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Filmmaker John Greyson to visit SU for screening of 'Fig Trees'

April 13, 2010

Jemeli Tanui
(315) 443-5172

John Greyson, writer and director of many acclaimed films, such as “Zero Patience” and “Lilies,” will attend a screening of his 2009 film “Fig Trees” Tuesday, April 27, at 7:30 p.m. in the Life Sciences Complex Auditorium at Syracuse University.

“Fig Trees” is a collaborative documentary opera by Greyson and composer David Wall that chronicles the struggles of AIDS activists Tim McCaskell of Toronto and Zackie Achmat of Cape Town as they fight for access to treatment drugs. Featuring Gertrude Stein, a singing albino squirrel and St. Teresa of Avila, “Fig Trees” explores the meaning of pills, saints and activism. “Fig Trees” won the prestigious Teddy Award for Best Documentary at the Berlin International Film Festival in February 2009.

The screening, which is free and open to the public, is organized by SU’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Studies Program as part of the Transnationalizing LGBT Studies Project. The event is co-sponsored by the Departments of English and Art and Music Histories in SU’s College of Arts and Sciences; the Department of Communication and Rhetorical Studies in SU’s College of Visual and Performing Arts; and the Society for New Music.

The evening will begin with a brief introduction, followed by the screening and a question-and-answer session with Greyson.

Greyson’s visit to SU will conclude with a seminar with SU faculty and graduate students on the subject of his transnational activism and filmmaking on Wednesday, April 28.

“We are thrilled to bring acclaimed Canadian filmmaker and activist John Greyson to Syracuse,” says Roger Hallas, assistant professor of English and author of “Reframing Bodies: AIDS, Bearing Witness, and the Queer Moving Image” (Duke University Press, 2009). “Greyson has been on the cutting edge of queer filmmaking for almost three decades, engaging audiences with dazzling combinations of aesthetic innovation, political commitment and campy wit. One of the reasons we chose to invite Greyson as part of the Transnationalizing LGBT Studies Project is his longstanding dedication to working beyond national boundaries and to exploring the challenges of forging a global politics of queer solidarity.”

The recipient of the 2000 Toronto Arts Award for film/video and the 2007 Bell Award in Video Art, Greyson is a filmmaker, video artist, writer, activist and educator whose productions have won accolades at festivals throughout the world.

His feature films include “Urinal” (1988–Best Feature Teddy, Berlin Film Festival); “Zero Patience” (1993–Best Canadian Film, Sudbury Film Festival); “Lilies” (1996–Best Film Genie, Best Film at festivals in Montreal, Johannesburg, Los Angeles, San Francisco); “Uncut” (1997–Honourable Mention, Berlin Film Festival); “The Law of Enclosures” (2000–Best Actor Genie); “Proteus”, co-created with Jack Lewis (2003); and “Fig Trees” (2009–Teddy Award for Best Documentary, Berlin Film Festival). His film/video shorts include “The Kipling Trilogy” (1984-5); “The AIDS Epidemic” (1987); “The Making of Monsters” (1991–Best Canadian Short, Toronto Film Festival; Best Short Film Teddy, Berlin Film Festival); “Herr” (1998); and “Packin’” (2001).

Greyson has taught film and video theory and production in Canada, the United States, Cuba and South Africa. Since 2005, he has taught film production at York University in Toronto, where he is an associate professor in the Department of Film.

Greyson’s publications include “Urinal and Other Stories” (Power Plant/Art Metropole, 1993) and “Queer Looks” (co-editor, Between the Lines, 1993), a critical anthology of gay/lesbian media theory (Routledge). He is a co-investigator on York University’s Future Cinema Lab. Supported by the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, the Future Cinema Lab is a state-of-the-art media research facility into new digital storytelling techniques and how these can critically transform a diverse array of state-of-the-art screens.

Greyson is active in various anti-censorship, AIDS, peace and queer activist media projects, including The Olive Project, Deep Dish TV, Blah Blah Blah and AIDS Action Now. His contributions as a member and through service on the boards of arts organizations include V/Tape Distribution, Inside Out Film/Video Festival, the Euclid Theatre, Trinity Square Video, Charles St. Video, LIFT (Liaison of Independent Filmmakers Toronto) and Beaver Hall Artists Housing Co-op.

In 2009, SU Chancellor and President Nancy Cantor announced that she had selected Transnationalizing LGBT Studies as one of the projects that would receive a Chancellor’s Leadership Project award. This three-year award gives the LGBT Studies Program the opportunity and resources to move its LGBT/queer courses and scholarship beyond national borders to engage questions of sexual and gender identities, theories, communities, movements, diasporas and politics from global and transnational perspectives by collaborating with colleagues in the United States, Spain and other parts of the world. The project is pursuing significant questions about LGBT/queer scholarship, pedagogy and curriculum such as: What new theoretical and political frameworks have emerged as LGBT/queer studies takes the transnational turn? How does this turn influence what and how we teach LGBT/queer studies to university students? In what ways do we connect and collaborate with scholars and scholarship from across the globe? The project will host two international conferences, one in Syracuse from Sept. 23-25, and the other in Madrid in summer 2011.

For more information on the SU Transnationalizing LGBT Studies project, visit

For more information about “Fig Trees”, the director/producers or the cast, visit:

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