Fingers on the pulse

Acclaimed filmmaker Leonard Yakir returns home for a double feature

Filmmaker Leonard Yakir embraces technology, breaking the rules because he helped to define them. Supplied

Before there were Indiegogo campaigns and the iPhone 5, Leonard Yakir spent years preparing his films the old fashioned way.

“You can make a movie with your iPhone now in five minutes,” Yakir states emphatically during a Skype conversation from his home in Brooklyn, New York.

Despite how it may sound, the veteran filmmaker, now in his 60s, isn’t nostalgic about the days of yore. Instead, he’s enthusiastic about the possibilities that this newer technology might bring.

“I think (filmmaking) is getting closer to what writing is. I always used to envy writers that all they needed was paper and pencil. Filmmakers would go out and we’d raise thousands and thousands of dollars, and that’s getting to be less true - one can do it much cheaper and much more immediately.”

Having grown up in Winnipeg at a time when the city had no real film scene to speak of, Yakir earned a B.A. from the University of Winnipeg, and then graduated from Ryerson Polytechnical Institute’s Photography and Film program.

He later wrote, directed and produced such cult classics as The Mourning Suit (1975) and Out of the Blue (1981), and his first docudrama, Main Street Soldier (1972), was pivotal in helping establish his success.

“Yakir is incredibly important in the history of independent Winnipeg film because Main Street Soldier turned out so well and was made at a time when the independent scene was only slowly emerging,” acknowledges Dave Barber, programming coordinator at Cinematheque.

You can make a movie with your iPhone now in five minutes.

Leonard Yakir, filmmaker

“It’s a profound character study of a man battling his demons and looking for hope where he can find it. You simply won’t find a more mesmerizing screen presence than (the film’s leading man) Ray LeClaire - it’s unforgettable.”

Yakir will premiere his latest work, The Ruby Concerts - a documentary celebrating world-renown flutist Carol Wincenc’s accomplished career - along with Main Street Soldier, as part of a double feature at Cinematheque on March 8.

“(The Ruby Concerts) is about music, art and about getting ahead in art. How does one become a major artist, not in the sense of just being incredible at your craft, but also being known? It’s a very instructional film and it has a lot of music in it. People who love classical music - and who love music in general - will find it very engaging.”

Yakir recognizes that the two movies on tap for the screening have very little in common.

Main Street Soldier and The Ruby Concerts are 180 degrees from each other. One is about a skid row alcoholic war veteran, and the other is about a very sophisticated woman who is at the top of her career in the classical music world. You couldn’t find more different subjects ... yet I think they’re both bound in music.”

When asked what he aspires to do next, Yakir is cryptic.

“I have some other productions that I’d like to return to, and some of them possibly that I don’t. It’s literally like what I just told you - I can go out and make a movie as soon as I finish talking with you.”

Catch An Evening with Leonard Yakir on Friday, March 8 at 7 p.m. Yakir will introduce the world premiere of his latest documentary The Ruby Concerts (60 min.) and a screening of his cult classic,Main Street Soldier (35 min.). For ticket information, visit Cinematheque (100 Arthur St.) or

Published in Volume 67, Number 22 of The Uniter (March 6, 2013)

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