Photos and Video
With his latest work, Guy Maddin renders irrelevant the hoary debate about whether documentary or fiction is "more real." Ostensibly, he's offering a portrait of the frigid Manitoba city where he grew up-and, indeed, at the Tribeca Film Festival's first screening he appears in person to speak the narration live, as though offering further attestation that this is all true. But although there may well be a birth certificate confirming that Maddin was born in the actual Canadian metropolis of Winnipeg, My Winnipeg offers little in the way of proof that anything described in the film actually happened in Winnipeg, or happened to Guy Maddin in Winnipeg, or happened anywhere for that matter. In fact, viewing the film may make you pause to wonder whether Winnipeg actually exists, or Guy Maddin actually exists, or you actually exist. You may find yourself clutching your ticket stub in a pathetic attempt to hold on to reality. For example, let's take Maddin's mother. (One imagines Maddin doing stand-up in a Winnipeg nightclub, if such a place exists, joking: "Take my mother…please!") Although the real Guy Maddin's mother is reportedly still alive, the filmmaker has chosen to have her portrayed by an actress, quite a no-no for a documentary. And the actress he's cast in the role is none other than Ann Savage, who in 1945 (!) appeared unforgettably as the most unrelenting shrew ever depicted in any American film in Edgar G. Ulmer's Detour. So what exactly is My Winnipeg? Well, it ain't a doc, it ain't fiction, and it certainly ain't no Hallmark card!
Director's Statement Collapse
In 1888, William Cornelius Van Horne, the great railway man who against long odds built the Canadian Pacific Railroad across our vast nation, established in Winnipeg a tradition that survives to this day. That year, on the first day of winter, Van Horne held a city-wide scavenger hunt. Every one of the young town's residents was given a treasure map and invited to participate. First prize was a one-way ticket on the next train out of town. The secret hope behind this contest was that after a long day spent combing through the city's nooks and crannies, Winnipeggers would discover that the real treasure was here all along, that it was Winnipeg itself. And for the longest time, Horne's trick worked—especially on me.
As a filmmaker who has spent his entire 50 years in Winnipeg, I've been enchanted, intoxicated, and benighted by the city of my birth—it's been my muse since long before I ever picked up a camera. I've fallen in love with the place, not only for what it was while I loved it, but for what it used to be, and for what it could be again!!! Like a heedless, irrational suitor, I have invested all my hopes for the future in it, only to be left heartbroken by the cold-bloodedly "progressive" course it insists on taking as it navigates itself inexorably away from the enchantment I once knew into the bland oblivion and mediocrity it craves for itself. With my hopes mutinied I have grown bitterly disillusioned with my home town.
But before I flee, I must review for my own nostalgic delectation all that has so sweetly mattered to me about this once-beguiling wonderland, for no more curious a place exists in all of North America, or anywhere else! I will revisit for one last time the streets of Winnipeg—my Winnipeg—and locate for the viewer the magic spots that I cherish, where one can merely point a finger and the past will come springing up like so much artesian well water. There's something strange, something dreamy going on here, where pedestrians would rather use back lanes than front streets, where our homeless hide en masse on the rooftops of abandoned skyscrapers, and where a strange civic law requires you to admit for a night any former owner or resident of your current home.
By wending my way though the very birthplaces of my personal mythologies, by attempting to understand the very nature of memory even while it fabricates what turns out to be an illusory Winnipeg for itself, and by facing down, in a series of singular domestic experiments, the possessive power of my own family, perhaps I can unlock the mysterious forces that occultly bind many a human heart to the past. Perhaps I can finally define for myself the true meaning of "home" and make the shackles that bind me here simply fall away.
Film Information Collapse
Cast & Credits Collapse
Principal Cast Darcy Fehr, Ann Savage, Amy Stewart, Louis Negin, Brendan Cade, Wesley Cade
Screenwriters Guy Maddin, George Toles
Producers Jody Shapiro, Phyllis Laing
Production Designers Rejean Labrie
Director of Photography Jody Shapiro
Editor John Gurdebeck
Connect to this film Collapse
About the Director(s)Collapse
Guy Maddin (b. 1956) has an impressive slate of films, including Tales from the Gimli Hospital (1988), Careful (1992), Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary (2002), The Saddest Music in the World (2003), and Cowards Bend the Knee (US Premiere at Tribeca, 2003). Both his feature film Careful (1992) and his short Hearts of the World (2003) were named best experimental film by the National Society of Film Critics. His most recent works include My Dad is 100 Years Old (TFF 2006) and Brand Upon the Brain! (2006), which he presented in Toronto, New York, Berlin, and San Francisco with the live accompaniment of an orchesra, foley effects, narration, and a castrato.