Founding Partners

History

Rhombus Media was formed in 1979 at the York University Film Department, when Barbara Willis Sweete and Niv Fichman created OPUS ONE, NUMBER ONE, a documentary short that established the company’s musical direction. Larry Weinstein joined soon after, and the trio have since produced and directed more than two hundred films including: THIRTY-TWO SHORT FILMS ABOUT GLENN GOULD, LAST NIGHT, SEPTEMBER SONGS, DIDO AND AENEAS, THE RED VIOLIN, THE PLANETS, LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT, and BEETHOVEN’S HAIR.

Niv Fichman

Niv Fichman is a founding partner of Rhombus Media, renowned as one of the world's most respected producers of high quality feature films, television series and films on the performing arts.

Fichman has produced most of Rhombus' output, which now stands at around two hundred theatrical films, documentaries and television programmes over the past thirty years. He is responsible for several highly acclaimed feature films, the most recent being the Canadian World War I epic PASSCHENDAELE, written, directed by and starring Paul Gross, as well as a feature film adaptation of Nobel Laureate José Saramago's book BLINDNESS, written by Don McKellar, directed by the Academy Award nominated Fernando Meirelles and starring Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Danny Glover and Gael Garcia Bernal. He is currently producing William Phillips' comedic western GUNLESS, starring Paul Gross, Sienna Guillory and Dustin Milligan, with music by Blue Rodeo. Fichman has previously produced such directors as Francois Girard, Olivier Assayas, Guy Maddin, Don McKellar, Peter Mettler, David Wellington, Peter Wellington, Kevin McMahon, Marc Evans, as well as his partners at Rhombus, Larry Weinstein and Barbara Willis Sweete. Some of Fichman's other recent productions include an adaptation of the best selling novel SILK by Italian author Alessandro Baricco with RED VIOLIN director Francois Girard, and featuring Michael Pitt and Keira Knightley, Marc Evan's SNOW CAKE starring Alan Rickman, Sigourney Weaver and Carrie-Anne Moss, as well as Don McKellar's CHILDSTAR, and Olivier Assayas' CLEAN, with Maggie Cheung, Nick Nolte and Beatrice Dalle, for which Cheung won the best actress Palme d'Or at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival. Fichman also produced the Academy Award winning THE RED VIOLIN, SADDEST MUSIC IN THE WORLD, LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT, THIRTY TWO SHORT FILMS ABOUT GLENN GOULD, LAST NIGHT and SEPTEMBER SONGS. For television he produced SLINGS & ARROWS, an 18-part multi-award winning mini-series broadcast on the Sundance Channel in the US and various television networks around the world, and YO-YO MA: INSPIRED BY BACH, a six part series which was a notable international success on television and DVD.

Aside from his producing responsibilities, Niv Fichman has directed a number of Rhombus productions including CROSSING BRIDGES, STRUGGLE FOR HOPE, MARCELO ALVAREZ: IN SEARCH OF GARDEL and WORLD DRUMS.

Away from Rhombus, Fichman recently ended an eight-year stint on the Board of the Toronto International Film Festival. He has also received a Doctor of Letters degree (honoris causa) from York University in June, 1998. In June 2007, Niv Fichman was named the Canadian Producer of the Year by the CFTPA.

Larry Weinstein

So you think you know music documentaries? Welcome to the inventive works of Larry Weinstein, a wonderfully quirky filmmaker, whose career has been spent documenting the lives and works of composers Kurt Weill, Beethoven, Schoenberg, Ravel, Shostakovich, Weinzweig, Mozart and many more. But not in the normal way.
- Marc Glassman, "Roll Over Beethoven"

"Rhombus Media co-founder, Larry Weinstein is one of Canada's most prolific and accomplished documentary filmmakers. Having directed 25 films exploring musical creativity, Weinstein's work has consistently challenged documentary orthodoxy. He has worked with key cultural broadcasters and distributors around the world, and has screened his work in over 40 countries. The steadfast focus in his remarkable documentary work - to illuminate the complexities of the creative process of making music and to probe the relationship between musical imagination and everyday life - has marked his work for 25 years. He pushes the boundaries of conventional documentary storytelling by borrowing tools from fiction films, including dramatic reconstructions and historical cinematic stylings, and by improvising with experimental impressionistic visual analogies for music. A tireless innovator and committed artist, Weinstein continues to explore music as a dynamic embodied experience that flows through all our lives and enriches our souls."
- [Citation given to Weinstein at Trailblazer Awards, 2007]

