Concordia University

Cinema alumnae win big at Toronto International Film Festival

Katherine Jerkovic and Meryam Joobeur take home awards for Best Canadian First Feature and Best Canadian Short Film
October 1, 2018
By Kerry McElroy

Brotherhood, by alumna Meryam Joobeur won Best Canadian Short Film at TIFF this year. Brotherhood, by alumna Meryam Joobeur won Best Canadian Short Film at TIFF this year.

While the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema has produced many graduates who have become award-winning, acclaimed filmmakers, the results of this year’s Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) awards is especially sweet.

Two of the four big awards reserved for Canadian filmmakers at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) have gone to Concordia alumnae. Both winners, Katherine Jerkovic (BFA 02, MFA 07) and Meryam Joobeur (BFA 13) are women directors, part of a global explosion of women filmmakers.

‘Concordia really shaped my life’

Jerkovic won Best Canadian First Feature Film for her narrative film Roads in February. She is a Uruguayan-Belgian director who has made her home in Montréal for several decades, The film, which had its world premiere at TIFF, is a semi-autobiographical story of a young Montréaler who travels back to Uruguay after many years, to reconnect with a grandmother she barely knows.

Concordia figures prominently in her own journey as a filmmaker. The graduate of both an undergraduate and graduate degrees in Film Production at MHSC says, “Concordia really shaped my life. I’m so grateful for it.”

Consequently, she can almost always spot a fellow Concordian in the film world.

“I recognize the story signature from Concordia even if I don’t know them. There is an imprint, a visual strength, an open-minded, edgy quality.”

Concordia’s other alumna winner this year was Meryam Joobeur, who collected the prize for Best Canadian Short Film for her submission, Brotherhood. Joobeur is a Tunisian-American who came to Montréal to study at Concordia, stayed, and now considers herself part of the Québécois cinema scene.

Brotherhood is a taut French-language story of a family in rural Tunisia in which connections between father and brothers are tested by political and cultural tensions when one brother brings home a mysterious new wife.

“The film successfully explored complex personal and political themes...the film was evidently made with a sense of maturity that points to a bright future from Meryam Joobeur,” the TIFF jury noted in its remarks.   

'Students are really one another’s most influential teachers'

Filmmaker Jean-Claude Bustros, Chair of the School of Cinema, had the distinction of teaching both these award-winning directors during their time at Concordia.

He served as Jerkovic’s undergraduate instructor and graduate thesis advisor.

“Katharine is quite an amazing person. She’s always working, always moving forward. Not just in her filmmaking, but in her commitment to independent film: supporting it and advocating for it,” he says.

“Joobeur is a brilliant filmmaker as well,” says Bustros, who was her production instructor.  “They are both special people.”

As for the School's signature style that is becoming recognized more and more, Bustros gives credit to his students for being the authors of their own success.

“We create an environment as instructors here. We accompany them. But the students are really one another’s most influential teachers.”

'Reflecting the global tendencies of present-day cinema'

Two filmmakers from hybrid identities, forged in Montréal, filming in multiple languages and in multiple countries, pressing on as women directors in a male-dominated field: Katherine Jerkovic and Meryam Joobeur really point to a wave of the future, says Film Studies professor and feminist film documentarian Rosanna Maule.

“Concordia, and the Mel Hoppenhiem School of Cinema in particular, are reflecting the global tendencies of present-day cinema. It is exciting that top talent from Concordia like Jerkovic and Joobeur are part of this historic sea change in cinema towards both globalism and women’s emergence.”

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