Our Neon City

Kevin Nikkel’s Our Neon City
Wednesday, May 19 at 7PM
Winnipeg Cinematheque

with shorts :
Save the Alphabet House by Ed and Brandon Ackerman
The McIntyre Block by Bob Lower

Through Our Neon City, Winnipeg filmmaker Kevin Nikkel has created portraits of five Winnipeg institutions based on the neon signs which marked their existence: Winnipeg’s Turkish Baths was a luxury spa that disappeared when the Royal Alexandra Hotel was torn down in 1971, and which had served travellers who wanted a steam and a soak for 60 years; Dojack’s Winnipeg Musical Supply, a musical supplier which began with a horse-drawn cart on Main Street and closed in 1982; The legendary Blue Note Café, a bar where accomplished performers would commonly drop in for guest sets; Clifford’s, a clothing store which kept women stylish for 70 years; and The Bell Hotel, a hotel which offered beds to railroaders and bar hoppers down on their luck. Our Neon City features interviews and rare archival photographs.

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From Uptown Magazine May 13, 2010:

Exploring Our Neon City
A new series of short docs looks at Winnipeg’s past by studying its iconic neon signs

A new series of short docs for MTS Winnipeg on Demand may elevate the Neon Factory to a Winnipeg Heritage museum.

Our Neon City, punctuated by a jazzy Moses Mayes score, takes a look at Winnipeg’s past through the prisms of several well-known neon signs, which have become part of the city’s identity. Included are such icons as Clifford’s and the Blue Note Café.

We all know what an epic city Winnipeg was in its boomtown days. The question these shorts inspire is, has it given up on its potential for greatness?

More to the point, do we as Winnipeggers not realize what we’ve got? With the Windsor Hotel just barely surviving demolition, it’s sobering to think no one picked up the mantle for the now-defunct Blue Note.

For that matter, others seem to understand the value of Winnipeg’s historic treasures: the interior of Dojack’s music store has been recreated in an Ottawa museum, while a B.C. museum has reproduced the Royal Alexandra Hotel’s vast dining hall.

The very quality of these shorts reflect how much cultural life still throbs in this city. These are excellent productions. It’s been said a million times, but it’s worth repeating: this city has an amazing arts community.

– Kenton Smith

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~ by cineflyer on May 14, 2010.

3 Responses to “Our Neon City”

  1. It was quite a surprise to see the photo of my father, Joseph Maruca, in your “The Neon City” video of The Royal Alexandra Hotel. He was the bell hop in the photo to the right on the telephone. He loved working at the hotel and had many, many stories to tell us all. He passed away in 2006 and I can still remember how he treated the guests so well, especially the |”black” musicians as they were not welcomed at first to Winnipeg. He treated all guests the same as they should all be treated. I have lots of photos of him with many of the guests that enetertained over the years. My father would have been proud to be in your video so I have now put a name to his young face for you. I would like to order the series of “The Neon City” if you could arrange please. I look forward to your response.

  2. This film sounds so very interesting. I live in Italy now but anything to do with the history of Winnipeg, especially the social history, is of extreme interest to me. I remember as a child in the 50’s coming home at night from a visit to my aunt’s in West Kildonan snuggled in the back seat of Dad’s ’59 Ford stationwagon and waiting to see and read “The Man With The Ax” sign. I can still see the man raising his ax in my head – not in my head – in my memory!!! Wonderful AND colourful memories.

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