This article has been updated since published to include Andrew Munger’s reaction to President Mohamed Lachemi’s decision to remove the logo from the film, as well as Lachemi’s response to Munger.
By Sarah Krichel
Ryerson President Mohamed Lachemi has apologized to Niagara Falls mayor Jim Diodati for a mini-documentary, created by Ryerson students, that portrays the city in a negative light.
Ryerson students Christian Bunea, Taylor Ness, Valentin Bacalu and Justin Diezmo produced a four-minute video, As Niagara Falls, through Mayday Pictures that highlights the economic issues that are overshadowed by tourism in Niagara Falls. It was published on Vimeo on March 27.
Diodati posted a statement in response to the video on March 28 thanking the public for their support.
“We, like many of you, were saddened to see our beautiful city depicted in this poor light. It is not that we are not aware of the places and spaces that need some care and t.l.c. It is not either that we don’t care,” wrote Diodati. “We work diligently on some of the main projects – that we believe wholeheartedly, no, that we know will help strengthen our community and lift us up.”
Lachemi issued a statement to Diodati in response, expressing his apology for the controversy the video may have caused. The video featured Ryerson’s logo and the School of Image Arts logo.
“The opinions expressed in this film by some of our junior students do not represent the opinions of Ryerson University or the School of Image Arts,” wrote Lachemi. “We will be asking them to remove the Ryerson University logo from their documentary.”
“We do apologize for any negative feeling generated by their work,” he wrote.
Mayday Pictures stated on its Facebook page that they stand by the message.
“We wanted to give a voice to the people,” Mayday Pictures told The Eyeopener. “By putting the film on social media we hoped to build a conversation that acknowledges the problem.
“We feel that [the mayor] specifically targeted our work out of context, but the real message of the film is in the voices of Niagara’s people; whether they agree or disagree with the issues raised,” Mayday Pictures added.
In the video, one of the unnamed interviewees said, “to be honest, this whole place is just a money grab.”
“It just sucks seeing so much money come in here and not going back to the city.”
Andrew Munger, a film studies alumni from 1990, sent an email to Lachemi and The Eyeopener expressing his “disturbed” reaction to the events of the school asking the filmmakers to remove the Ryerson logo from the short film. The email was signed by several Ryerson alumni from film studies, media arts, journalism and RTA departments.
Munger said in the email that Lachemi owes an apology to the student filmmakers for violating what “academia is supposed to stand for.”
“I am deeply disturbed appointed and in fact disgusted by your actions. A film school is where filmmakers learn their craft and learn to push boundaries,” the email reads.
Munger currently works for White Pine Pictures, an independent Canadian film and television production company based in Toronto.
“Through your actions you display a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of media, journalism, filmmaking and academia and have done a great disservice not only to current Ryerson film students but the broader Ryerson film, media and journalism community, who today are some of the most acclaimed filmmakers, journalists and Media makers in Canada.”
Lachemi’s response to the email was that he wanted to clarify the misinterpretation of his reaction to the film.
“While I did send a personal email to the Mayor of Niagara Falls offering an apology to anyone who was offended by the movie, I did not cast any blame towards Ryerson students,” his email response reads. “In fact, the only thing we asked of our students on this project was that they remove the university logo from their film and follow proper usage guidelines in the future.”
Lachemi wrote in the email that on April 7, he met with image arts students and faculty to “reiterate [his] support for their work” and that Ryerson “embraces, unequivocally, freedom of thought and expression” in learning and teaching activities.
Mayday Pictures said they have received comments on their posts and videos that argue the same points that the mayor did, but “these comments only fuel our message of people denying the problems that need to be fixed.”
The Ryerson logo has since been removed.