Solomon Nagler on Winnipeg
From Uptown Magazine October 11, 2007
Plain-speaking on the ‘Peg
Expatriate Sol Nagler returns with choice words for his hometown
Solomon Nagler was one of the most prolific filmmakers to emerge from the Winnipeg Film Group in the first years of the new century.
His remarkable experimental films such as The Sex of Self-Hatred (2004) and Perhaps/We (2003), have screened widely, and an enlarged photocopy used to hand in the Film Group library of this newspaper line: “Sol Nagler is the most underrated filmmaker in Winnipeg.”
Nagler was recently hired as a professor in the film department at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax. He was at the WNDX Film Fest in Winnipeg this past weekend to present a program of films and to teach a workshop on cross-processing colour film. Here are some conversational excerpts from the weekend, containing Sol’s trademark garrulous blather about independent filmmaking and Winnipeg:
On Winnipeg diplomacy:
“I had dinner with Peter Greenaway. He’s asking me about Halifax, and I say I’m not actually from there. ‘I’m from Winnipeg.’ So, Greenaway goes ‘Winnipeg? I was just talking to Isabella Rossellini about making films in Winnipeg.’ Then I said to him, ‘Actually Winnipeg is a lot like your films – cold and desolate and depressing, but some people really like it.” Anyways, I don’t think he’ll ever come here.”
“You know it’s true. People outside think Winnipeg is a Mecca of cinema. It’s quite intimidating because you go to all these festivals, and people talk about the Winnipeg aesthetic, and you feel quite dirty. It’s like the people who come from Europe and think Canadians are the same as Americans. I mean, between us we can see differences in our work, but at first, others tend to see only similarity. As an artist you have an adverse reaction, and say ‘No, no, no, no no, no. I’m not like Winnipeg…” But eventually there’s a kind of acceptance, and you relish in it. And it’s great, and you’re proud that this is who I am and that’s my background. You understand it more when you’re not living here.”
The degraded Winnipeg image:
“My idea of the degraded image has much more to do with self-consciousness. And I think that’s really what Quebec and Winnipeg share is the sense of always trying to contextualize their sense of identity. In Winnipeg, the fact that it is so isolated, the fact that they’ve never strived towards glossiness makes them realize that they’re in this city that probably won’t have as much significance as the rest of Canada.
“Winnipeg filmmakers are always conscious of the act of filmmaking. That’s why it’s degraded – they’re referencing the act of filming in Winnipeg. It started with John Paizs acting in his own films: we’re always conscious of the filmmakers acting their roles. Guy (Maddin)’s texture has more to do with always making sure the act of filmmaking was referenced. By making the film look very degraded, sort of aged, fuzzy, and abstract, he moved this sort of ironic self-consciousness onto the martial. That’s the logical evolution of the current Winnipeg obsession with the material of film.”
The Toronto International Film Festival:
“When I was at the Film Group, the thing that bothered me the most was that all these people who were getting accepted into TIFF got all the attention at the Film Group. Meanwhile, people are getting played at Images, Rotterdam, Nouveau Cinema, Venice. But the fact that they weren’t getting played at TIFF meant that by Film Group they were seen as sub-standard.”
- Walter Forsberg