Founded in 1974, the Winnipeg Film Group (WFG) is central to any history of independent and experimental filmmaking in Canada. The WFG Case Study is extending the preservation efforts the Film Group itself has undertaken in recent years, digging deep into their archives to identify those films sidelined or subordinated in conventional histories of the organization. These works have the capability of transforming our understanding of the city, its cinema, and the cultures that converge here.
At its heart, the WFG Case Study poses two key questions:
1) What can the audio-visual archive reveal about a city shaped by immigration, but built on Indigenous land?
2) How can the work of women filmmakers be re-centered in narratives of both the Winnipeg Film Group and the city’s larger cinematic history?
The Winnipeg Film Group offers the opportunity for a study that recognizes the richness of local production, as well as the ways in which the local is connected to the national and the global. The WFG’s deep connections to, and long affiliations with, filmmakers and independent filmmaking organizations nationwide ensure that its story is a pathway to understanding the history of independent Canadian cinema and the presence it has had on the world stage.
Given the long history of archival and found footage filmmaking in Winnipeg, the Case Study has also planned for artistic commissions and collaborations. The WFG Case Study understands the archive not simply as a destination or resting place for films, but as an origin and catalyst for them as well. Filmmakers, scholars, and curators all have a part to play in ensuring the film archive is a resource as well as a repository, and that it speaks to the future as much as the past.
About The Winnipeg Film Group
The Winnipeg Film Group is an education, production, exhibition, and distribution centre committed to promoting the art of the moving image. Founded in 1974, the WFG began distributing locally made films in 1981 to help serve Manitoba filmmakers who were creating work, but didn’t have the knowledge or resources to seek out screenings or sales for their work.
The Winnipeg Film Group and the University of Winnipeg are located on Treaty 1 Territory and on the ancestral lands of the Anishinaabeg, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota, and Dene Peoples and in the homeland of the Métis Nation. As we undertake this project, we offer our respect and gratitude to the traditional caretakers of this land. At the heart of the Winnipeg Film Group Case Study is the desire to understand how the audio-visual archive serves as both a record of historical inequities and an opportunity to engage in the processes of decolonization. Located at the convergence of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers, a cultural meeting place for 6,000 years, Winnipeg is the ideal site on which to re-examine and reconsider connections between the arts, the archive, and Indigenous-settler relations.
Andrew Burke is an Associate Professor in the Department of English at the University of Winnipeg. He is the author of The Past Inside the Present: Cultural Memory and the Canadian 70s, which will be published in the fall of 2019. His research on space, place, architecture, cinema, music, memory, and media formats have been published in a number of journals and edited collections. His current project, “Cinema and the Object World of Modernity,” examines how sixties and seventies cinema serves as an invaluable archive of the everyday, capturing the processes of postwar modernization in the incidental objects that populate screen space.
Mahlet Cuff is an interdisciplinary artist from Treaty one territory so called Winnipeg, Manitoba that uses mediums such as photography, collaging and poetry. Through their work she hopes to create more awareness about the lack of representation of women of colour, queer people of colour in media. Their work has been shown at local galleries and events such as Ace Art inc and Black Space’s (Nuit blanche’s) Nuit Noire. Their work has been shown at the Art Space Window Gallery, Flip Fest, and in the artist run center “Tea Base” in Toronto, Ontario. She explores topics of feminism, Blackness and gender through her artistic and activist practice.
Monica Lowe has been the Distribution Director at the Winnipeg Film Group since 2006. She has spearheaded many important projects, such as the re-striking of Guy Maddin’s Archangel and the construction of a climate-controlled media vault. She was the Editor on Finding Focus: Framing Canadian Métis and First Nations on Film, and the Managing Editor on Place: 13 Essays, 13 Filmmakers, 1 City. Monica founded the Women’s Film & Video Network in 2015 and is one the founding members of VUCAVU, a comprehensive distribution platform for independent Canadian film and video. Monica served as the Chair of Nuit Blanche Winnipeg between 2012 and 2018. In July 2018 Monica was promoted to Deputy Director of the Winnipeg Film Group.
Stephanie Poruchnyk-Butler is a queer femme writer, artist and workshop facilitator from Winnipeg, Manitoba. She is the creator of several independently published zines, as well as a co-founding member of feminist arts collective, Sappho Zine (2012-2016). Building community through collaborative art making is a passion of hers, and she have been facilitating workshops for children, teenagers and adults at various arts organizations for over six years. Stephanie is thrilled to be assisting with Archive/Counter Archive, as part of her role as Distribution Coordinator at the Winnipeg Film Group.