Roy Mitchell, Executive Director, Trinity Square Video

(Filmprint, September/October 2006)

It is two days since I received the news of Roberto’s death and two days until his funeral. Tomorrow is the visitation and the reality of his passing is sinking in.

I know now that this was not some kind of practical joke. Roberto will not pull up on his bike under my window. I won’t yell, “You idiot” while simultaneously being in love with how he could get me going.

I’d sometimes step back and listen to us talk to each other. He made me talk with my hands like no one else. We talked with the same bravado that I remember seeing in my Italian male cousins. Roberto brought out a side of me that I had thought I had escaped – working class, Italian, loud.

Roberto could make me laugh so hard I would squeal like a girl in public school. It would embarrass him and between his laughter, he’d tell me to calm down, like I was blowing some cool image he was trying to maintain. My big, macho chum out with his big girl of a friend.

I’m sure people saw how much I loved him. I’d watch him talk at meetings and control the room with his presence. We’d be sitting there at some event and I’d be thinking, “Please say something, say something to make me laugh, say something to make me think,” but also, “Say something to make my heart swell with how much I love you.” What a wonderful love it was: this admiration, amusement, and near-disbelief that I could be such close friends with such a dude.

And Roberto loved me. How privileged I am to be able to say that. We went to see 40-Year-Old Virgin together and he spent more time watching me laugh than watching the movie. He told me later that he went to see it a second time and it was still funny. I think he went a second time so he could see the whole thing.

Roberto was an inspiring and lovely man. I first knew him when I rented equipment at Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto (LIFT). When he became LIFT’s Executive Director four or five years ago, our friendship deepened and he became one of the closest friends I have ever had. We all work so hard at what we do, and Roberto always made it easier for us. I know so many people that have finished a project because Roberto pushed them to complete it. Nothing was impossible. With Roberto there was always a way to do it and a way to get it done. Sometimes I would have to tell him to lay off. He would sit in my house and tell me that I should do this or do that. He volunteered what he thought I should do all the time. Finally I told him to stop using “should.” Then it became, “If I were you, I would do this.” I learned that when Roberto told me what I should do, or told me what he would do if he were me, or made rules, I should just agree. “Sure, I’ll dig up the backyard and level the cement slabs so that little puddle won’t collect every rainfall.” This strategy only exasperated him more, but that was the way I would get him going.

Words fail me and I fear this will not convey the loss of Roberto, and the love so many people had for him. There will surely be far more eloquent things said and written about Roberto in the future. I’m finding it difficult to write and tear up every few lines. People have been calling and dropping by to see how I’m doing. We live in a world where our colleagues become our friends and lovers and, if you’re lucky, you find a brother like I did in Roberto.

I leave you with this. Two days ago, we gathered at Allyson Mitchell and Deirdre Logue’s home. We called everyone we could and had them come over. As I sat there, I was struck by how a man of Roberto’s luminosity brought together all these people. In our busy world, there aren’t many occasions for such congregations. These last few days, though, the world has stopped for us and we have been gathering and calling each other, all because of a man we love and will deeply miss. And with everything stopped, there are moments between all the tears and laughter when I see what a beautiful small world we live in, and how the world is this way because of people like Roberto.

Deirdre Logue

Executive Director, CFMDC

(Filmprint, September/October 2006)

I am writing this in the agonizing wake of Roberto Ariganello’s sudden death.

I am writing this in the hopes that I will be able to articulate something of his impact on all of us. I am writing this to ease myself more gently into the reality of his absence. I am writing this for the magazine Roberto was so very proud of. I am writing this for an organization Roberto really, truly loved and a community to which he dedicated his life, a community now stricken, reeling from his loss.

Except for writing this, everything is on hold.

For those of you who knew Roberto, my thoughts on him will likely be familiar. For those who hadn’t yet had the privilege of knowing our man from LIFT, you will be terribly jealous of those of us who did.

He was a really beautiful, handsome, charming man who wanted only the best for all of us. And so I want to write something inspirational, something full of the same lust for life and love that Roberto had. I want you to finish reading this and jump from your seats with the same vitality that Roberto had. After reading this I want you to get up early, stay up late, say yes to everything, waste nothing.

Roberto and I were the best of friends. He was also my champion. Roberto not only believed I could do anything, he also made me do whatever ‘anything’ was. He made me work hard, and fight even harder for what I believed in. He encouraged me to be the fast-talking scrapper that I’ve become.

Roberto and I were the best of friends. He was also my co-conspirator. I loved a good session with Roberto where we would have a drink or two, put our heads together and plan, strategize, complain, leave no funder untouched. He was fearless and tireless, bold and brazen. And at all the really important meetings, we would write notes back and forth, all of us, a cheeky bunch.

