Seamlessness can be a yawn. This year, the Parkdale Film and Video Showcase has programmed sabotage into its lineup. Sometime during the festival weekend, artist Jon Sasaki will try to shut off each of the monitors displaying the other video installations in the showcase. Ostensibly Sasaki’s jealous retaliation over the disappointing outcome of his own piece, this act of planned troublemaking finds an appropriate home in a festival that, due to funding uncertainties, almost didn’t happen this summer.
Now back on stable ground (in the Queen Street West vicinity, of course), the 15th Annual Parkdale Film and Video Showcase opens on Friday July 19 at the Gladstone Hotel. Founded by a group of local artists back in 1999, the pay-what-you-can festival, like the neighbourhood itself, has undergone multiple transformations since that time. After dropping the name “REHAB” in the mid-2000s, it migrated from its divey digs at Club OV’s to more upscale venues. It also began accepting works from filmmakers who live in parts of the city other than Parkdale. But throughout all its shifts, the festival has maintained its original goal of bridging the gap between artists within the Parkdale community and the area’s cultural sector.
“Rather than focusing on making a big splash on the international scene, it’s about day-to-day living and community,” says artistic director Rebecca Gruihn. “We want to be reminded that we can affect each other day-to-day through art, and we can affect the neighbourhoods that we live in by connecting to our community and looking at the social change that can happen through artistic expression.”
This sentiment is particularly overt in this year’s ReAct program. Featuring documentary works by Paul Wong and Chase Joynt, among others, the program aims to offer less-prescriptive representations of gender-based violence and discrimination. Gruihn says the inspiration for the theme came from her disillusionment with the way she’d seen sexual assault portrayed both by Hollywood and by the artists she encountered in academia. Another inspiration was the strong activist reaction to the slew of sexual assaults that happened around Christie Pits and other Toronto neighbourhoods last year.
“I was really excited by people like Stephanie Guthrie and the people that organized the SlutWalks,” Gruihn said, “So my thought was to bring these two experiences together to create space where we can talk critically about sexual violence in media and in film, and look at alternative ways of dealing with that subject matter.”
Other highlights this year include an outdoor, all-ages-welcome screening at Albert Crosland Parkette on Saturday night, featuring nine short films from Toronto-area directors. And in addition to Sasaki’s installation in the window of Capital Espresso, you can check out other video works at Common Sort vintage and Go Lounge all weekend. If you’ve got good timing, you might even catch them getting shut off.
Local activist Stephanie Guthrie is not a founder of SlutWalk.