Weinstein's films documenting the lives and art of 20th century composers: "Ravel's Brain", "The Radical Romantic", "When The Fire Burns: Manuel de Falla", "My War Years: Arnold Schoenberg", "Shadows & Light: Joaquin Rodrigo at 90", "September Songs: The Music of Kurt Weill" and "The War Symphonies: Shostakovich Against Stalin" have been awarded at major film festivals around the world. His films have earned numerous Gemini and Emmy Awards and "Making Overtures - The Story of a Community Orchestra" received a 1986 Oscar nomination. In 1998, "Solidarity Song: The Hanns Eisler Story" won the Louvre's coveted "Classique en Images" as the world's best arts film over a 3 year span. His films have won more top awards at The Golden Prague than those of any other director in the festival's 46 years (1993/1995/1998/2006/2007).

Recent films include the musical/pathological/historical "Beethoven's Hair" (2005); "Burnt Toast" (2005) composed of 8 original comic mini-operas; and the provocative "Mozartballs" (2006). In late 2008 Weinstein completed two documentary/dramatic features: "Toscanini In His Own Words", a recreated conversation of the famous Maestro that sheds new light on him. "Inside Hana's Suitcase", Weinstein's first non-music film, is a powerful story about a young Czech girl - one of the millions of victims of the Second World War. It has already earned standing ovations and a number of innovation and audience awards.

Recently Weinstein was honoured with a number of retrospectives of his work, including those at Hot Docs (Toronto), MOFFOM (Prague), and DocAviv (Tel Aviv), Look of The Sound (Bremen) and The Jakarta Film Festival in Indonesia. Weinstein graduated from and received the degree of Doctor of Letters (honoris causa) from York University. He lives in Toronto with his wife, Mary, and his daughters, Alexena and Dania.

Barbara Willis Sweete

A founding partner of Rhombus Media, Barbara Willis-Sweete has produced and directed more than 30 films with Rhombus since the company's inception in 1979. In addition, she has directed no less than 25 films for producers outside of her own company.

Barbara's films have been screened at major film festivals around the world and have received top awards in Toronto, Montreal, Banff, New York, Chicago, Columbus, Houston, Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Paris. Her films have earned dozens of Gemini Awards, three Genie nominations and one Genie win for PERFECT PIE, three International Emmys for CONCERTO!, PICTURES ON THE EDGE and YO-YO MA: INSPIRED BY BACH, as well as three Grammy nominations for DON GIOVANNI UNMASKED, PICTURES ON THE EDGE and THE PLANETS. Barbara's latest feature length documentary film, THE YOUNG ROMANTIC: A PORTRAIT OF YUNDI LI, garnered four Geminis in 2009, including Best Director and Best Performing Arts Program.

In 2007, Barbara was an acting coach and staging consultant during rehearsals and on set for the film BLINDNESS, an international co-production produced by Rhombus and directed by Fernando Meirelles (City of God, Constant Gardener).

Recently, Barbara has directed several short films for the National Film Board and for Bravo!fact, and has also been mentoring emerging filmmakers in both documentary and fiction.

Currently, she is working with a number of screenwriters to develop several dramatic feature properties. Highlights include an adaptation of "The Maestro" by Tim Wynne Jones - a fictional story about the relationship between an abused boy in Northern Ontario and a reclusive concert pianist - and "Ella's Garden," a gritty fictional love story about a lapsed nun and a recovering alcoholic in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

In the area of television, Barbara is developing a dramatic series for TMN and Movie Central, which she has engaged Susan Coyne (Slings & Arrows) and Adam Pettle (Copper) to write. Barbara will produce and direct all 8 one-hour episodes.

Over the past three years, in addition to her film and television projects, Barbara has directed ten live HDTransmissions for the Metropolitan Opera of New York, including Lucia di Lammermoor, Hansel & Gretel, Tristan und Isolde, Salome, Damnation of Faust, Orfeo ed Euridice, La Sonnambula, Der Rosenkavalier and Simon Boccanegra. These operas are broadcast live to 1200 cinemas in 42 countries around the world. The Met has recently engaged her to direct 4 more opera transmissions in 2011.

Born in British Columbia, Barbara has an ARCT (Piano Performance) from the Royal Conservatory of Music, a BA (Honours, Music) from the University of Western Ontario, and a Doctorate of Letters (honoris causa) from York University. She has recently been honoured, along with ten others, on the UWO Faculty of Music's inaugural "Wall of Fame."