Roberto and I were the best of friends. He was also my brother. He told people I was right when he knew I was wrong. He gave me the benefit of the doubt even when I probably didn’t deserve it and in exchange I took all the advice he provided, but hadn’t asked for.

But you all know of this, because if you knew Roberto, he was all this to you, too.

And I worry that I should be writing something more about Roberto’s immeasurable influence on the media arts community across the country, around the world, his rare dedication and commitment to his community, big or small, writing more about how he changed us all, changed us as individual artists, as colleagues, and how he will be so terrifically missed by almost every single person I know. But I still can’t believe I’m writing this.

I am looking through boxes filled with his films, some notes and tapes. His works were accomplished and sophisticated and complex and brave and curious – all these things made Roberto an amazing filmmaker. But it was something else too; it was how much he absolutely loved making films, how excited he was with a camera beside him, how he was filled with anticipation at the thought of starting, making, finishing – it didn’t matter. Unlike so many of us, Roberto was patient with his filmmaking, he knew these things take time. He still had so many plans for films, now quiet, unfinished.

I remember he had just got new glasses.

I know if Roberto were here and it was someone else we loved this much, lost below the surface, he would tell me that this is part of life, he would help me move on. He would photocopy flyers, set up the projectors and pick up the food and booze. He would grab my shoulders, squeeze almost a little too hard and make me get through this.

Deirdre Logue

January 23rd, 2007

(Pleasure Dome Fundraising Program)

Last night I dreamt that Roberto came back. I was waiting for a screening to start when he just showed up, walked into the crowded room and was as he always was – gregarious, animated, laughing.  I was shocked and confused – I couldn’t believe my eyes – but no one else was: they were all just relieved he was back.  There was still so much work to be done and time was tight.

I woke up this morning to the realization that Roberto has come back – not as a whole man, but rather as an increased sense of purpose, ambition and resolve in all of us. So, it is with Roberto’s generosity that we can now stand up and celebrate our colleagues; with his confidence, share our knowledge; and with his conviction, cultivate creativity in our community.

As we come together to generate the financial resources for The Roberto Award, we are also coming together to reaffirm our commitment to each other and to a cultural climate that is evolving toward something good, something great.  Each time the award is bestowed, we will all move forward a few steps.  When we talk about Roberto, it will be about his continued presence and his ongoing contribution.  And when we come together – now and in the future – he will boldly show up, just like in the dream, but this time in each of us, willful and strong.

Speech delivered by John Porter at LIFT’s Community Memorial

CineCycle and YYZ Gallery, Toronto, August 23, 2006.

Some of you will be happy to hear that in my last conversation with Roberto, just days before he left on vacation, he gave me a real tongue-lashing. And it wasn’t the first time. My response to him then, and on one earlier occasion was: “Roberto, you have a lot of nerve, saying that to me!”

But that nerve was one of the many things we loved about him. He was more willing than most people in the arts community to speak his mind. And as David Poole said at the funeral, you didn’t mind losing an argument with Roberto because he did it with humour and affection. David Poole has for years been the Media Arts Officer at The Canada Council for the Arts, LIFT’s largest funder, and obviously Roberto would argue with him, and win!

When I first met Roberto more than 10 years ago, he made a very strong impression on me. I realize now that he was already over 30 years old then when he entered Toronto’s independent film community through his friend Chris Gehman, but he seemed much younger. He talked as if he had surveyed the scene carefully, and he told me that he thought the Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre was sick, and needed help, and he wanted to change things. I told him that I was excited to hear this from somebody new to the community, that I was glad he had arrived, and that he gave me renewed hope. I thought to myself “We really need this guy, and more like him!”

I want to thank Deirdre Logue for being such a good media spokesperson for us last week, when it was most difficult for her. She expressed our feelings eloquently. For example, she said: “Roberto had so much joie de vivre, he could drive us all nuts!”, and she said “He had a luminous personality but sometimes had a hard time getting out of the way.” But my favourite Deirdre quote is: “After this, none of us will be the same.” And that has been a recurring theme in people’s comments. At the evening wake in the park after the funeral, someone wrote on the posted sign: “Everything has changed!” Others have asked “What will we do now?” My own way of expressing this is, “This is our 8/13.”

Our bewilderment is not just because Roberto was such a large presence, but also because nothing like this has ever happened to us before — the sudden death of a current, long-serving director of a large Toronto artist-run centre. We have no experience, and LIFT in particular will need a lot of support and assistance in their coming struggle. Fortunately for them, having Roberto as Executive Director has resulted in them having an entire staff which has also been steady and long-serving, and consequently experienced in their jobs. We pray for them, and for whoever will have the courage to come and sit at Roberto’s desk. God bless them.

