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ATVF student film wins TVO Today Short Doc Contest

Jun 23, 2023
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Sheridan Advanced Television and Film (ATVF) alumna Riel Flack (‘21) is the winner of the 2022-23 TVO Today Short Doc Contest, an annual initiative that celebrates excellence in short documentaries created by Ontario filmmakers.

Riel Flack is pictured at the Toronto Black Film Festival with fellow Sheridan ATVF graduate Tope Babolola and former CFL player Orlando Bowen.Flack’s film They Can’t. So I Must: The Orlando Bowen Story is a powerful portrait of Orlando Bowen, a Black Canadian athlete whose Canadian Football League career was cut short by police abuse. The short documentary, which was pitched and created while Flack studied at Sheridan, also received the contest’s People’s Choice Award as the finalist to receive the most online votes during a three-week period.

“Winning this contest is extremely significant to me. The most important cause of this film was to make people aware of what happened to Orlando Bowen, and TVO Today is the perfect vehicle for getting the story out,” says Flack, whose film crew consisted of fellow ATVF students Dara Eshaghian (director), Siddhi Patel (editor) and Tope Babalola, Sara Hellich and Melanie Wong (producers). “People need to understand that racial profiling happens here in Canada as well.”

They Can’t. So I Must: The Orlando Bowen Story was previously named Best Short Documentary at the Montreal International Black Film Festival and Best Student Film at the United Kingdom’s Kingston International Film Festival. Bowen and former Toronto Argonauts star player and head coach Michael ‘Pinball’ Clemons attended the film’s Toronto premiere earlier this year at the Toronto Black Film Festival.

Two other ATVF student films, Open Waters (produced by 2022 graduates Jake Godfrey and Sneha Sharma; directed by Santiago Belalcazar) and Adulting (produced by Lourdes Miere; directed by Kezia Angelica) were among the nine other finalists in this year’s TVO Today Short Doc Contest. Open Waters, which received the contest’s My Ontario Award, is a poetic expositional documentary about the practice of open-water swimming in Lake OntarioAdulting follows 20-something-year-old Amy on her quest to understand and overcome the responsibilities of adulthood.

A strong year of storytelling successes

The ATVF students’ recognition in the TVO Today Short Doc Contest continue Sheridan's strong history of success training award-winning storytellers.

Chen Sing Yap (Bachelor of Film and Television ‘23), for example, recently received a Student Award of Merit at the Canadian Cinema Editors (CCE) awards, marking the 13th straight year that a Sheridan student has earned the accolade. Yap was honoured for stellar picture editing work on Deysnc, the capstone film he created in his fourth year of Sheridan’s Honours Bachelor of Film and Television degree program. He is also a past recipient of an International Students Creative Award, claiming first prize in the 2020 competition for his short film Shift about the mental health toll the COVID-19 pandemic exacted on a nurse.

Also at this year’s CCE’s, 2004 ATVF graduate Steve Taylor claimed a Best Editing in Docu-series/Docu drama/Factual/Documentary Short Form award for The Unsolved Murder of Beverly Lynn Smith: Episode 101 — The Catch.

Elsewhere, 13 Sheridan graduates took home hardware at the 2023 Canadian Screen Awards, with two more earning top honours at the Canadian Society of Cinematographers Awards.

“I'm always pleased, proud and inspired to see our students and graduates receive such vast and significant industry recognition," says Ann Callaghan, Associate Dean, Film, TV and Journalism in Sheridan's Faculty of Animation, Arts & Design. “It is a testament to the quality of talented students who are annually attracted to Sheridan, to the tremendous faculty who nurture their ideas and support them in the execution of their vision, and to the caliber of programming, technology and equipment that Sheridan provides.”

– Pictured in photo, Sheridan ATVF graduates Tope Babalola (left) and Riel Flack (centre) pose with Orlando Bowen, the subject of Flack's short documentary, during the film's Toronto premiere at this year's Toronto Black Film Festival.
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