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The Road Ended at the Beach, and Other Legends: Parsing the Escarpment School

SAT, NOV 6 / 7 pm
Curated and introduced by Brett Kashmere
FREE ADMISSION

Panel discussion to follow with Brett Kashmere, Rick Hancox, Janine Marchesseault and Phil Hoffman

“The Road Ended at the Beach and Other Legends represents the first critical survey of Canada’s mythic and amorphous “Escarpment School,” a loosely knit band of Ontario-based filmmakers that came together in the late-70s at Sheridan College, under the tutelage of Rick Hancox and Jeffrey Paull.

Its assumed “members” include Hancox, Carl Brown, Philip Hoffman, Mike Hoolboom, Richard Kerr, Gary Popovich and Steve Sanguedolce, while Janis Cole, Holly Dale, Marion McMahon, and Mike Cartmell are occasionally linked to the group. A number of other accomplished filmmakers and cultural producers, such as Lorne Marin, Lorraine Segato (of The Parachute Club), and Alan Zweig overlapped with and intersected this circle, through acts of collaboration, social interactions, inspiration, and friendship. The American filmmaker and scholar George Semsel, Hancox’s first teacher and mentor, also deserves mention, as many of the concerns expressed in the films of the “Escarpment School” can be located in Semsel’s own cinematic work.

Paradoxically, what is most noteworthy about the “Escarpment School” today, whether seen as a legitimate art-historical movement or as a PR strategy concocted from within, is its absence from the annals of Canadian cinema, despite the influence and accolades of the aforementioned individuals. Did the “Escarpment School” ever exist, and if so, what did it look like, what might it look like now (with the hindsight of historical perspective), and how do we evaluate its legacy? This four-part series seeks to celebrate the “Escarpment School” as a unique confluence in Canadian film history and to simultaneously expand the frame, by offering an inclusive, inter-generational interpretation of its membership.

PART I: A MAP TURNED TO LANDSCAPE

The “Escarpment School” receives its name from the Niagara Escarpment, the most prominent of several land shelves formed in the bedrock of the Great Lakes, located several miles southwest of Sheridan College. All of its central figures either grew up around, or lived/worked in some proximity to the escarpment. While much of the “Escarpment School’s” history and activity is like cinema itself, spectral (now you see it, now you don’t), one manifest aspect is a desire for understanding through physical exploration and encounter with landscape. Taking their cameras on the road, to the ocean’s shoreline and across southern borders, the filmmakers featured here infuse rituals of masculinity with critical self-reflection and patient, poetic lensing; often conjoined in a diary or travelogue format.

Although varied in tone and texture, the films in this program share numerous qualities, including an attention to geography, a drive to record reality, the filtering of documentary material through individual experience, the looming presence of America, and a process-based, formalist approach to nonfiction. These characteristics in turn reflect the twin impact of the New American Cinema and its conterminous postwar movements, especially Beat literature, as well as the Canadian social documentary tradition, which were often viewed side-by-side in the “Escarpment School” classroom.

TRAINS OF THOUGHT
DIR. LOREN MARIN | 1983 | 10 MIN
“In Trains of Thought Marin leaves the usual domestic setting of his films for a road trip to the Maritimes. Using the car’s windshield as his canvas, he conjures up dynamic scene changes thanks to an innovative optical printer he designed himself to accommodate his unique vision.” (Rick Hancox)

BEACH EVENTS
DIR. RICK HANCOX | 1984 | 8.5 MIN
“In writing the text for Beach Events, I wanted to challenge the cinema’s dominant present tense by imitating primitive ‘event’ poetry, referring superficially to action present on the screen, but gradually slipping out of synchronization with its referent. This practice, together with reading a kind of sub-conscious, internal monologue… helps the viewer transcend the spectacle of the present, and be aware of a larger temporal universe.” (Rick Hancox)

THE ROAD ENDED AT THE BEACH
DIR. PHILIP HOFFMAN | 1983 | 30 MIN
“Film images, stills and sound collected over six years coalesce in this film. Hoffman interrogates both the journey, involving famed American photographer and filmmaker Robert Frank, and the process of its documentation as/in film.” (Rivers of Time: The Films of Philip Hoffman)

