He ran the Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto

and its annual festival of movies rejected by TIFF

by Noreen Shanahan, The Globe & Mail, October 4, 2006

TORONTO — Roberto Ariganello was at once a filmmaker and the heart and soul of a tiny, obscure co-operative dedicated to producing short, contemporary art films for an equally small and arcane audience.

An artist in his own right who laboured at deeply personal projects, he was devoted to his role as the executive director of the Liaison of Independent Films of Toronto, a group that celebrates movies rejected by the Toronto International Film Festival. Called the National Salon des Refusés, the alternative film festival was inspired by an exhibition of paintings rejected by the censorious French Académie des Beaux Arts in Paris in 1863. At the time, the Academie decided which artists received public exhibitions. Any work that strayed from realism, which reflected “good art” at the time, was rejected. In 1863, the Academie was especially judgmental and rejected 2,800 canvases. In response, the emperor, Louis Napoleon, demanded that the Academie display the rejected works in a separate exhibition called the Salon des Refusés. LIFT’s version of the Salon des Refusés is a non-curated selection of Canadian films that run no more than 20 minutes and were rejected by TIFF. The films are chosen in a lottery and selected filmmakers are reimbursed their TIFF entry fee. Every September, Mr. Ariganello organized the Salon des Refusés from start to finish in support of independent filmmakers.

His friend and colleague, Deirdre Logue, said his influence and impact on the national film community was immeasurable. It was not unusual for him to deliver film equipment to various artistic communities across Canada. In a recent edition of LIFT’s magazine, Film Print, he described a trip he made to a Moose Cree First Nations community in Northern Ontario in March. “Our goal is to create a media arts centre in the North,” he wrote. “So I drove a minivan filled with a 16 mm Steenbeck, sound bench, 16 mm projector and workshop supplies . . . across the frozen Moose river to Moose Factory.”

In addition, Mr. Ariganello also headed up the Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre and was president of the film and video exhibition collective Pleasure Dome from 2000-2004. He was also a member of the advisory board of the film and television program at Humber College in Toronto and served on the executive board of the Cultural Careers Council of Ontario.

Roberto Ariganello was the son of Nicolina and Giuseppe Ariganello, an Italian couple who arrived in Canada in 1951. The youngest of seven children, he sometimes went missing from the family’s apartment in Toronto’s west end. As it happened, his mother would invariably look out the window to see him toting heavy bags of groceries up the hill for the old women and men who lived in their building. As a boy, he also came to know personal loss. His sister Connie died when he was five and his parents died within a year of each other while he was in his teens.

Mr. Ariganello graduated from Ryerson University’s media studies program in Toronto in 1994 and began exhibiting his work in 1995. His work usually combined a number of different image sources and drew on influences ranging from cinema-verité and surrealism to the agit-prop films of the Cuban Santiago Alvarez. Loteria (1997), a documentary about the Mexican national lottery and the street vendors who sell the tickets, co-directed with Federico Hidalgo, combined 16 mm colour footage with black and white material shot on super-8 film and then optically printed to 16 mm. Contrafacta (2000), co-directed with Chris Gehman, was a labyrinthine animated film made using paper cutouts from medieval artworks.

Mr. Ariganello’s film Shelter (2001) is a multi-layered experimental film that weaves archival social commentary and recent political activism in a playful analysis of our culture’s misplaced priorities. The film blends archival footage of circuses, westerns and Pierre Berton discussing the pros and cons of building a bomb shelter with a variety of such appropriated material as a homeless demonstration during the premiere of an Atom Egoyan film.

Mr. Ariganello was critical of what he described as the film industry’s current obsession with new digital technology. “Roberto was the spark that began my love of Super 8,” said filmmaker Sue Moffat. “I had only worked with 16 mm before going into LIFT one day and tentatively inquiring with him.”

On the other hand, he was aware of the opportunities that cropped up. It was his belief that the death of film was really the chance of a lifetime.

“Every discarded piece of film equipment was worth salvaging, either for LIFT or any other interested co-op, because it expanded our opportunities to make work,” said long-time friend and colleague Chris Kennedy. “He provided opportunities to use up the last rolls of regular 8 mm at the same time as he encouraged us to finish in 35 mm.”

