movies royal cinema toronto

Lost films from the Royal Cinema remade as art

For years, Colin Geddes, TIFF programmer, founder of Ultra 8 pictures, advisor to the Reel Asian Film Festival and more, has found and preserved hundreds of unfinished 35mm film reels. Some of these reels were found in Chinatown, some in garbage heaps around the city and some in what is now Toronto's Royal Cinema.

In the basement of the Royal Cinema, Geddes uncovered several aging 35mm reels of unfinished films straight out of Hong Kong. Having previously donated footage to the University of Toronto, Geddes instead decided to give the Royal Cinema find jointly to The Reel Asian Film Festival, and LIFT. Geddes donated the find under the stipulation that the aged reels would be remade and showcased in the form of an art installation.

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In 2008, the two representatives and curators from the respective organizations (Heather Keung, Artistic Director for The Reel Asian Film Festival; and, Ben Donoghue, the Executive Director from LIFT) set upon the long and arduous journey of organizing and classifying all of the found films, then set upon the task of recruiting artists to turn these finds into fantastic installations.

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Once the artists had been selected, the installations underwent a laborious editing process. In "Officer Tuba meets the Happy Ghost", soJin Chun removed two characters from separate archived films and edited them into locations previously shot by her in Sao Paulo, Brazil and here in Toronto. Using her filmed landscapes and the archived footage, soJin created a love story where the two characters wander lonely, in search of each other, across the two separate backdrops.

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In "Yokai and Other Spirits" Cynthia Mochizuki has created a 3D interactive installation by looping a scene out of the found footage for one of the films titled "Happy Ghost 3", and then using the process rotoscoping; frames were hand-traced to create an animated portion as well. The projection and sounds are only activated by the people around the installation; otherwise the piece lies dormant, like a spirit in wait itself.

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To see all four installations you must make a bit of a journey outside of the downtown core; half of the installation can be found at the Blackwood Gallery in Mississauga and the other half at The A Space Gallery in downtown Toronto. soJin Chun's "Officer Tuba meets the Happy Ghost" and Louise Noguchi's "Snake's Shadows" installations are featuring at The A Space Gallery and Cindy Mochizuki's "Yokai and Other Spirits" and Da誰chi Sa誰to's "Never A Foot Too Far, Even" are featuring at Blackwood.

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The finished products truly accomplished what Geddes had wanted for them, and are definitely must-see installations. The showcases, appropriately coinciding with The Reel Asian Film Festival today, Saturday November 12th, between 3 and 4 pm, you can join all four artists at The A Space Gallery for an Artist Talk. Make sure to stick around afterward to enjoy the opening reception, from 5pm - 7pm.

Writing by Lauren Morocco. Photos by Nick Warzin


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