Minds and eyes and ears wide open

The WNDX Film Festival is back for a sixth time

  • The 2011 installment of WNDX runs from Sept. 29 to Oct. 2 at a variety of downtown venues.

  • The 2011 installment of WNDX runs from Sept. 29 to Oct. 2 at a variety of downtown venues.

Times are tough for the arts. Let’s face it: funding is always cut in the first round of government purges. As such, the creative community is left to rally around itself.

That’s where WNDX comes in – a festival for filmmakers by filmmakers.

Heading into its sixth year, it’s become “the only show in town” feeding the impetus to create independent, experimental and innovative media art.

The festival showcases groundbreaking, boundary pushing work from Canadian filmmakers and video artists, with an emphasis on homegrown Manitoban stock.

And this year, those parameters have expanded to include international heavyweights, such as the late George Kuchar and Iraq-born Wafaa Bilal.

The festival, which runs from Sept. 29 to Oct. 2, is hosted at different downtown venues, and features video screenings, artist talks, interactive performances, the return of the popular One Take Super 8 event and a reception and closing party.

It kicks off with a Canadian open call series titled, “People This 2012 Shit is Hype!”

About the impossible task of curating such an eclectic collection, festival co-ordinator Jaimz Asmundson claims it’s about “keeping our minds and our eyes and our ears open.”

WNDX, unlike its chemical counterpart, does not necessarily seek to reveal a surface. Instead, landscapes created by participating artists challenge mainstream convictions and postulate tough questions about culture, identity and even the future.

Highlighted this year is experimental filmmaker Joyce Wieland. Two special retrospectives of her work have been curated by festival programmer Irene Bindi – a series of her shorts, as well as her feature film Reason Over Passion (1969).

“Wieland stands out as an artist whose work has it all.  It’s funny, formally risky, complex and exploratory in terms of politics and identity, and often intriguingly combative and confusing,” Bindi says of Wieland’s continual relevance.

She is quick to add a note about Winnipeg’s evolving landscape.

“I believe there’s a new viewership for experimental work and people here are eager to rediscover the films that have blazed trails for the experimental filmmakers at work today.”

From the mind of the city’s most celebrated son, Guy Maddin, comes Hauntings I, a collection of short films that pay tribute to those blighted cinematic masterpieces that never see completion.

The multi-channel installation is hosted at the PLATFORM centre for photographic + digital arts, and will feature an artist talk with Maddin on Oct. 1, followed by the closing party.

New to the festival is Cyborg Cinema, performance art by Wafaa Bilaal and Andrew Milne.

The hope is that interactive performances will propel the festival away from traditional cinema house theatre and into uncharted territory.

Winnipeg artist Milne will perform his piece Media for Solo Performer, in which he engages with technology to examine the meaningfulness of place and permanence. 

The performance uses EEG technology to interpret neural activity, which is then projected onto a screen. Milne controls the Google Map function, while pre-recorded stories by Andrew and his father weave in and out.

The result is intensely moving.

“My life story is trying to resolve where on the planet I’m supposed to be, and where on the planet I find meaning. And, by the time I resolve that, it might not mean anything anymore,” Milne says.

Unfortunately, a shadow has been cast over the event by the sudden passing of legendary filmmaker George Kuchar.

He was a guest at last year’s festival, and much of the footage for his brilliant short film, The Nutrient Express, was shot in Winnipeg at the time; it will premiere on the first evening of the festival.

“As someone who spent so much time transforming people into the larger-than-life, he truly seemed to have no idea that he was/is larger-than-life for us,” says Bindi, who introduced him last year.

It’s been said that no one ever got rich overestimating their audience. Good thing, then, that the goal of the WNDX film festival is mainly to “get the work out there,” according to Asmundson, and “provide a platform for media art.” 

Additional information on screening locations and dates, as well as ticket prices, is available at www.wndx.org/.

Published in Volume 66, Number 4 of The Uniter (September 22, 2011)

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