Mr. Ariganello’s last film, which is still in production, tells the story of his grandfather who emigrated to Argentina from Italy in the 1920s. Mr. Ariganello, who twice went to Argentina to gather material, envisioned it as an experimental documentary recounting historical events that significantly contributed to his own sense of self and nationality. His dream was to see it premiered at TIFF or even at his own Salon des Refusé.

Roberto Ariganello was born in Thunder Bay, Ont. on July 20, 1961. He died of drowning on Aug. 13, 2006. He was swimming at Tea Lake, near Halifax. He had gone to Nova Scotia to drop off donated film equipment to the Atlantic Filmmakers Co-operative. He is survived his sisters Maria, Ness, Terry, and JoAnne, and by his brother Tony.

Toronto Daily Star wire services, August 15, 2006

Toronto filmmaker drowns in Nova Scotia

HALIFAX—Roberto Ariganello, a Toronto filmmaker, drowned while swimming on the weekend, shortly after bringing a truckload of donated editing equipment to Nova Scotia. Ariganello, 45, was swimming with friends Sunday afternoon at a Halifax-area swimming hole when he slipped beneath the surface.

He was executive director of the Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto. Deirdre Logue, a friend and colleague, said she and Ariganello’s friends were reeling over his death. “It’s really, really tragic,” she said yesterday, her voice cracking with emotion. “It’s terrible.” Logue said Ariganello drove to Nova Scotia from Toronto last week to drop off the equipment to the Atlantic Filmmakers Co-operative. “Roberto always says yes,” she said. “He figures out places that need stuff and then takes it to them — it’s incredible.” Logue, who runs the Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre out of the same downtown building on East Liberty St., said Ariganello’s influence and impact on the national film community is “immeasurable.”

Ariganello was to host a free artist talk and animation screening yesterday at the CBC in Halifax. He was to show two of his recent films, Contrafacta and Non-Zymase Pentathlon. “He was an accomplished and dedicated filmmaker,” Logue said. “It was his life, it was his passion.”

Ariganello was described by family as an avid swimmer, but police said an autopsy determined he suffered “an immediate medical trauma” that caused him to drown. Officials didn’t elaborate. His body was recovered by RCMP divers later in the day. Logue said Ariganello’s funeral will take place Friday in Ontario.

Halifax Chronicle Herald, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Drowning victim a filmmaker

Toronto man was in Halifax to donate film equipment, give talk

by Kristen Lipscombe, Staff Reporter

Roberto Ariganello was a generous man who loved making films, helping others and living life to the fullest. The 45-year-old Toronto man drowned Sunday afternoon while swimming with two friends at Purcells Pond in Halifax. Mr. Ariganello, a renowned filmmaker dedicated to developing and promoting the art, drove from Ontario to Nova Scotia early last week to drop off donated editing equipment to the Atlantic Filmmakers Cooperative.

“He was actually there because he drove a rental van with a flatbed Steinbeck in the back,” Deirdre Logue, a close friend and colleague, said from Toronto early Monday evening. She said Mr. Ariganello, who was the executive director of the Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto, collected used film equipment and delivered it to organizations in need of support. “Roberto always says yes,” Ms. Logue said. “He figures out places that need stuff and then takes it to them — it’s incredible.”

Ms. Logue, who runs the Canadian Film Makers Distribution Centre out of the same downtown Toronto building, said Mr. Ariganello’s influence and impact on the national film community is “immeasurable.” Within the Toronto media arts community, he was considered to be “the one and only film guy” and a strong advocate, she said. “He’s been extraordinary. He’s been involved in everybody’s projects . . . (and) in a variety of different organizations.” He was also an active board member of the Independent Media Arts Alliance, she said.

Mr. Ariganello was scheduled to host a free artist talk and recent animation screening Monday evening at the CBC Radio Building on Sackville Street, where he would have shown two of his recent films, Contrafacta and Non-Zymase Pentathlon. The event was planned as part of the Atlantic Filmmakers Cooperative’s Cinema X Week “aimed at exploring film as a form of expression and experimentation,” a news release said. The release also said Mr. Ariganello had completed six short films “that explore those characteristics which are unique to film” and that he had been working on a documentary called Will the Circle be Unbroken? “about his grandfather’s life and crimes in Argentina.”

