By Vanessa Greco
Theo Cornejo never lived to see the final cut of his short film, but his classmates vow to complete the work he started in his memory. Friends say the third-year image arts student died in a traffic accident on Oct. 30. He was 26 years old.
“Theo was directing a documentary about breakdancing,” said Alexandra Anderson, Cornejo’s film production professor. “The students he took on as crew members are going to finish the film for him.”
This was Cornejo’s first semester as a full-time student at Ryerson. Prior to this year, he was in the Summer Film School, a continuing education program in the faculty of Image Arts.
While he studied film part-time, Cornejo, a Humber nursing graduate, worked as a nurse at Oakville-Trafalgar Memorial Hospital.
But friends say it was his love of film that kept him going.
“He had an evident passion for film on all levels. Writing, editing, music selection, he loved it all,” said Jaemeel Robinson, a long-time friend. The two met in high school where they joined forces to make a short action film entitled Mix.
Two weeks before his death, Cornejo went to Guelph with the crew from his film production class to gather footage for his latest project — a short film about b-boys (breakdancers). For Cornejo, this was a special venture. He was a talented breakdancer, known to his b-boy friends as “Theosaurus Rex.”
One of those friends was Jasper Tey, who was interviewed that day for Cornejo’s film. The two met in 2001 while working together at Moore’s — a men’s clothing store.
“Theo is the one who really got me into breakdancing,” said Tey.
“Sometimes when there were no customers in the store we would mess around on the floor and attempt to practice dance moves.”
On Oct. 18, after wrapping up a few days of filming, Tey and Cornejo shared a dance floor together for the very last time.
That night, Cornejo gave his last big breakdancing performance at the Ward Skate Park in Guelph. An audience member captured footage of his final performance and posted it on Youtube on Nov. 3.
“The documentary he was making was about the b-boy life,” said Tey. “If he wasn’t the filmmaker he could very well be featured in it. Breakdancing was a big part of who he was.”
Born in the Philippines as Theodore Cornejo on Sept. 18, 1982, the only child would eventually move to Mississauga. He spent the better part of his childhood there and attended Iona Catholic Secondary School.
Sobia Salim, who befriended Cornejo in Grade 10, has fond memories of the two of them playing hacky sack and attending Finger Eleven concerts. Natalia Woldarsky, another long-time friend from high school who appeared in one of Cornejo’s other short films, remembers him as a talented artist.
“Theo was a different person for so many people. A nurse, a film student, a dancer, he even practiced martial arts,” said Woldarsky, who is glad to hear Cornejo’s film will be finished.
“Whatever it was he was doing he did it completely. He never did anything half way.”