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THE IMAGE A HISTORY OF FILM IN BRITISH COLUMBIA - TAKE 3 "Culture filters things, telling us what we should retain and what we must forget. In this way it gives us some common ground, with regard to mistakes as well as truths.” – Umberto Eco, This is the Not the End of the Book


n our third season of “The Image Before Us: A History of Film in British Columbia,” we do a curatorial zoom out to include some of the most culturally and historically significant works ever produced in British Columbia.

We open with In the Land of the Head Hunters (1914), the first feature film made in B.C., and the first made anywhere with an all-indigenous cast.  We acknowledge the impressive contributions of our own Hollywood North by presenting McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971) and That Cold Day in the Park (1969), two Robert Altman-directed films from the early days of our motion-picture and television industry.  And we celebrate Larry Kent and Peter Bryant, two pioneering indie cinema auteurs, who participated in Vancouver’s various responses to the films of John Cassavetes, the New American Cinema, and the French Nouvelle Vague. At the same time, we stay on message with familiar themes woven through this multi-year series — films that are personal responses to the contemporary social contexts of place and family, and expressions of the autobiographical.  Ross Weber’s masterfully-executed second feature Mount Pleasant (2006) resonates or at least rhymes with the extraordinary changes Vancouver has been undergoing.  Julia Kwan’s remarkable debut feature Eve and the Fire Horse (2005) examines themes of family and faith through the eyes of its nine-year-old protagonist. And Patricia Gruben, one of our most cherished avant-garde filmmakers, takes on the nonfiction genre of the autobiographical essay with Ley Lines (1993), her metaphysical meditation on family and place.

With every year, our series has widened its frame, as more homegrown films and filmmakers worthy of scrutiny and study, of remembering, screening, and celebrating, present themselves, just as new and daring films continue to be made. Our series continues to draw inspiration from Colin Browne’s pleasurable critique of films made in B.C., The Image Before Us (1986), a film that asks us to carefully examine the images before us — what is shown, what is intended, what stories and experiences are omitted, and why? I hope that the various thematic strands of the series and the films themselves allow audiences to reflect on our present situations here in British Columbia, and that new generations of filmmakers might ask new questions and tell new stories in their films, as they seek inspiration from filmmakers and films that have come before. – Harry Killas

Harry Killas’s historical documentary films about British Columbia include Spilsbury’s Coast; Glowing in the Dark, on the history of Vancouver’s neon art and design; and Picture Start, about the first generation of Vancouver’s “photoconceptual” artists.  A graduate of NYU’s grad film program, Killas is currently working on an expanded version of Picture Start, entitled Is There A Picture, and an autobiographical documentary, Greek to Me.  He is Assistant Dean of Dynamic Media at Emily Carr University of Art + Design.

Opening Night

In the Land of the Head Hunters USA/Canada 1914. Dir: Edward S. Curtis. 65 min. DCP

A remarkable portrait of the Kwakwaka’wakw (formerly Kwakiutl) people of northern Vancouver Island and the central coast, In the Land of the Head Hunters was the first feature film made in B.C. and is the oldest extant feature made in Canada. It’s also the first feature made with an entirely indigenous North American cast. Directed by Edward S. Curtis, the renowned American photographer of First Nations life, the film mixes documentary and dramatic elements; it records authentic traditions and rituals, including the potlatch ceremony, but also offers an epic tale of love, war, and adventure set in pre-European times. It premiered in New York and Seattle in December 1914. This beautiful DCP restoration includes John J. Branham’s original 1914 score performed by Vancouver’s Turning Point Ensemble. preceded by

Behind the Masks Canada 1973. Dir: Tom Shandel. 37 min. Digibeta

The famed French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss discusses sacred masks made by First Nations of the Pacific Northwest, and visits a carver on Vancouver Island, in this short documentary by Vancouver’s Tom Shandel. Introduced by Colin Browne, Vancouver filmmaker, poet, scholar, and Professor Emeritus at SFU MONDAY, JANUARY 16 – 7:00 PM

Early Hollywood North: Focus on Robert Altman

McCabe and Mrs. Miller USA 1971. Dir: Robert Altman. 121 min. DCP

Robert Altman’s magnificent revisionist Western, filmed in West Vancouver, is one of his major achievements. Warren Beatty is mysterious stranger McCabe, a gambler and supposed gunfighter, who rides into a rough mining town looking to make some money. Julie Christie is Mrs. Miller, the opiumsmoking madam who becomes his business partner in running a brothel. Their flourishing operation soon attracts the dangerous attention of powerful business interests. Leonard Cohen’s haunting music and Vilmos Zsigmond’s moody cinematography make important contributions. “A supremely beautiful movie . . . Altman’s sharpest visualization of the corruption of the American Dream” (Derek Malcolm). “This modern classic is not like any other film” (Pauline Kael).


That Cold Day in the Park USA 1969. Dir: Robert Altman. 112 min. 35mm

Introduced by Harry Killas

Robert Altman’s second studio picture and first truly personal work was this undervalued rarity, shot in Vancouver in 1968, and made just before M*A*S*H, his commercial breakthrough. A take on the psychological horror film, and an unsettling study of sexual repression and obsession, it’s one of a number of idiosyncratic Altman works (including Images and Three Women) exploring the psychopathology of lonely women. Sandy Dennis, fresh off her Oscar win for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, plays a frustrated spinster who invites a young drifter (Michael Burns) into her home, only to then make him her prisoner. Altman, of course, would also shoot 1971’s masterful McCabe and Mrs. Miller in Vancouver. Restored 35mm print courtesy of the UCLA Film & Television Archive. Restoration funding provided by The Film Foundation and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.




The Cinematheque JAN + FEB 2017  

Canada's Top Ten Film Festival・Maren Ade・BC Film History・Canada On Screen・Takeshi Kitano・Chan Centre Connects・DOXA and The Cinematheque

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