Hailing Hoffman: Legendary experimental filmmaker a focus of local WNDX Festival

From The Manitoban October 5, 2009:
All Fall Down
Saturday, October 10, 2009 at 7PM
Winnipeg Cinematheque

Philip Hoffman, one of Canada’s most critically respected filmmakers, is coming to Winnipeg to attend a retrospective of his short works and a screening of his first feature. Known for his distinctly personal approach, Hoffman has made over 18 short films, has had more than a dozen retrospectives of his work across the world, teaches film production at York University and is the founder of the Film Farm, an experimental filmmakers retreat. He will be screening his new film, All Fall Down, which recently premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival to terrific reviews, at WNDX (Winnipeg’s festival of film and video art) this week.

All Fall Down is an ambitious work that combines multiple narratives, the chief two focusing on the rootless father of Hoffman’s stepdaughter and an aboriginal land rights activist. Hoffman, speaking over the phone from Toronto, said, “It was this thing of weaving two stories together. I found this stone house in Southern Ontario and I’ve been thinking about doing a film on it for a while. The stones of the house made me think about who had been living there when it was built, and I found out about the native woman who had owned the house. It made me think about the history of the land and how I was now a part of it.”

Indeed, as the project developed it began to adopt Hoffman’s signature personal approach. “I am a diarist filmmaker and at the same time I was starting a new family in this house, and the figure of my stepdaughter’s father was hovering over the farm,” Hoffman said. “Ultimately, it’s about how we’re all connected to the land and it’s history, and finding other ways of looking at the land other than as a commodity.”

Hoffman admits that it’s the kind of movie audiences “might not know how to approach,” but he was pleased with its premiere at TIFF, where people tried to engage it, recognizing it as “the kind of film that’s open to free association.”

When asked what he believes is the importance of an experimental film festival in Winnipeg, Hoffman was quick to reply.

“Isn’t Winnipeg the heart of Canadian experimental film, what with Guy Maddin and John Paizs?” he asked rhetorically. “The Winnipeg Film Group is kind of a wonderful place and so well-respected all over the world. It’s great that there’s a community for independent filmmakers, a place where they don’t need to feel that going commercial is the way up.” That’s high praise for a humble prairie town. Especially from the founder of The Film Farm, the legendary not-for-profit retreat located in a rural Ontario barn that encourages an artisanal form of filmmaking.

“Participants come [to The Film Farm] with no script, and react to the place and people,” Hoffman said of his primary enterprise. “Then they learn how to hand process, tint and tone film. It’s a way for independent filmmakers to control the medium and affordably work with film.“

Hoffman will give WNDX patrons a rare glimpse into his film making process when he delivers a Master Lecture on Wednesday night. Ultimately, the festival is the kind invitation to artistic exchange that Hoffman relishes.

“There’s been a nice exchange between Winnipeg and The Film Farm.” Hoffman said, “I look forward to coming to Winnipeg to show my film and meet people.”

– Ryan Simmons


From UPTOWN Magazine October 8, 2009:
Beyond the blockbuster
WNDX film and video festival focuses its lens on experimental cinema and the work of influential Canadian filmmaker Philip Hoffman

The minds behind WNDX, Winnipeg’s annual experimental film festival that showcases everyone from burgeoning local artists to established international filmmakers, are understandably enthusiastic about the guest of honour this year: filmmaker Philip Hoffman (and no, he’s not the guy from Capote).

Fervent admirers of this highly personal artisan were treated to a double-header retrospective on Oct. 7, featuring Kitchener-Berlin (1990), passing through/torn formations (1988), ?O, Zoo! (1986) and What these ashes wanted (2001).

Those who missed out on last night’s screening can still check out Hoffman’s master lecture at 5 p.m. on Oct. 8 at Cinematheque.

Hoffman spoke to me from his home in Normanby Township, Ont., about what Winnipeggers can expect from his first feature-length film, All Fall Down, a 2009 Toronto International Film Festival selection that screens on Saturday, Oct. 10.

“I moved in the early ’90s to a farmhouse in Southern Ontario, not far from where I came from originally. It was an old stone house and I started thinking about what had come before I began living there. So, after doing research, I found out about Nah-Nee-Bahwee-Qua (also known as Catherine Sutton), a 19th-century Aboriginal fighter of land rights, and all of her tireless work,” Hoffman says.

“Rubbing up against this was what was currently going on in my own life, with my stepdaughter’s father, a man named George Lachlan Brown. Those two strands initially formed All Fall Down for me.”

Brown, a British expatriate who fell on hard times, can be heard throughout All Fall Down. He grapples with reality and rambles on Hoffman’s answering machine, apologizing for his inconsistencies as a father. Hoffman had never met the man and yet, here he was – appearing at a time when Hoffman’s research on the fearless Nah-Nee-Bahwee-Qua was just beginning.

These two seemingly unrelated people and their past actions were given Hoffman’s unmitigated attention, and their stories make All Fall Down a sort of diary of the filmmaker’s headspace at that time.

A third tongue-in-cheek tale also weaves itself through Hoffman’s unconventional film: footage from his unpaid work on a commissioned project about 19th-century Scottish and Irish settlers in Ontario.

“I just wanted to shed light onto these three threads. I know it’s not exactly the three-act structure that people have been conditioned to, but I would argue that you can gain a new way of seeing by depicting all of them in one film. Even though they may appear to be different, there are similarities, (such as) Brown and Sutton both maintaining a certain outsider status.”

Hoffman’s work isn’t the only focus of WNDX.

Thursday Oct. 8 will feature New Prairie Cinema, a collection of short films and videos by Prairie artists, including the world premiere of a five-minute short by Winnipeg filmmaker Sean Garrity entitled Intuition, and Caroline Monnet’s IKWÉ, another TIFF selection that was originally made as part of the Woman’s Mosaic Film Project, a collaboration of the Winnipeg Film Group and MAWA (Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art). Screenings start at 7 p.m. at Cinematheque.

The action moves offscreen on Friday, Oct. 9, when Cinematheque hosts a panel discussion about short film distribution for new and emerging filmmakers. (You can get ideas for your own five-minute mini masterpiece at that evening’s Canada Avant Garde, a screening of shorts from across the country.)

In addition to All Fall Down, local cinephiles can also catch Video Alchemy on Oct. 10 at 9 p.m. at Winnipeg Film Group Studio. Billed as a “live video showdown,” the event will showcase Toronto’s Tasman Richardson and Paris’ RKO as they use found media to create “a non-language based video performance.”

The highlight of Sunday, Oct. 11 is sure to be The One Take Super 8 Event Screening. Now in its fourth year, this audience favourite features over three dozen new short works by Manitoba filmmakers from Winnipeg, Lac du Bonnet and The Pas. As its name implies, all the films were shot on Super 8 in one take.

Details on WNDX screenings, venues and ticket information are available at http://www.wndx.org. To find out more about Hoffman, his films and his Independent Imaging Retreat in Ontario, visit http://www.philiphoffman.ca.

– Aaron Graham


~ by cineflyer on October 6, 2009.

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