From: Becka Barker

I dropped in on LIFT once while in Toronto to do a quickie re-edit some film.  Roberto bought a small carrot cake in honour of my visit “as a visiting artist”. The gesture was tongue-in-cheek, but the sentiment behind it – honouring and celebrating his colleagues – was anything but. I think that was pretty well his attitude, in a nutshell. Passionate debater, community galvanizer, tempered with a sweet sense of humour.

You could tell he lived for what he did, as so many of us in our particular niche do, which I guess is a big part of why his suddenly being gone feels like such a

kick in the gut. No matter how many email forwards I’ve received from our mutual friends back home, it still seems like something that I’ll later find out was simply misinformation. (It’s got to be.)

On my last day in Canada, there were big hugs and jokes about where we’d be in a year’s time, when I came back. Then he sent me off with an armload of LIFT newsletters to distribute in the ROK.

May his loved ones find comfort in each other and in his enduring spirit.  It’s going to take a long time to process this.

Toronto filmmaker Roberto Ariganello dies by Matt (blog)

I was stunned and terribly saddened to learn that Toronto lost a member of its filmmaking family over the weekend. Toronto filmmaker and LIFT maven Roberto Ariganello was killed in an accident while swimming in Halifax on Sunday.

I met Roberto in 1998 when he produced the titles for one of my short films. He and I would continue to revolve around one another’s social circles in the years that followed, and would encounter one another at festival screenings, launch parties, and fundraisers. He was a kind and generous filmmaker with great enthusiasm for his work and for the Toronto film community. Moreover, his passion was for film itself – not digital, not video, not anything other than good, old-fashioned celluloid. His dedication to helping filmmakers get their projects made has touched everyone who has passed through LIFT’s doors in the past nine years.

I spoke with Toronto filmmaker Daniel Cockburn this evening about the passing of our mutual friend. “He liked helping people out and he liked being in a position to help people out,” Cockburn recalled. “He was doing a lot of good things.”

Roberto was the executive director of the Liaison of Independent Filmmakers Toronto (LIFT), a position he held since 2003. Before that, he was LIFT’s equipment and workshop coordinator for six years, which is how he and I first crossed paths. He has worked with such organizations as the Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre and the Pleasure Dome. He was passionate about film in Canada, and in Toronto particularly, and has been a visible and active member of the community for as long as I can remember. It won’t be the same without him.

A funeral for Roberto will be held this Friday, August 18th, at 10am, at St. Joan of Arc Church, 1701 Bloor St. W. (East of Parkside, South side of Bloor). LIFT is also planning to hold a memorial for Roberto – I will post details when they become available.

Roberto Ariganello

I wrote the more professional eulogy for blogTO and that pretty much wiped me out, but I wanted to put a note on here as well about the passing of Roberto Ariganello, who died on the weekend in Halifax. I met him about eight years ago when he did the titles for Night of the Centipedes, and he and I have sort of continued to bump into one another ever since – most recently as guests on an episode of Frameline in November. I was flipping through CP24 tonight (which I never, ever do) when I saw the little news bullet saying that he’d died. I called Daniel to commiserate. This just sucks in every way imaginable. He was such a great guy, and such a vital leader in the Toronto film community. I’m going to miss him.

I was taking a break from working on my one-minute movie – which is called 30, in case I haven’t mentioned it before – so I guess it’s more or less appropriate to get back to that now.

Posted by tederick on August 15, 2006 at 9:17 PM in movies & tederick films


Oh my god, that’s really sad. I liked Roberto a lot.

Posted by: chiamac | August 15, 2006 9:51 PM

yeah.. the whole thing has been really odd here in Halifax. Last weekend there was all sort of media coverage about how a guy from Ontario drowned, but no mention of who/what. I remember being really struck by it in an ‘oh shit- how die on holiday.. and how awful for the people he was with.’ It really hit me.

Then Roberto was going to give a talk here at the Atlantic Filmmakers Cooperative on Monday night- I was going to go- when i got an email saying that the screening had been cancelled.. with no mention of why. It wasn’t until the next day that i was able to put two and two together.

I didn’t know Roberto personally, but the whole thing has been really affecting. He has been mentioned a lot around here. very sad.

Posted by: Meredith | August 17, 2006 10:26 PM

Roberto was an INCREDIBLE MAN!!! He is a relative of mine, and I am still in shock over this. He will be GREATLY missed!

Posted by: heartbroken | August 18, 2006 8:19 AM

Roberto was a really great gentleman, one of the kindest, sweetest people I’d ever met. He really helped the Canadian film community in so many ways that we’ll never be able to fully quantify them. He gave so much of himself for the benefit of others, completely unselfishly. He’s a guy who could have made 50 films in the last ten years if he wanted to, but instead he spent so much effort helping other filmmakers (including myself) and the arts community in general. He will be missed immensely, and he will never be forgotten.

Posted by: Jay | August 20, 2006 11:35 AM