Four Forty Four at the Cinematheque

Four Forty Four by Michael Kearns (40 min)
Sept. 16 – 18, 7pm
@ The Winnipeg Cinematheque (100 Arthur St.)

Introduced by director Michael Kearns.

Four Forty Four Michael Kearn

Four Forty Four is first-time director Michael Kearn’s memoir of his childhood living in Brandon, MB. Kearn grew up in Manitoba, but moved to the United Kingdom when he was 10 and has lived there ever since.

Kearn’s returns to his former homeland to introduce the film for three nights at the Winnipeg Cinematheque. For more on Four Forty Four, read an artist statement on the film by Kearns below, and a review by Alison Gillmor, both from CBC’s Manitoba Scene.

Blossom (dir. Julia Kwan, 2010, Canada, 6:26 min.)
Julia Kwan’s short film captures the experience of a young woman as she travels to a new country. As summer opens into spring, mother and daughter build a life together.

-Aaron Zeghers

Four Forty Four Michael Kearn

From CBC’s Manitoba Scene
Thursday, Sept. 15th

From Britain to Brandon: Film director travels back to childhood home for inspiration

Michael Kearns lived at Four Forty Four 21st Street in Brandon Manitoba until he was ten years old. He now lives in Oxford England where he works as a violin maker/restorer at Oxford Violins.

He’s back in Winnipeg to introduce Four Forty Four at Cinematheque. It’s a deeply personal portrait about growing up in Brandon in the 1950’s.

SCENE asked Michael to describe how Four Forty Four came to be.

The idea of exploring early memory first came to mind on a trip back to Manitoba to visit family and friends. It came to me one day when I decided to stop and park the car in my old childhood neighbourhood on the west side of Brandon.

As I began to walk around on that warm afternoon, nearly every view offered up a ghost from actions past – the time I slipped and fell under the horse-drawn Manco milk wagon and got taken away to the hospital…the time my friend Tim and I were sitting listlessly on the street curb, wishing the county fair would arrive and my mother coming up behind us and saying, ‘Don’t wish your lives away!’.

Memories continued to trickle in – some mere wisps, evoked by the sight of a particular lamp post; a sewer grate, a washing line with children’s clothes hanging almost still in the sunshine.

My curiosity now aroused, I continued to explore the boundaries of what was inside and out. Gradually over the weeks that followed, I began to get inklings of how such an onslaught of memories might be harnessed into a more coherent expression.

And given that it was to be a film, I was also intrigued by the prospect of seeing such a process right through – not only writing a script which I have some experience with, but also filming, narrating and editing – all untested disciplines. And the fact that the main characters in my fictional stories inevitably get wrapped up in some sort of search for lost experience, the idea of peering into my own formative years seemed to make sense. That after all, in some mysterious way, it is the original well.

-Michael Kearns

Michael Kearn Four Forty Four

From CBC’s Manitoba Scene
Thursday, Sept. 16th

Four Forty Four conjurs up memories of growing up in Brandon

You Can’t Go Home Again: But you can make a film about growing up in 1950s Brandon.

Street hockey, kick-the-can, chasing the milk truck–debut filmmaker Michael Kearns conjures up the kind of childhood that now seems lost. Quiet, composed and deliberately simple, Four Forty Four is a memoir of a time and a place and a house, Number 444, 21st Street, Kearn’s family home in Brandon where he lived until age 10.

Kearns grew up in Manitoba but has been based in Britain since the 1970s, so this is really what could be called a memory landscape. Neighbours and playmates and odd little incidents are conjured up with remarkable detail. (I bet Kearns remembers his childhood telephone numbers and the name of his second grade teacher. He has that kind of mind.)

At the same time, the memories are clearly selective, an exiled prairie boy’s idyllic recollections of long summer evenings, playing in the streets until mothers called kids in at dusk, and street hockey in the winter, with a puck made out of an old stuffed sock and chunks of ice for goalposts. In his unhurried voiceover narrative, Kearns also relates the weird things kids get up to when left to themselves– tying wieners to strings and lowering them through the wrought-iron heating grate into the heating system to cook, for example.

Kearns talks about the blizzards that turn parked cars into white humps and the swift little streams that flow along street gutters during the spring melt. To prairie viewers, there will be an immediate, almost physical connection to this blend of archival material, family pics and contemporary footage of Brandon’s flat, broad, uncrowded streets. If Kearns ever shows the film in Britain, I imagine this would all seem unbelievably exotic.

Sadly, I think Canadian kids today would also find it unfamiliar territory. This a pre-Facebook, pre-Wii boyhood, with five-year-olds pushed out the door for fresh air and trailing after their older sibs, and gangs of neighbourhood kids getting into what now seems like pretty innocent trouble.

Clocking in at 40 minutes, Four Forty Four is positioned uncertainly between short and feature. There’s a lot of swell material but not really enough narrative oomph to justify the length. And Kearns sometimes tries too hard to be folksy. He says “reckon” a lot. (Does anybody really say reckon these days? I reckon not.)

Still, this modest film is an effective aide- mémoire: Lately I’ve been thinking about marathon jump-rope games at Oakenwald Elementary School….

-Alison Gillmor


~ by cineflyer on September 16, 2011.

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