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film review

For their lively documentary Tales from the Winnipeg Film Group, directors Kevin Nikkel and Dave Barber spoke to a legion of filmmakers, staffers and board members – some still with the group, but many more not.LEIF NORMAN/Courtesy of the Winnipeg Film Group

  • Title: Tales from the Winnipeg Film Group
  • Directed by Kevin Nikkel, Dave Barber
  • Starring: Guy Maddin, Matthew Rankin, Merit Jensen-Carr, Geoff Pevere
  • Classification: G; 85 minutes

Rating:

3 out of 4 stars

Founded in 1974, the Winnipeg Film Group is responsible for such strange films as John Paizs’s Crime Wave and Death By Popcorn: The Tragedy of the Winnipeg Jets. Isolated from the traditional Canadian centres of power, the artist-run organization found success not by breaking the rules, but by not knowing the rules in the first place. That the Winnipeg Film Group survived all these years is, says one of the spotlighted directors, Guy Maddin, “a testimony to the foolhardy dream almost everybody has of being a filmmaker.”

John Paizs directing The Obsession of Botski.Courtesy of John Paizs

For their lively documentary Tales from the Winnipeg Film Group, directors Kevin Nikkel and Dave Barber spoke to a legion of filmmakers, staffers and board members – some still with the group, but many more not. Although we learn about the influential surrealist Paizs and the group’s former funky headquarters on Adelaide Street, the film’s charisma has less to do with history and more to do with the hows and whys of the group’s quixotic ethos and defiant resolve. It comes down to a shared experience and a bunker mentality.

About the group’s darkly-humoured hand-made films, the term “little cinematic attacks” is employed. Tales from the Winnipeg Film Group is just one more of those.

Tales from the Winnipeg Film Group screens Feb. 27 at the TIFF Lightbox in Toronto (tiff.net)

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