It might seem ironic to have an online exhibition of works that originate on analogue film, but without our regular access to galleries and cinemas, bars and cafes, where can we gather to have our usual animated conversations about the obsolescence of the medium? As we adjust to a new socially distanced lifestyle, cherishing the physical aspect of film may be even more important. Unlike digital workflows, analogue film oﬀers a shared authorship with the environment—the visible dust and fingerprints, the composition of the photochemicals and tints, the terrain it touched, or the long-term brittle decay of sitting unwatched in the basement.
I first became interested in this kind of hands-on filmmaking in 2014, thanks to programming at the Atlantic Filmmakers’ Cooperative (AFCOOP). The simple DIY processes felt much more personal—truthful?—than the crowded sets, hot lights, and commercial film grammar I’d learned about in school. That year, I was the intern for AFCOOP’s Halifax Independent Filmmakers’ Festival, through which I became acquainted with the rich history of experimental filmmaking in Atlantic Canada.
One of the discoveries I made was the work of Amanda Dawn Christie. Her enormous impact on handmade and experimental filmmaking in Atlantic Canada is particularly evident here in Sackville, where she worked as Production Supervisor at Struts Gallery & Faucet Media Arts Centre, while also completing her first feature film, Spectres of Shortwave. Her 2006 film Mechanical Memory is a recollection that uses her family’s old, 8mm movies, which she found covered in fungus after forty years of neglect.
Halifax-based artist Dawn George was another generous filmmaker I encountered at AFCOOP. Her work seeks hidden lessons and communications from nature and the small-scale. In her most recent work, Anthology for Fruits and Vegetables, she uses developers made from the pictured edibles. George humorously emphasizes the potential secret messages these fruits and veggies may have by lending them her own voice.
George is co-founder of the Handmade Film Collective along with Rena Thomas and Herb Theriault. This group is a crucial contributor to showcasing experimental and handmade films in the Maritimes and is particularly dedicated to analogue screenings. Thomas is a local of Sackville and a recent graduate from Mount Allison University’s Fine Arts program. Her work Emerge was produced at the Film for Artists: Site & Cycle Residency in Mexico. This film is processed by hand with developer made from eucalyptus harvested from the site at which it was filmed.
Louise Bourque is an Acadian filmmaker whose films have been shown around the world. To complete the film Remains, Bourque buried it in the ground for several years near her family home in Edmundston. Images of personal history are subject to the destructive and serendipitous marks of natural decay. In an insight that could be applied to all of these films, Bourque refers to this work as “an exquisite corpse with nature as the collaborator.”
As much as I might try to convince you that film isn’t dead, it may unfortunately be a while before we can gather together around a projector. That said, we should do it when we can. I hope you enjoy these works from the comfort of your own homes and in the company of your wise and loving houseplants.
—Todd Fraser, Curator
Todd Fraser knits, makes films, previously worked as a catholic altar server and in an artist-run centre, and his grandfather learned to dance in a dream. His work has screened across the country, from Victoria to Antigonish. He lives in Sackville, New Brunswick.