In the Shadow of the Company curated by Kevin Nikkel

In the Shadow of the Company: Films of the Hudson’s Bay Company
Multiple screenings curated by Kevin Nikkel
Friday, February 5 to Sunday, February 7
Winnipeg Cinematheque

The stories of the Hudson’s Bay are vast, the history is long and the territory is massive. There are also many voices that tell the stories of this place.

How do we interpret these histories to make meaning or to make entertainment? How do different filmmakers make sense of the topic in different ways?

In the end, the fragmentary views of this history amount to different versions of the Hudson’s Bay, from documentary realism to dramatic recreation, mythologizing and satire, or a hybrid of film genres.

Friday, February 5 at 7:00
Richard Stringer’s The Bishop Who Ate His Boots
Introduced by Bob Lower

Arctic missionary Bishop Isaac O. Stringer was once so desperately hungry during a northern canoe trip that he was forced to eat his moccasins to stay alive. This famous incident later became the inspiration for the “boot eating scene” in Charlie Chaplin’s film The Gold Rush. The Bishop Who Ate His Boots is a remarkable new film from by former Winnipegger and pioneer Canadian cinematographer, Richard Stringer. Prior his sudden passing in 2007, Stringer was working on a new film about his grandfather, Bishop Isaac O. Stringer; an adventurous missionary who worked and lived in the Arctic from 1905-1930. Packed with rare photos and archival footage from the 1920’s and 30’s the film explores the history of the Anglican missionary in the frozen wastes of the Canadian Northwest. Despite his illness, Richard was able to get the film to a rough cut with Kelly Saxberg. After his death, editor Zo and producer David Springbett completed this version of the film in Victoria.

Friday, February 5 at 8:30PM
Robert Flaherty’s Nanook of the North
(with live score by Nathan Reimer, Mark Penner (of Moses Mayes), Kurt Youngblood and Inuit throat singer Nikki Komaksiutiksak.)

Robert Flaherty’s silent documentary, Nanook of the North, was a landmark film of its genre about Inuit hunter Nanook as he struggles to survive with his family in the severe conditions of the Hudson’s Bay territory. This special presentation will feature live instrumentation with an original score by Nathan Reimer and provides a classically ambient and folky arrangement, marked by traditional Inuit music and other sounds of the north.

Saturday, February 6 at 3:30
Adventures on the Bay
(+ panel discussion with filmmaker Kevin Nikkel, City of Winnipeg Archivist and Records Manager Jody Baltesaan, author Peter Geller (Northern Exposures: Photographing and Filming the Canadian North 1920-1945) and filmmaker Paula Kelly (Souvenirs. There will also be an original ambient score by Nathan Reimer and Mark Penner of Moses Mayes. )

This silent archival footage from the vaults of the Hudson’s Bay Company Archives dates back to the 1930s. It includes footage of Governor Cooper’s 1934 journey on the mighty Nascopie steam ship to the Hudson’s Bay Company outposts across the north, for fur trade meetings with aboriginal trappers.

Using this archival footage as a spring board for discussion this panel will explore current issues facing filmmakers and historians. Moderator Kevin Nikkel and several panelists will discuss the use of archival footage and its meaning. Who ended up in front of the camera, and who is missing? What story was captured for posterity and what might have been left out? Can these disparities be rectified? How can archival collections find new audiences in age of new media?

Saturday, February 6 at 7PM
John Walker’s Passage (introduced by John Walker)

It was news that shook the English-speaking world. Celebrated British explorer Sir John Franklin and his crew of 128 men had perished in the Arctic ice during an ill-fated attempt to discover the Northwest Passage. More shocking though, they had descended into madness and cannibalism. A Scottish doctor John Rae had discovered what six years of searching by British, Americans, French and Russian had failed to.

With the film Passage, filmmaker John Walker employs an innovative approach to structuring the John Rae’s incredible multi-layered story by bringing its vibrancy to life through the use of a unique blend of dramatic action, and behind-the-scenes documentary footage. Passage is a story of incredible sacrifice, stunning distortion of the truth and single-minded obsession that challenges the way we look at history.

Sunday, February 7 at 7:00 PM
Shorts from the North

Man of the Northwest by Matt Holm
An ironic re-working of oddball American depictions of Canada laced with the pop culture kitsch of Dudley Do-Right, the clownish machismo of Robert Goulet and the Gonzo Canadiana to be found in early Hollywood adventure romances like Nomads of the North and The 49th Parallel.

