August 20, 2019
Andrew Burke, Winnipeg Film Group Case Study lead:
April saw the formal launch of the Winnipeg Film Group Case Study. With the planning and preparations for the two-year arc for the case study having been done in the months prior to launch, we were able to hit the ground running. The first phase of the project took us directly into the WFG film vault itself, to inventory the existing holdings and assess their current state. The WFG’s relationship with VUCAVU means that digitization work has been ongoing for the past several years, but Archive/Counter-Archive provides the opportunity to dig even deeper, to retrieve, restore, and rediscover those films that might transform, even revolutionize, understandings of the history of the organization and the larger story of film-making in Winnipeg and in Manitoba.
In her role as Deputy Director of the WFG and her experience as Distribution Director of the Film Group, Monica Lowe knows the WFG catalogue better than anyone, and working with Distribution Coordinator, Stephanie Poruchnyk-Butler, she was able to identify a long list of titles in the WFG vault as candidates for restoration and digitization. From the very beginning of our discussions about the Case Study, we agreed that to tell the story of the WFG anew would mean a reassessment of the role that women have played in the organization, and a careful consideration of the ways in which the contributions of women to the WFG, the rich vein of works produced and directed by women, have too often been subordinated or sidelined in conventional tellings of its history.
With this in mind, the long-list was narrowed down to a shortlist of six works that were sent to the Vulnerable Media Lab at Queen’s University:
Dames by Maureen Devanik Butterfield ( 8:53 ) 1996 Narrative/Fiction / Comedy
So Long Charlie by Ellen Rutter ( 4:00 ) 1985 Narrative/Fiction
This is Art by Tanis Kyle ( 2:00 ) 1985 Documentary
Attaché by Leona Krahn ( 5:56 ) 2001 Narrative/Fiction
Panic Attack by Sheena Crookes ( 6:00 ) 2005 Experimental
Without Arms by Erica Eyres ( 21:13 ) 2003 Experimental / Narrative/Fiction
With this selection, we wanted to think deeply about vulnerability. Our first instinct was to think of primarily older works, particularly those on 16mm, as being the most in need of attention. But, with its 45 year history, and its vault filled with a variety of formats, we recognized that vulnerability comes in all forms: from Super8 to DV to born-digital works that are now approaching 15 years old themselves. As a result, the first batch of work we sent to the VML was a real mix: a variety of different formats, a range of different genres, and selections from the early 1980s to the mid-2000s.
Alongside this attention to the archive, the Case Study also branched out and made connections, bringing the work of the WFG and Archive/Counter-Archive to audiences elsewhere.
Monica Lowe presented work by the Film Group in Rennes and Bordeaux, France, drawing on curated programmes prepared for the WFG’s Found in Translation / Traduction Fidèle initiative. Monica’s experience of screening already-digitized WFG films to receptive audiences eager to learn more about independent Canadian film played a large role in our discussions about what films could and should be added to the story of the WFG as it plays out in these curated, travelling packages.
Andrew Burke, alongside Jennifer VanderBurgh of the Margaret Perry and the Nova Scotia Film Bureau Films Case Study, were International Visiting Fellows at the University of Warwick’s Institute for Advanced Study, working with colleagues in Warwick’s Department of Film and Television on a project focusing on Television Archives and Community Engagement. Much of our work there was in direct dialogue with the work of our respective case studies, not least the question of the afterlife of digitized materials and how to engage the public with material that has been salvaged, saved, and recirculating.
As we eagerly await the return of the first batch of films from the VML, the Case Study team has turned its attention to tracking down a handful of films made under the auspices of the WFG but not in the vault. This detective work, alongside plans for screenings and the crafting of a proposal for a filmmaker to work with, and create a film out of, these newly digitized materials, will take us into the fall and phase two.
Winnipeg Film Group: https://www.winnipegfilmgroup.com/
WFG Deputy Director Presents Films in France: https://www.winnipegfilmgroup.com/wfg-deputy-director-presents-films-in-france/
IAS Warwick: https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/film/cthhmr/news/researchnews/iasivf
Vulnerable Media Lab: https://www.queensu.ca/filmandmedia/other-resources/vulnerable-media-lab