By Elizabeth Sargeant
Award season is here and to no one’s surprise, the Oscars are still in their flop era.
Sure, this year’s film season was cool and we saw Benedict Cumberbatch’s butt. But do you know what’s cooler? Hand-making 30 tiny ocean puppets for a final thesis film; working alongside homeless youth to spread awareness rather than exploitation; creating award-winning documentaries from the comfort of your childhood kitchen—these are all successes achieved by none other than Rye students.
Outside of the rolling hills of Hollywood, we at The Eyeopener have been covering student-made films that are truly making a difference—and are actually really good. From short and intimate documentaries to full-length feature films, these young creators have put their blood, sweat and tears into creating the next wave of quality Canadian cinema—which we believe deserves recognition.
Therefore, we are oh so excited to present the first annual Eyescars—a set of awards we hold close to our hearts and are thrilled to hand out virtually. Without further ado, roll film!
Sweetest Storyline: Have You Eaten?
Ryerson grad Lina Li’s documentary Have You Eaten? was her final thesis project for her film program and has already been picked up by the National Film Board and the New Yorker. Following the cooking process of traditional Chinese dumplings, this film engages in the delicate preparation of the food and a tender conversation between mother and daughter.
Touching on their familial relationship, Li previously told The Eye that the simple scenes in the kitchen “transformed into a conversation that involves our culture and generation, and even our language barrier.” This film is both mouth-watering and tear-jerking—winning the Eyescar for Sweetest Storyline.
Best Canadian Representation: Scarborough
Scarborough, directed by journalism alum Shasha Nakhai, is a film that made its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) this year, receiving all the love for its raw representation of Scarborough and its diverse and intersecting communities. The story follows three families living below the poverty line navigating the many systems put in place to keep them from succeeding.
According to an interview with TIFF, Nakhai wanted to represent the Filipinx community in the Canadian cinematic landscape. “We want folks whose experiences are reflected in the film to feel affirmed and seen; to centre communities that are often an afterthought to those in power; and to remind everyone of the value that educators, caregivers and frontline workers have,” she said. Nakhai receives the Eyescar for Best Canadian Representation for illustrating and uplifting realistic depictions of the GTA community.
Coolest Set Design: The Lost Seahorse
Film grad (2021) Benjamin Fieschi-Rose and his team spent hundreds of hours the past year mimicking an underwater scene for the stop motion film, The Lost Seahorse. The film follows the journey of a seahorse trying to find his way home and meeting other creatures along the way. The set was completely handmade, 10-feet wide and created all the while following strict COVID-19 restrictions.
In an interview with The Eye, Fieschi-Rose said the process of hand-making the set “opened up the opportunity to tell a story in a different world.” With this, we present The Lost Seahorse with the Eyescar of Coolest Set Design. Eat sand, Dune.
Most Powerful Production: This Is My Proof
When Rye journalism grad (2018) Serena Lalani finally had the courage to leave her abusive relationship in 2016, she felt inspired to write. Now, five years later, her story is in production, turning her painful experience into a film about triumph. This Is My Proof follows Lalani’s journey of healing as she moves from Montreal to Toronto, away from a space that once caused her harm.
In an interview with The Eye, Lalani shared that she knew “bringing awareness towards domestic violence and intimate partner violence was an important part of the impact [she] wanted to make on the world.” With this, we present This Is My Proof with the Eyescar of the Most Impactful Message as Lalani has used her skill to bravely help others.
Purest of Heart: Home
Partnered with Youth With Shelter (YWS), a care-providing charity in Etobicoke, a group of Rye students created a documentary to raise awareness about youth homelessness in Toronto. Fourth-year media production student Audrey Crunkleton and her small production team spent two weeks in January talking to the volunteers and community members that support youth experiencing homelessness on a daily basis.
Crunkleton previously told The Eye she did not want to focus on suffering, but instead wanted to shine a positive light on the people fighting to make change within the community. With this, we award Home with the Eyescar, Purest of Heart, for their efforts to eliminate ‘trauma porn’ while being truthful in their narrative.