The Chronicler by Ruth deGraves
Fred Ford inherited a family legacy and a Canadian legacy. His grandfather was a fur trader and photographed the Caribou Inuit in the early 1900s and their first contact with European culture. Fred’s mission is to share this story and continue to chronicle the world in the tradition of his forefathers. Fred is not only a self-confessed photographer but is in possession of the rarest photo archive of a time in Canadian history that changed the landscape of the northern culture. Fred’s family history is rich in images of the Canadian North, the Inuit, their art, the European settlers and their impact.

Adventures on the Bay – Archival Footage
This silent archival footage from the vaults of the Hudson’s Bay Company Archives dates back to the 1930s.

The Other Side of the Ledger: An Indian View of the Hudson’s Bay Company by Willie Dunn & Martin Defalco
The Hudson’s Bay Company’s 300th Anniversary celebration was no occasion for joy among the people whose lives were tied to the trading stores. This film, narrated by George Manuel, president of the National Indian Brotherhood, presents the view of spokespersons for Canadian Aboriginal groups. There is a sharp contrast between the official celebrations, with Queen Elizabeth II among the guests, and what Aboriginal peoples have to say about their lot in the Company’s operations.


From Uptown Magazine February 4, 2010:

Charting new territory
See the North like you’ve never seen it before with Cinemathque’s In the Shadow of the Company: Films of the Hudson’s Bay Company

Call it screening films the new-fashioned way.

For years, Cinematheque has offered an infrequent but completely unique series of silent film screenings – accompanied, as they were in their day, by live musical performance.

But sometimes it’s done with a twist. Take the upcoming screening of the classic silent documentary Nanook of the North: the live collaboration will feature Winnipeg funk/dance group Moses Mayes’ Nathan Reimer on harmonium, bandmate Mark Penner on guitar, cellist Kurt Youngblood and Inuit throat singer Nikki Komaksiutiksak.

“I prefer a more experimental approach,” says Dave Barber, Cinematheque’s programming coordinator. “This kind of approach is totally open to creativity and, artistically, it’s much more interesting.

“It totally enhances a silent film.”

The first such screenings began in the late ’80s, according to Barber, when Cinematheque first moved into the Artspace building at 100 Albert St.

Some of the earliest presentations featured piano music by one Addeline Johnson, in her 80s at the time, a woman who performed the same function for a living in Winnipeg’s silent theatres. She even had her original sheet music.

Yet even from the beginning, experimentation was prized. An early highlight was a screening of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, featuring a performance on amplified pipe organ that Barber says, “shook the rafters.”

Another standout was part of send + receive: a festival of sound; that was a screening of Russian director Sergei Eisenstein’s classic Battleship Potemkin, scored by Steve Bates and Christine Fellows. The score resembled an audio art soundscape, with sounds evoking the grindings of a real ship.

The upcoming screening of Nanook of the North is the result of a process that began when local filmmaker Kevin Nikkel discovered some “amazing” footage of the North in the HBC archives.

“Not enough people have seen this great footage, and it’s just sitting in the vaults,” Nikkel says. He subsequently proposed a program at Cinematheque that would showcase his findings; this became the upcoming series In the Shadow of the Company: Films of the Hudson’s Bay Company.

The idea of showing Nanook came to mind almost immediately. While the film has been criticized over the years for the staging of some scenes, Nikkel says the images of igloo building and seal hunting remain “riveting.”

For the score, Nikkel wanted something fresh, as opposed to Western-style music. After an initial collaborator dropped out, Nikkel approached Reimer in early January.

Using both Komaksiutiksak’s live performance and voice samples as a base, Reimer’s score will experiment with rhythms and tones, and use the dynamics of the room for ambient effects.

“I wanted to capture the tone and feeling of the North,” Reimer says, explaining that his aim is to try to create a sound environment that will give the 2D film an additional dimension.

For the audience, Barber says the presentation provides both a fresh take on a classic of cinema, as well as a trip into the past. “There’s an attraction along the lines of, ‘How often do you see that kind of thing?'”

– Kenton Smith


~ by cineflyer on February 2, 2010.

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