John Greyson (February 20 to 23, 2007)
A video artist, filmmaker and writer, John Greyson studied visual art in London, Canada before emerging on the Toronto video art scene in the 1980s. Much of his early, formally freewheeling video work is engaged with gay rights, AIDS activism and censorship, and he has woven many of these stylistic and thematic aspects into his later more narrative driven feature-length works. He made his first feature, URINAL, in 1988, and in 1991 attended the Canadian Film Centre (CFC) in Toronto. Greyson has gone on to direct five more feature films, episodes of MADE IN CANADA and QUEER AS FOLK, and countless short films. His work has earned him numerous awards internationally, including the Best Picture Genie for LILIES in 1996, and the Toronto Arts Award for media arts in 2000. He currently teaches in the Film and Video Department at York University.
Selected Works by John Greyson
Set in South Africa in the 18th century, PROTEUS is based on real events. A young Khoe herder, Claas, is unjustly accused of theft and sentenced to hard labour in Cape Town’s penal colony on Robben Island. While there he crosses paths with two other men, Rijkhaart, a Dutch sailor, and Virgil, an English botanist who enlists Claas’ help in cultivating the South African protea flower for export to the European market. But when Virgil catches Claas and Rijkhaart in an illicit affair, he sets in motion a course of events with tragic consequences for all.
“Greyson’s latest offering is perhaps his most precisely crafted film to date. As beautiful and lush as the flower after which it is named, PROTEUS is an exquisite period piece that skilfully explores the intersections of sex, race and politics.” – Liz Czach, Toronto International Film Festival.
As teenagers in Sarnia, Beatrice (Sarah Polley) was drawn to the shy, sensitive Henry (Brendan Fletcher) because she thought that he was gay and dying of AIDS. When she discovers instead that he’s neither gay, nor has AIDS, but is instead about to undergo an extremely difficult surgery to treat his cancer, she gives him the gift of a memorable night, thinking that it will be his last. When he miraculously survives, the couple are given the chance to build a life together… Adapted from the novel by Dale Peck, THE LAW OF ENCLOSURES is a hopeful film about overcoming the wrongs of the past and the rediscovery of love.
“In Québec in 1952, and aging bishop accedes to the unusual request to hear a prisoner’s confession inside the penitentiary. On entering the confessional in the prison chapel, the bishop finds himself locked inside, held against his will and forced to watch through a keyhole as the prisoners stage an elaborate recreation of events from 40 years ago, when he and the confessor were locked in a love triangle with another boy, the beautiful Vallier…Based on Michel Marc Bouchard’s stage play “Les fleurettes,” Greyson turns his trademark style to the telling of an ethereally moving tale of tragic romantic love, jealousy and betrayal.” David McIntosh, Toronto International Film Festival. Winner of the Genie for Best Picture in 1996.
“What do Pierre Trudeau, circumcision, and copyright law have in common? John Greyson has assembled a cast of three eccentric Peters to explore this question in this genre-bending film…Continuing in the vein of his first feature, ZERO PATIENCE, Greyson melds opera and political activism, melodrama and interviews, the bizarre and the mundane in UNCUT.” – Helen du Toit, Toronto International Film Festival
An assortment of deceased great gay artists from history are mysteriously brought back from the dead and summoned to a Toronto garden to be given a special assignment: to investigate the causes, history and implications of public urinal arrests in Ontario. Over the course of seven evenings, Sergei Eisenstein [see CFI’s Spotlight programme], Frida Kahlo, Yukio Mishima, Langston Hughes, Frances Loring and Frances Wyle are presented with data relating to a number of gay-issues, including the history of public washroom sex and its policing. Greyson’s first feature, URINAL challenges conventions, drawing on techniques from video, documentary, narrative and experimental film to create a thought-provoking examination of the history and status of gays and lesbians in contemporary society. Winner of the Teddy award at the 1989 Berlin Film Festival.
“Greyson has woven a tall tale of love and loss, sex and science, history and hysteria in the age of AIDS. A zany post-modern musical drawing from influences as diverse as Bertolt Brecht, Busby Berkeley, Michel Foucault and Barbra Streisand, ZERO PATIENCE sings and dances its way through a gloriously queer exposé of the greed, homophobia, and careerism underlying media and scientific responses to AIDS…Fast-paced, hilarious and provocative, ZERO PATIENCE is essential viewing for anyone dealing with AIDS – and that includes all of us” –David McIntosh, Toronto Film Festival
selection of short works by John Greyson
The Perils of Pedagogy (1984, 5 min.)
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