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How to Talk to Your Television Set: Films that Challenge the “Boob Tube”

SEP 23 & 24 / 7 pm
Curated and introduced by Jenny Bisch

* Please join us for the opening night (post screening) panel discussion on Wednesday, Sept. 23 with Jenny Bisch, Gene Walz and Brenda Austin-Smith.

Rise to the TV Turnoff Challenge! Walk away from the tube! Television is one of the greatest inventions in the last hundred years, but most of us have a love/hate relationship with it. While it can be an effective communication tool, it can also obscure the truth and trick us into buying things we do not need. The TV Turnoff Challenge asks us to try to live without this medium for only one week – and it truly is a challenge for most people because TV is a part of daily life. Part of the Challenge is to find other things to do with your time, where normally you would watch television. These films show how prevalent TV is in modern life and reminds the viewer that not all moving images are mindlessly wrought.
Dir. Rodrigo Riedel | 1 min. | 2005
Dear television: We regret to inform you that your services may no longer be required.

TV Did This to Me
Dir. Allyson Mitchell | 3 mins. | 1999 | 16mm
Some people are too attached to their televisions. This film uses photocopies to animate one girl’s intimate afternoon with her TV set. As the world around her explodes with excitement, she remains plugged into the main drain. This is a love letter to a girl and the boob tube.

Demon of Bars and Tone
Dr. David Zellis | 8 mins. | 2001 | 16mm
A man is tortured both mentally and physically by his television. As the man is suffering, the television plays commercials representing his life, both past and present.

Plato’s Chair
Dir. Paul Couillard | 7 mins. | 1990
Plato’s Chair is an adaptation from a video installation originally produced as part of Programs, a performance work about social conditioning. Through an authoritative voice-over that recalls the Friendly Giant (storyteller to a generation of Canadian children), viewers are taken on an adventure to the world of Plato’s “Theory of Ideas.” In this hypnotic, ethereal reality, we are told idea and form a real existence outside the world of sense. The “ideal” chair floats against a flickering backdrop as the voice-over conducts its inquiry into the nature of virtue. Here, at last, the viewers are given a chance to view a perfect world where all objects are reduced to their ideal; the world’s name is television.

Dir. Don Alexander | 4 mins. | 1999
Produced as an entry in the Ed Video Media Arts Centre’s “Don’t Bank On It” project.
A mockumentary of TV business and market reporting. The hype and style of TV business stations belies basic market information and is akin to sports and lifestyle reporting. Numbers are everything and reporters rely on forecasting tools like chicken-entrails and numerology. Stories ignore social consequences of market action. In the programme notes of the project, Lexi-Con is described: “Switching channels, but they all seem to be connected to the same television network. Newscasters report in serious monotone on the stock market and their overly economic lingo makes it seem like a language all its own. The mock imagery makes reference to silliness of the business culture and the eeriness of it manufacturing the economy. The viewer is bombarded by the business control of TV stations.”

Dir. Al Rushton | 6:30 mins. | 1994
BTV is a video comedy that explores the rich language of television manipulation and media dependency. The program features an industrial control room, a bouncing flock of sheep and a four year old, who finds herself caught between the roles of a roving reporter and an anesthetized fan.

Dir. Raphael Bendahan
In this film, one evening’s TV news broadcast from an American channel is juxtaposed with the soundtrack of daily game shows, commercial messages and other found sounds from television viewing. How and what events get capsulated into the 30-second clip? What are the messages of such reductions?

Certain themes of militarism, arms use, and the deployment of new weapons recur as symbols of American manhood and popular culture. The film suggests that the choice of news events and the way they are reported reveals more than mere facts. This reductive process necessarily contains the hidden ideology of our times, how we see ourselves, and larger social issues.

10th Avatar
Dir. Charuvi Agrawal | 2 mins. | 2007
Television’s influence is so great that it has left us completely mesmerized and has become our new form of worship. Our faith in the divine power has been challenged several times, through the ages. According to Hindu mythology an avatar appeared who relieved man’s distress and re-established the belief in God and the avatar. Nine incarnations of God or avatars have appeared thus far and the 10th avatar appeared with the fusion of mass media and formal worship. This is the story about the challenge divine worship faced as cable TV encroached our “idle” time.

Tale of a Televisionary
Dir. Curtis Wiebe | 14 mins. | 2006
A television, unexpectedly reborn with the body of a human, clumsily embarks upon a quest in search of companionship and spiritual fulfilment.

Winnipeg filmmaker and curator, Jenny Bisch, has been involved in many filmmaking projects and has cultivated a passion for short, experimental film. Her films, The Arousing Adventures of Sailor Boy, and Praying Mantis Upskirt (with Allison Bile), have been enjoyed by audiences around the world. She has curated many short film programs and successfully organized the first annual GREENMOVIEFEST for Earth Day, 2009 and more recently NONSENSE? NONSENSE! The Films of Deirdre Logue and Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan. Her curatorial involvement with the 2006 Sugar and Splice Film Festival led to a strong interest in exhibiting the work of contemporary women filmmakers.


Gene Walz still remembers the arrival of his family’s first television set in 1952 and his first tv heroes: Gabby Hayes and Tom Corbett, Space Cadet. He has taught courses on film at the University of Manitoba since 1974, including Popular Film and Television, and a couple of his films were made specifically for tv. His writing covers a wide variety of topics, though he is especially known for books on Canadian film, Charlie Thorson, and Francois Truffaut.


Brenda Austin-Smith is Associate Professor of Film Studies at the University of Manitoba, where she has taught courses in Cult Film, Film and the City, Realism and Film, and Television, among others. Among her persistent research interests are film/television and emotion, and melodrama in literature, film and television. She is the co-editor of the forthcoming collection The Gendered Screen: Canadian Women Filmmakers (Wilfrid Laurier U Press).

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The Winnipeg Film Group is an artist-run education, production, exhibition and distribution centre committed to promoting the art of cinema.
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We’re located in the heart of Winnipeg's historic Exchange District in the Artspace building. We are across the street from Old Market Square at the corner of Arthur Street and Bannatyne - one block west of Main.

The Winnipeg Film Group is 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. We offer our respect and gratitude to the traditional caretakers of this land.