Image Arts Film (opens in new window)  students showcased 14 thesis films at the annual Image Arts Film Festival (IMAFF) that took place on April 28 and 29, 2023. The student-run festival showcases the work of the Film undergraduate students, supports Canada’s future creatives and aims to strengthen Toronto’s identity as a leading film-production hub.

Two students, Katie wearing a dress and Gira wearing a suit, are standing in front of a wood podium. The word IMAFF is projected behind them on a screen.

Katie Murday, IMAFF Executive Director and Giran Findlay, Creative Director, at night two of the festival. Image courtesy of Frieda Wang

A black and white photo of the audience filling out most seats at the Winter Garden Theater.

Winter Garden Theatre packed with attendees for IMAFF final night and award ceremony. Image courtesy of Frieda Wang

“IMAFF is a truly unique event, entirely run by students. It's a celebration of the end of their academic and filmmaking journey within the program and an opportunity for them to showcase the culmination of their learning through their fourth-year capstone projects,” says John Tarver, Film Program Director. “But the festival is more than just a year-end screening; it's the first step in their journey towards a future career in Canada's thriving film industry.”

Image Arts Film students are posing together in front of white a banner with "IMAFF" repeatedly printed on it in black.

Fourth-year Image Arts Film Students at the Winter Garden Theater. Image courtesy of Audrey Persaud

The 2023 Image Arts Film Festival (previously known as the Ryerson University Film Festival) took place at the Winter Garden Theatre, a double-decker theatre that has a rich history dating back a century. This year, IMAFF welcomed a record-breaking 1,259 people to the festival over two days, says Katie Murday, Executive Director of IMAFF 2023.

The two nighttime screenings of the thesis films were accompanied by day-time activities such as screenings, networking events, and discussion panels led by prominent voices within the Canadian film industry. These new additions to the festival enabled greater outreach within the film community and helped garner more attention from the general public.

“After two-and-a-half years of pandemic isolation, the fourth-year films featured in the Film Festival exemplified the sophistication and complexity of the best character studies, while doing more with less,” added Katy McCormick, Interim Chair of Image Arts. “Honing in on authentic experiences of joy, loss, hope, courage, and persistence, the stories explored brought viewers into intensely full worlds contained in powerfully rich vignettes, exemplifying the best of what the IMA program offers its students."

A still image of a little girl with black hair and bangs dressed shirt and vest looking down.

Still from Tantrum, written and directed by Soomin Choi

A still image of two women laughing together. The woman on the left is covering her mouth with her hand.

Still from Buzz Kill,  written and directed by Tafyra Poyser

The themes of IMAFF 2023 

This year the focus of IMAFF was on encouraging inclusivity, celebrating diversity, and taking advantage of being back in person.

“I think many of the films this year were ultimately about reconciliation. Reconciling different kinds of relationships, be it romantic, platonic or familial like in the films Ninth Step, Adagio, Score for Scene 7, reconciling difficult experiences growing up in Tantrum, Chiles Rellenos, Manly Enough, or even reconciling grief as seen in Eleanor in the Evening, Frida in the Sky, Buzzkill, Vela,” added Ollie Coombs, fourth-year Film student and IMAFF 2023 Programming Director. “This year, we saw some really inventive and polished work.”

A woman is standing outdoors. She is wearing a toque and a scarf staring ahead.

Still from Eleanor in the Evening, written and directed by Giran Findlay

Still from Frida in the Sky,  written and directed by Dani Sadun

The beginning of a creative journey 

“The experience of the film program at IMA is one of personal creative growth as an artist, learning valuable skills, but more than anything becoming part of a close-knit community of The Creative School alumni,” said Tarver. 

Throughout their four-year academic journeys,  Film students learn all aspects of filmmaking, including writing, producing, cinematography and directing through hands-on creative projects. Being located in the heart of Toronto, the epicentre of filmmaking in Canada, students are mentored by diverse faculty and peers.

“The film program gave us all the chance to grow into ourselves and into our art and allowed us to collaborate so closely.  We all champion each other's successes, and I can’t wait to see what we all accomplish in the years to come,” added Coombs. “Speaking personally, I am looking forward to taking the experiences I’ve had, producing several films and organizing IMAFF to start my career.”

A man and woman are sitting down at a piano. The woman looks down at the keys as the man stares at the music sheet

Still from Score for Scene 7,  written and directed by Lizzie Han

Image Arts Film Festival 2023 Award Winners

Achievement in Direction - Soomin Choi

Achievement in Production - Renee Foy

Achievement in Cinematography - Hayden Salter

Achievement in Screenwriting - Lizzie Han

Achievement in Production Design - Stephanie Sakaki

Achievement in Editing - Kielan Ellis

Achievement in Sound Design - Bronwen Spolsky

Achievement in Wardrobe Design - Nelie Diverlus

Achievement in Hair/Makeup - Lauren Charest

People’s Choice Night 1 - Esteban Powell’s “Vela”

People’s Choice Night 2 - Dani Sadun’s “Frida In The Sky”

Women in Film Award - Lizzie Han

BIPOC Artist Award - Sebastian Marin

To learn more about the Image Arts Film Festival 2023, the team, and the 2023 thesis films, visit their website (external link, opens in new window) .

The Creative School at Toronto Metropolitan University

The Creative School is a dynamic faculty that is making a difference in new, unexplored ways. Made up of Canada’s top professional schools and transdisciplinary hubs in media, communication, design and cultural industries, The Creative School offers students an unparalleled global experience in the heart of downtown Toronto.