|Birth Day:||March 13, 1960|
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He was a performance artist as well as a writer for The Body Politic.
He cited Israel's Gaza War and the expansion of settlements as reasons for his withdrawal, accusing the festival of: "an ostrich-like indifference to the realities (cinematic and otherwise) of the region", and comparing the Spotlight on Tel Aviv to "celebrating Montgomery buses in 1963 ... Chilean wines in 1973 ... or South African fruit in 1991".
Greyson was born in Nelson, British Columbia, the son of Dorothy F. (née Auterson) and Richard I. Greyson. He was raised in London, Ontario. He moved to Toronto in 1980, becoming a writer for The Body Politic and other local arts and culture magazines, and becoming a video and performance artist.
He directed several short films, including The Perils of Pedagogy, Kipling Meets the Cowboy and Moscow Does Not Believe in Queers, before releasing his first feature film, Pissoir, in 1988. Pissoir is a response to the homophobic climate of the period and, particularly, to police entrapment of men in public washrooms (toilets) and parks and police raids on gay bathhouses.
Greyson's next film was The Making of Monsters, a short musical film produced during Greyson's residency at the Canadian Film Centre in 1991. The film deals with the 1985 murder by five adolescent males of Kenneth Zeller, a high school teacher and librarian, when he was allegedly cruising for sexual encounters in Toronto's High Park. The film is a fictional documentary about the making of a movie-of-the-week, entitled Monsters, in which the young murderers are depicted as psychopathic monsters, rather than normal teenage boys. The film features Marxist literary critic Georg Lukács as the producer of Monsters, with Bertolt Brecht (played by a catfish) as director. Greyson's film was pulled from distribution when the estate of Kurt Weill objected to its use of the tune of Mack the Knife. Greyson had originally received copyright permission to use the tune, but it was withdrawn, apparently because Weill's estate objected to the film's homosexual themes. Although copyright is no longer an issue, having lapsed in 2000, fifty years after Weill's death, the film has not yet been re-released by the Canadian Film Development Corporation.
In 1996, Greyson released his most famous film, Lilies, an adaptation of Michel Marc Bouchard's play Les feluettes, ou un drame romantique. The film screened at numerous festivals, including Sundance, and received critical acclaim; it was nominated for 14 awards Genie Awards at the 17th ceremony, winning 4, including Best Picture. The film also won a number of other awards, including the GLAAD Media Award for outstanding film. Lilies' romanticism, lyrical story-telling and gorgeous cinematography all combined to make the film both more accessible to 'mainstream' audiences and more popular with critics than Greyson's more controversial and more intellectually demanding works, like Zero Patience.
Fig Trees is a feature-length documentary opera about the struggles of AIDS activists Tim McCaskell of Toronto and Zackie Achmat of Cape Town, as they fight for access to treatment drugs. In 1999, South African AIDS activist Zackie Achmat went on a treatment strike, refusing to take his pills until they were widely available to all South Africans. This symbolic act became a cause celebre, helping build his group Treatment Action Campaign into a national movement - yet with each passing month, Zackie grew sicker.
In 2003, Greyson and composer David Wall created Fig Trees, a video opera for gallery installation, about the struggles of South African AIDS activist Zackie Achmat. In 2009, a film version of Fig Trees was released. This film, a feature-length documentary opera, premiered at the Berlinale as part of its Panorama section, where it won the Teddy Award for Best Documentary.
In 2007, Greyson was the recipient of the Bell Award in Video Art. The award committee stated: "John Greyson is perhaps best known to a general public as a feature film director. He shoots his 'film' projects on video with trademark video post-production techniques, thus colonizing the space of cinema with the aesthetics of video. An incisive social and political critic, Mr. Greyson is in fact one of the leaders in the AIDS activist video movement, among others. Mr. Greyson has supported the practice in many ways and he influences many emerging artists."
In September 2009, Greyson withdrew his short documentary, Covered, from the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) festival to protest the festival's inaugural City to City Spotlight on the city of Tel Aviv. In a letter to TIFF Greyson wrote that his protest "isn't against the film or filmmakers" chosen but against the City to City program, specifically, and "the smug business-as-usual aura it promotes." Greyson cited an August 2008 article in the Canadian Jewish News in which Israeli consul-general Amir Gissin stated that Israel would have a major presence at the TIFF as a culmination of his year-long Brand Israel campaign to re-engineer the country's image and that TIFF should not be a participant in such a PR exercise. Greyson also argued that "my protest isn't against the films of filmmakers you've chosen... [but] is against the Spotlight itself" and the failure of the festival to include Palestinian voices.
A number of Hollywood celebrities circulated a letter on September 15, 2009 protesting a petition calling for a boycott of the Toronto International Film Festival over a Tel Aviv-themed event. The letter, which appeared simultaneously in the Los Angeles Times and the Toronto Star was signed, among others, by Jerry Seinfeld, Sacha Baron Cohen, Natalie Portman, Jason Alexander, Lisa Kudrow, Lenny Kravitz, Patricia Heaton, Jacob Richler, Noah Richler, George F. Walker and Moses Znaimer. The letter said:
In summer 2011, Greyson traveled to Greece to participate in the Freedom Flotilla II, specifically joining with the "Tahrir," the Canadian member of the Flotilla.
In 2013, Greyson released Murder in Passing, a murder mystery series which aired as 30-second episodes on Pattison Outdoor Advertising's video screens in the Toronto Transit Commission subway system and as a web series.
In summer 2013, Greyson traveled to Egypt, where he and Dr. Tarek Loubani, a 33-year-old emergency room doctor from London, Ontario, were detained without charges, in a cell with 38 other people. Reports indicate the two were on their way to Gaza to carry out medical relief work, but were forced to remain in Cairo as the crossing was closed. They remained in detention from August 16 to October 5, 2013.
In 2020, he released the short film Prurient as part of the Greetings from Isolation project.
Currently, John Greyson is 63 years, 0 months and 9 days old. John Greyson will celebrate 64th birthday on a Wednesday 13th of March 2024.
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