By Jessica Lewis
Arts & Life Editor
While students are skipping classes to spend time in long ticket lines and crowds awaiting celebrities in the Toronto International Film Festival, Kazik Radwanski and Daniel Montgomery will be busy promoting their short film, Princess Margaret Blvd.
Radwanski, the director, and Mongomery, the producer, created the film as their fourth-year project a year ago. It was chosen to play in the Ryerson University Film Festival in May and then in a student showcase branch of TIFF, winning them an award for Best Film and the acclaimed spot Programme Five of Short Cuts Canada.
“I wasn’t expecting to get into TIFF for at least five years,” joked Radwanski last week, when they met up with The Eyeopener.
And who would think that their school project could get them into an internationally acclaimed festival?
Success has been nothing but a constant flow for the pair in the past year. Radwanski, Montgomery and the rest of their Ryerson student film crew took home the Norman Jewison Filmmaker Award in 2007 for another short film, Assault. It was a tale about a young man who learns the consequences of being intoxicated in public. They submitted it to TIFF last year, but it wasn’t accepted.
Assault is the first installment of a trilogy of age-related topics and Princess Margaret Blvd. is the last. Radwanski and Montgomery are beginning work on the middle story, which is yet to be named. It’s based on the life of Radwanski’s father as a real estate agent who goes through a slump of losing clients.
“If I wasn’t going to have this success, I wouldn’t be able to do the film because my parents wouldn’t trust me,” said Radwanski. “Now I feel like they support me, and they’re going to let me go with it.”
Princess Margaret Blvd. follows an elderly woman named Isabelle Rodante played by actress Gina Sylvester who is learning how to deal with Alzheimer’s disease. The viewer follows her as she tries to find her home on a long and snowy street in Etobicoke of the same name as the film. The viewer sees her at a doctor’s office, at home and visiting a friend.
“From the time I made the film I wasn’t necessarily exploring the disease or characters,” said Radwanski. “It’s a film about one person but it’s something people could relate to.”
The film touches a soft spot with both Radwanski and Montgomery.
“There’s tons in it about me or my own personal feelings, “ said Radwanski. “Like the doctor’s office scene. A lot of that refers to when I was in high school because I have all sorts of learning disorders so I was tested for my short term memory.”
Radwanski and Montgomery also have had family members with conditions similar to their film’s protagonist.
“When working with a subject like this, it’s important to remain conscious about how you’re working with them and be sentimental at the same time, trying to push it and really represent the qualities of the illness with what can be beautiful but frustrating,” said Montgomery.
The choice of Sylvester as the star was wise as she not only embraced the disease in a way that’s not normally portrayed, but was dedicated to a student project.
“Visiting a nursing home is no longer a job,” said Radwanski. “I didn’t want somebody that would just think it was a job. It had to be a sort of labor of love. Gina is the backbone, she is the film.”
Who you put in a movie is just as valuable as who’s behind it. The crew for Princess Margaret Blvd. including editor Ajla Odobasic, cinematographer Daniel Voshart and art director Eva Michon, have been inseperable for previous film projects and plan to continue collaborating in the future.
Montgomery feels his Ryerson education has been a valuable resource for his career path.
“Hold on to the people that you enjoy working with and just embrace the idea of contributing ideas together and collecting stories and unifying people together,” he said.
In a festival full of big names and numbers, Princess Margaret Blvd. shines with a fresh-out-of-school charm.
“A lot of people think that to get into TIFF you need to have a big budget or a student film is too small and not good enough. But I think that they can tell when people are being honest,” said Radwanski. “I used to think it was this mysterious organization but when you meet them, they’re just film lovers.”
However, Radwanski and Montgomery aren’t just basking in the glow of TIFF though. As soon as the festival is over, they’re travelling across Canada with the film to festivals in Halifax, Sudbury, and Vancouver. Then it’s back to Toronto for a Ryerson student showcase at Nuit Blanche at Camera Bar on Oct. 4.
They will also be finishing up a documentary that they co-directed, The Nakuru Slums, about their five week stay in Kenya last summer with a soccer team. The trip was funded by Ryerson.
Princess Margaret Blvd. will be playing at the new AMC theatre on Yonge and Dundas on Thursday at 8 p.m. and Friday at 2:30 p.m.