“He was an accomplished and dedicated filmmaker,” Ms. Logue said. “It was his life, it was his passion.” She said Mr. Ariganello was an artist who never sold out, instead choosing to share his time with others in the community. “He’s one of those artists who believed in the larger cultural context within which he worked and its value.” She said the sudden loss of such an important and unique figure in the film community is “really crippling” and will be “felt forever.” Ms. Logue said she and his other friends are reeling. “It’s really, really tragic,” she said, her voice cracking. “It’s terrible.”

Roy Mitchell, executive director of Trinity Square Video in Toronto, described Mr. Ariganello as being very much like a brother. “Oh, Roberto was a total dude,” he remembered fondly with a chuckle. “He had a lot of bravado. He was loved by a lot of people because he helped a lot of people,” Mr. Mitchell said. “He believed in his medium so strongly and believed in people making work and really was inspiring.

Mr. Ariganello drowned off Purcells Cove Road in the remote swimming hole, referred to by some as Tea Lake, on Sunday while enjoying a sunny day there with two other men. “Mr. Ariganello was swimming in the lake with friends just after 3 p.m. when he disappeared below the water,” a news release issued Monday by Halifax Regional Police said. “His friends attempted to locate him without success.” Regional police and Halifax RCMP, paramedics and fire crews from numerous departments responded to a 911 call from one of Mr. Ariganello’s friends. An RCMP dive team recovered his body from the pond at about 8:30 p.m. Mr. Ariganello’s family told police he was an avid swimmer. Police said an autopsy conducted Monday morning indicated that a “sudden medical trauma” resulted in Mr. Ariganello “slipping below the water.”

Ms. Logue said Mr. Ariganello’s funeral will take place Friday in Ontario.

Now Magazine August 17, 2006.

Roberto Ariganello 1961-2006 by Susan G. Cole

A shudder of shock went through T.O.’s film community yesterday when news hit of the tragic death of Roberto Ariganello, executive director of the Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto (LIFT) and one of the city’s most vital cultural workers devoted to indie film. Ariganello drowned while vacationing outside Halifax. He had driven to Nova Scotia to cart a Steinbeck flat-bed editing machine to artists in need of equipment. The mission typified Ariganello’s approach to supporting independent filmmakers.

“Not everyone gets into a rental van to drive equipment to Nova Scotia,” says a devastated Deirdre Logue, his close friend and executive director of the Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre (CFMDC). “He was exceptional in the lengths he would go to.”

Ariganello headed up the CFMDC and Pleasure Dome from 2000 to 2004, was a board member of the Cultural Careers Council of Ontario (CCCO), a member of the advisory board of the Humber College film and television program and of the Workman Theatre training advisory committee, among others.

According to Logue, he was a robust, let’s-do-it kind of guy, which makes his death – likely caused by a heart attack or stroke while swimming – all the more baffling.

“He had so much joie de vivre. He could drive us all nuts. He had a luminous personality but sometimes had a hard time getting out of the way. He dedicated his life to the empowerment of artists.”

Filmmaker and instructor Lynne Fernie remembers bringing her students to LIFT around grant time. “He gave every person special attention. It didn’t matter that the students had no experience,” she says. “He took everybody seriously,” says Logue. “’You want to make a film?’ he’d ask. ’Let’s do it.’ “After this, none of us will be the same.”

Viewing today (Thursday, August 17), 2 to 4 pm and 7 to 9 pm, at the Lynett Funeral Home (3299 Dundas West, 416-767-1176). Funeral service Friday ( August 18), 10 am, at St. Joan of Arc Church (1701 Bloor West, 416-762-1026).

Roberto Ariganello 1961-2006 by Staff (Playback Magazine, Aug. 21, 2006)

Toronto filmmaker Roberto Ariganello, the long-serving exec director of the Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto, drowned in a swimming accident in a remote pond near Halifax on Aug. 13.

Ariganello, described as an avid swimmer, suffered a “medical trauma” that caused him to slip beneath the water and drown, according to police.

Ariganello had just brought a truckload of donated editing equipment from Toronto to the Atlantic Filmmakers Co-operative in Nova Scotia.

“With his boundless energy and spirit, Roberto encouraged numerous emerging and established artists to pick up a camera and get to work,” LIFT said in a statement. “His refusal to accept traditional boundaries and rules inspired us all.”