HIS ROMANTIC MOVEMENT
DIR. RICHARD KERR | 1984 | 15 MIN
“His Romantic Movement re-enacts the drama of going on the road, Kerouac style; but what it really depicts is the dream of freedom turning sour. It represents the male-band on the road living it up, taking drugs, drinking in the sights, and just traveling, significantly, to the Florida Keys. But it does not simply depict these activities, and in doing so reproduce that myth. By depicting members of the band as ugly and vicious, it deconstructs the myths of the male-band and conveys uneasiness with that celebration of manliness that was so much part of the ethos of Beat literature.” – (R. Bruce Elder, C Magazine)

SOMEWHERE BETWEEN JALOSTOTITLAN AND ENCARNACION
DIR. PHILIP HOFFMAN | 1983 | 6 MIN
“The bus stopped on the Mexican highway, placing us in full view of a young boy, motionless, on the hot pavement. The incident is revealed through a poetic text, derived from my written journals. The poetry mixes primarily with Mexican streetscapes, which compliment the text in a tonal sense. Most images are 28 seconds long, the “breath” of the 16mm Bolex camera. A lone saxophone weaves its way through the narrative, blending to make stronger the tones and accentuations of the images.” (Phil Hoffman)

MEXICO
DIR. MIKE HOOLBOOM & STEVE SANGUEDOLCE | 1992 | 35 MIN
“This high contrast, anti-travelogue benefits from a sharply ironic image track and a mordant voice-over that lends menace to the notion of direct address. Between the film’s title and its somewhat arch ‘erasure’ the subject shifts from Mexico to its Canuck observers.” (Cameron Bailey, Now Magazine)

“In Mexico, we are taken to Mexico City and back to Toronto in a timeless, beautifully filmed and paced journey through the ‘New World Order’ with images of bullfights, dinosaur graveyards, aquariums, tourists climbing the Aztec Pyramids and the belching smoke of a North American factory polluting the Mexican jungle.” (Cordelia Swann, London Film Festival Catalogue, 1993)

Background on Brett Kashmere
Brett Kashmere is a filmmaker, writer, curator, and Visiting Assistant Professor at Oberlin College. Kashmere has created programs for many cinema institutions including the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Strasbourg, La Cinematheque Quebecoise in Montreal, New York’s Eyebeam Center for Art and Technology, Light Cone in Paris, and Cinematheque Ontario. Kashmere’s films and videos have screened internationally and his writing has appeared in many journals and magazines. Kashmere is also the founding editor of INCITE! Journal of Experimental Media & Radical Aesthetics. Kashmere holds a BA in Film & Video Studies from the University of Regina, as well as an MA in Film Studies and an MFA in Studio Arts from Concordia University in Montreal.

Background on Janine Marchessault
Janine Marchessault holds a Canada Research Chair in Art, Digital Media and Globalization and is the Co-Director of the Visible City Project + Archive. She teaches courses in the area of Cinema and Media Studies through the Graduate Program in Film, and is cross appointed to several graduate programs at York including Communication and Culture, Social and Political Thought, and Sociology.

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Thu 13

Optical Printer One on One Workshop Sessions

Appointment Based One on One Session
Thu 13

I Am Cuba (Restoration)

Thu, Dec 6 / 7 pm
Sat & Sun, Dec 8 & 9 / 3 pm & 7 pm
Wed - Fri, Dec 12 - 14 / 7 pm
Sat, Dec 15 / 3 pm
Thu 13

The Changeling (Restoration)

Sun, Dec 2 / 7 pm
Thu, Dec 6 / 9:30 pm
Sat, Dec 8 / 9:30 pm
Thu, Dec 13 / 9:30 pm
Fri 14

Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood

Fri & Sat, Dec 14 & 15 / 9:30 pm
Sun, Dec 16 / 7 pm
Thu & Fri, Dec 20 & 21 / 9 pm
Sat, Dec 22 / 5 pm & 9 pm
Sun, Dec 23 / 5 pm
Sat 15

The Heat: A Kitchen (R)evolution

Sat, Dec 15 / 7 pm
Sun, Dec 16 / 3 pm & 5 pm
Wed - Fri, Dec 19 - 21 / 7 pm
Sat, Dec 22 / 3 pm & 7 pm
Sun, Dec 23 / 3 pm

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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.

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