WNDX: Winnipeg’s Festival of Film & Video Art
Wednesday October 7 – Saturday October 10, 2009

  • Curated by Cecilia Araneda
  • Introduced by Philip Hoffman

Death, life, love, memory and loss together comprise the essential stuff that forms the oeuvre of Canadian experimental documentary filmmaker Philip Hoffman. Indeed, in an interview with Barbara Sternberg, Hoffman acknowledges that “not all filmmakers deal with death so directly, or so often” as he has within his body of work. And yet, this is just the start, because there is no single way to merely ‘watch’ a Hoffman film; when you enter the darkened space of the cinema, you become a participant within Hoffman’s memories and you come to know Hoffman as a person perhaps better than you know yourself.

Hoffman hands down film in a very personal and transformative way, without much fanfare, but in a way that indelibly impacts the receiver. If documentary is “the telling of a story or illumination of themes, as poetry is a story or theme told by images,” as defined by John Grierson – long recognized as the ‘father’ of documentary in Canada through his influence in the establishment the NFB – and poetry “uses many effects of sound, imagery and vocabulary to achieve a heightened, intensive form of expression,” as the Gage Canadian Dictionary posits, then Hoffman is indeed a master documentarian through his poetic diary cinema experimentations, even as he actively seeks to purge “the ghost of Grierson” with his work at the same time, replacing the traditionally strong educational leaning of the documentary form with something that is far more personal.

Philip Hoffman is well recognized as one of the most influential filmmakers working in Canada today, not only for the exceptional quality and depth of his own body of work, but also for his 15 year old Independent Imaging Retreat – or Film Farm, as it is better known.Even in Winnipeg, Hoffman’s Film Farm was the integral underpinning to a new do-it-yourself aesthetic that emerged in the early 2000’s through the Winnipeg Film Group’s Film Experiment workshop series initiated by Film Farm alumnus Solomon Nagler. This series saw as its direct legacy a new generation of film craftspersons and curators emerge in the city, including such notables as Mike Maryniuk and Jenny Bisch, along with countless others, and transformed the directional path of filmmakers such as Carole O’Brien, who evolved from a traditional narrative approach to working to becoming one of the most accomplished experimenters in film working in Winnipeg today.

– Cecilia Araneda


Kitchener-Berlin (1990, 34 mins, 16 mm) “Kitchener-Berlin” is a naming of recall, a movement into the city’s Germanic traditions, and its rituals of memory, bereavement, and technology. It is Hoffman’s most frankly “poetic” film, employing image phrases across a wordless field of interlocking fragments, gathering the sum of a diary travel in overlapping movements that quietly course through a rectangle of introspection. – Mike Hoolboom

passing through / torn formations (1988, 43 mins, 16 mm) “passing through/torn formations” accomplishes a multi-faceted experience for the viewer. It is a poetic document of family, for instance – but Philip Hoffman’s editing throughout is true thought process, tracks visual theme as the mind tracks shape, makes melody of noise and words as the mind recalls sound. – Stan Brakhage


?O, Zoo! (The Making of a Fiction Film) (1986, 23 mins, 16 mm) In “?O, Zoo!” Hoffman grapples with the Griersonian legacy of Canadian documentary cinema. Largely shot around the production of Peter Greenaway’s A Zed and Two Noughts, the film constructs a labyrinthean fiction out of “documentary” materials, and places the story of a death at its unseen centre. – Images Festival

What these ashes wanted (2001, 55 mins, 16 mm) ‘If you had to make up your own ritual for death, what would it be? Would it be private or shared?’ asked his partner, Marian. Hoffman’s answer is this beautiful document. – San Francisco International Film Festival * Golden Gate Award, New Visions, San Francisco International Film Festival 2002 * Gus Van Sant Award, Ann Arbor Film Festival, 2002 * Telefilm Canada Award, Images Festival, 2001


Skip to content