Under the light of the Golden Boy’s behind

Purple City explores the iconic statue’s mythology


“We sleep in the light of the Golden Boy’s ass,” the upcoming film Purple City states. 

From dropping acid and gay hustling under yellow lights, to the mythological world of Greco-Roman lore, this new short film explores the hidden stories of the Golden Boy from the viewpoint of the filmmakers’ very own apartment across the street – where every night, they sleep in the golden glory of the statue’s illumination.

Co-directed by Noam Gonick and Michael Walker, Purple City delves into the Hermetic origins and meanings surrounding the Golden Boy statue atop the Manitoba legislative building. The filmmakers show how living with the Golden Boy just outside their window affects their daily lives.

“It’s really all about the relationship between the people, us and our neighbours who live in this apartment building on Kennedy Street, and then that statue on the legislative grounds across the street … and he really influences our every day, our every night,” Gonick says, speaking to The Uniter via Zoom alongside Walker.

They say their close proximity to the Golden Boy inspired the film. The well-known statue looks over Winnipeg, and Gonick and Walker say everyone beneath the statue is affected by its influence. 

“We put our unique spin, as artists, on who we think this Eternal Youth sculpture is and what we think Manitoba and Winnipeg are as a result of being under his spell,” Gonick says.

The Golden Boy, originally entitled Eternal Youth and the Spirit of Enterprise when it was erected in 1918, represents growth and prosperity as a symbol of Manitoba. The statue was conceptualized after the Greek god Hermes, a messenger god who guides lost souls through the underworld. He represents magic, nature and movement toward the future. 

Claire Normandeau, manager of the Visitor Tour Program at the Manitoba Legislative Assembly, says Hermes’ character influences how the Golden Boy is perceived. The representation of youth, future and growth was timely for Manitoba’s growing economy during the First World War. Thus, the statue has been seen as a guiding beacon for those living beneath it. 

The film explores these Golden Boy mythologies through a queer lens. Gonick and Walker say the history of gay hustling and the envisionment of the term Two-Spirit, which are connected to the Manitoba legislative grounds, influenced their focus on queer space-making in Purple City.

“That history imbues those grounds with a certain kind of power and intensity,” Gonick says. 

Gonick and Walker explain that the Golden Boy’s representation of Hermes paints him like the God of Manitoba. They say the film tries to rebrand Winnipeg as the Hermetic capital of the universe. 

“It was just an invitation to tell a Greco-Roman parable that seemed to fit Manitoba and seemed to fit us and the people that live around us and live in our building,” Gonick says. 

Purple City plays at Cinematheque (304-100 Arthur St.) along with Bruce La Bruce’s feature Saint-Narcisse on Wednesday, June 28 at 7 p.m., Thursday, June 29 at 9:15 p.m. and Friday June 30 at 9 p.m. Gonick and Walker will be present for a Q-and-A following the screening on June 28.

Published in Volume 77, Number 25 of The Uniter (May 9, 2023)

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