By Jacob Dubé
Matthew Robertson will be remembered for his many creative talents, as well as the confident, meaningful way he spoke to others.
Robertson, a fourth-year film studies student, avid musician, slam poet and filmmaker, died on Nov. 24, 2016. He was 21.
“He was a really creative guy, outspoken. He’s very good one on one, with a really deep mind,” said Ben Groberman, one of his best friends. Groberman and Robertson went to the same high school in Vancouver, where they played in a band together.
Groberman remembers when Robertson first tried out for their band, Hearts for Spades. Robertson was the lead singer and played guitar. The plan was for Robertson to share some of his pieces with the group, and for them to play some for him—just to see if they were a good fit.
“I remember we had him play his song first, and we were all just silent, and started laughing because we were so excited, because his song was incredible. He said ‘OK, let’s hear your songs’ and we were so embarrassed we didn’t want to play them for him. That was one of the best times we had,” Groberman said.
Groberman would also join Robertson at slam poetry competitions.
“We always used to say he was a quiet person when he talked, but he really came out of his shell on stage, especially in slam poetry,” Groberman said.
One of Robertson’s most notable slam poems, “Camel,” is all about a moment in preschool where everybody had to put down what they wanted to be when they grew up, and he wrote down the desert animal.
“I always said his poems get more amazing to me as I grow up,” Groberman said. “Because even though we were the same age, I don’t really think I was old enough to appreciate his writing.”
Since Grade 12, Robertson wanted to go into the film studies program at Ryerson. His classmates remember his various skills and his willingness to help with their projects.
Calyx Passailaigue, a fourth-year film studies student, worked with Robertson on a film where he was both director of photography and a replacement actor when someone couldn’t make it. He switched between both positions throughout the 12-hour shoot.
“He was very courageous with his ideas. He was very willing to try things and push to get things made, push to keep working and make interesting work,” Passailaigue said. “That’s why I loved working with him so much, because there was that potential and confidence there.”
Aaron Rota, one of Robertson’s friends and classmates, remembers the time that Robertson had to pitch his third-year film idea in front of his peers. Rota says he began by saying “Do you guys want to make another student film, or do you guys want to make an awesome film?” Robertson then gave out old Viewmasters and a scrapbook and pitched Cardboard Rocket Ship, a story about a child who builds a rocket ship out of cardboard and other things.
“It really got us all very excited. He pretty much filled his crew because everyone loved his pitch so much,” Rota said.
Marissa Bergougnou, a classmate who also worked on a small documentary on Robertson’s slam poetry, recalls the meaningful way he would speak to her and others.
“He was a very open person, he wasn’t afraid to talk about difficult things, difficult topics. He liked to have very personal, deep conversations. I think he really just cares for people. He wanted to hear about other people’s experiences and share his own,” she said.