Beginnings 1976 – 1983: The Early Years curated by Patrick Lowe

Winnipeg Film Group DVD Release
Beginings 1976-1983: The Early Years
curated by Patrick Lowe
September 3 – September 5 at 7:30 (with reception following the September 3 screening)
Winnipeg Cinematheque
$5 non-members | Free for WFG Members

“This very strange event happened back at that little irregularity up on the prairie horizon – my birthplace, my winter city.” – The Obsession of Billy Botski

The latest DVD from the Winnipeg Film Group’s archives, Beginnings 1976 – 1983 features ten diverse short films made during the early years. This DVD showcases the talents of many people, including the collectively made Rabbit Pie, the first official film of the Winnipeg Film Group.

Please join the Winnipeg Film Group, curator Patrick Lowe, and many of the filmmakers on Friday, September 3 for a special opening night screening, Q&A and reception.


Rabbit Pie by Collaborative (1976, 9 min)
5¢ a Copy by Ed Ackerman & Greg Zbitnew (1980, 3 min)
Havakeen Lunch by Elise Swerhone (1979, 28 min)
It’s a Hobby for Harvey by Barry Lank (1980, 9 min)
Music by Greg Hanec (1983, 7 min)
38 Jansky Units by Jon Krocker (1982, 4 min)
Argentina by Doug Davidson & Tom Morris (1980, 3.5 min)
Carlo by Jancarlo Markiw (1983, 9.5 min)
Daydream by Alan Pakarnyk (1979, 2.5 min)
The Obsession of Billy Botski by John Paizs (1980, 25 min)


From Uptown Magazine September 1, 2010

A look back in hindsight
This freshly curated collection of Winnipeg Film Group shorts celebrates the co-op’s groundbreaking salad day

If you want to understand how much the film medium has evolved, rent the Lumiere Brothers collection from Movie Village sometime.

It’s something to watch their early cinema today. Shot almost entirely in single takes, their shorts nonetheless reflected an awareness of cinema’s possibilities and inherent nature, as the Lumieres played with composition and even one jump cut.

Yes, they’re mostly of academic interest at this point in time. By contrast, how does this collection of early Winnipeg Film Group shorts fare? The oldest is only 34 years old, after all — surely we can see greater continuity with, and relevance to, at least the films getting cranked out by WFG members today?

We can. If there’s anything that’s characterized the WFG oeuvre over the years, it’s finding simple, DIY solutions within a medium that inclines towards collaboration – simply to get the work done, if nothing else.

That spirit is on display in Rabbit Pie (1976), the WFG’s first “official” production, which would have cut a lot of costs shooting mute on sound (MOS), using black and white film. It helps that the short is very much in the tradition of silent comedy, which rationalizes the aesthetic.

And, the film is just plain fun. True, the voiceover is irritating and perhaps unnecessary. But the film contains some funny sight gags, and is just so basically zany it wins you over. Now skip to today, and consider the work of Mike Maryniuk.

A pervasive sense of humour is likewise the backbone of perhaps the best film in the programme, John Paizs’ The Obsession of Billy Botski. It’s also probably the most “mainstream” in the sense that it tells a clear story — albeit in a highly idiosyncratic way.

Yet again, that’s its charm. Paizs also shot MOS, but to brilliant effect, by contrasting static visuals with his character Billy’s singularly distinct narration. It’s funny and sweet how the character’s inner fantasy life is evoked.

It’s a pity there’s no room to go into every featured film in detail. But let’s try to summarize with as much justice as possible.

The documentary, which Canuck filmmaker Peter Wintonick calls Canada’s “most important cultural export,” is well-represented by two outstanding examples, Havakeen Lunch and It’s a Hobby for Harvey: the former a quintessential fly-on-the-wall doc, the latter an expertly edited, quirky study of an equally quirky subject. (The third included doc, Carlo, is the weakest.)

Then there’s the various experimental and animated films: 5 Cents a Copy, Music, 38 Jansky Units, Argentine, and Daydream. These may represent the WFG’s raison d’etre insofar as they consciously attempt to expand the language of cinema.

Do they work? If by work you mean they stimulate and have some internal consistency, then some certainly do. Some provide highly distinctive visuals. Others are simultaneously annoying to listen to, or are simply annoying.

So yes, it’s a mixed bag. Some of the films so hold but a passing historical interest. Yet others succeed in entertaining, or surprising with their innovation. Some do both. Why can’t they? That’s kind of the idea.

– Kenton Smith


~ by cineflyer on August 27, 2010.

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