Sheridan grad encourages aspiring filmmakers


John Christou, a filmmaker and Sheridan graduate, visited Sheridan College after more than a decade away to attend an exclusive screening of his film Rhymes for Young Ghouls last Tuesday.

“I have many fond memories of my year of school at Sheridan, and walking the halls transported me back to my students days,” said Christou. “I remember classes, and shooting short films on the campus. I remember checking out equipment for no better reason than to fool around with it. I remember the impact of some very special teachers, like Vlad Kabelik, Jean Desormeux, Geoff Pevere, David Barlow and so many others.”

Rhymes for Young Ghouls is set in 1976 on Indian reserves highlighting the reality of the residential school system. Residential schools, a school system set up by the Canadian government and administered by churches, had the objective of educating aboriginal children. But the education included harsh punishments, and the goal of assimilating Native children to the white mainstream culture.

Christou said Canadians are woefully uneducated about the residential school tragedy and the multi-generational damage it has done to Native Americans. This film needed to be made both to educate and also to act as a cathartic story that would spark dialogue, he said.

“I’ve been working with writer/director Jeff Barnaby since 2006. Before this movie, we made two short films together, and all our work was leading up to a first feature,” said Christou. “Jeff came up with the idea in fall 2010 and I immediately recognized the powerful potential of the story.”

The screening ended with loud applause from the audience.

About 100 students, faculty and guests attended the event. After the film was featured, a Q & A session was held, featuring Jean Desormeaux, coordinator and faculty from Advanced Television and Film, Vlad Kabelik, Advanced Television and Film professor, and Christou.

“I was thrilled with the crowd,” said Christou. “We had a fantastic Q & A. Some very smart questions. I love doing that kind of thing. I got to meet some bright and eager aspiring filmmakers. They were a pleasure to meet.”

The film was premiered last year at the Toronto International Film Festival and since then has been screened all across North America. Rhymes for Young Ghouls has managed to garner several awards, including Best Canadian first feature of the Vancouver International Film Festival in 2013, and one of Canada’s Top 10 films by Toronto International Film Festival.

Christou graduated a decade ago from the Advanced Television and Film. In 2008, he started his own production company, Prospector Films. He is currently the chair of documentary organization of Canada and also named one of the 20 top media executives in Canada under age 35.

His current projects include six features in development and two documentaries, ranging from comedy to zombies.

“I’d love to screen another film at Sheridan. Screening films and doing Q & As for students is something I take great pleasure in doing,” said Christou. “In fact, I’d love to be able to teach a class one day.”

While answering one of the questions about whom he would give credit to for his success, Christou said it would have to be his mentors and family.

“I’d say I was lucky. Very lucky. I had good mentors,” said Christou, in his closing speech. “My family supports me in every way imaginable. My whole career has been built methodically, taking a million steps to get where I am today.”