Trains of Winnipeg  |  14 Films






18,000 Dead in Gordon Head  


In the summer of 1982, during a visit to the filmmaker’s hometown, he witnessed the murder of a teenage girl – killed by a sniper on a quiet, suburban street, in the middle of the afternoon. He returned a year later to lie with his camera on the spot where she died, and to roam the neighbourhood searching for footage.

The title of this film comes from the oft-quoted statistic that the average sixteen-year-old has witnessed 18,000 murders, on TV and at the movies. ‘Gordon Head’ is the Canadian suburb where the film takes place.

The original footage for '18,000 Dead in Gordon Head' was shot in Super 8 film. However, before it could be edited the footage was lost, and it wasn't until twenty years later that a crude VHS video dub was found. This wrecked, out-of-sync and damaged footage, with its strobing, water colour-like hues, was evocative of the filmmaker’s marred and murky memories of the original event. It inspired the writing of a narrative poem, and finally formed the basis of this completed 35mm film.

In 1982, as remarkable as the girl’s sudden death was, the young filmmaker also found it devastatingly normal. He’d, "already seen it, thousands of times." The state of shock that it engendered, was simply more of the same, a state of mind very familiar. As was the ensuing series of violent events that he went on to witness – until... a small, positive action broke the spell.

'18,000 Dead in Gordon Head' is partly a treatise on the omnipresence of violence in contemporary culture, even (or some would say especially) in the banal context of a Canadian suburb. Composed as a poem, the final work is a hybrid of several film stocks and video formats, processed to create a kinetic, lyrical collage of textures, loops, rhythms and visual rhymes, and in the end finally completing the work’s cycle back to its originally intended film format.

Music by Jason Tait.


Trains of Winnipeg 


An epi
c audiovisual poem, trains as kinetic sculpture and kitsch, found sound art, a film-maker’s fetish, or a Romantic's wet dream. O take me to far away places, the rhythm in our plastic hearts, as we are also machines. Tortured cello, the scraping wheel, old cameras, film and rail as parallel tracks thru the remnants of the industrial age.

'Trains of Winnipeg' uses multiple film gauges and digital formats in a collage of colliding and looping vantage points on this brief, ever-moving, moment in history.

Music by Emily Goodden.


Hitler! (Revisited)  


In 1996 the original 16mmm film Hitler! screened at the London Film Festival, not far from where its subject, the filmmaker’s brother, was born. In this way Niall Holden, who'd been institutionalized for over 25 years, travelled around the world.

Hitler! (Revisited) is a digital + hands-on filmic 're-mix' of the earlier film, a new work made from materials ten years older.

With the assistance of filmmaker Sol Nagler, a print of the earlier film was literally deconstructed, separated back into individual shots which were then put through a variety of physical stresses and tortures. While this was done, Sol asked questions about the filmmaker's family, and they discussed filmmaking, Sol's family history including the Warsaw Ghetto, Hitler, and the war. The text was written, and the new images digitally re-mixed with a soundtrack from sound artist Steve Bates, in response to this physical and verbal process.

This is the final film in a trilogy about the film-maker’s relationship with his schizophrenic sibling.


The Jew & the Irishman   


Can’t you take a joke? They asked us that for years. The young artist’s role as witness, cataloguing the abject misery of his betters like a legislative stenographer – then later, communing with mother moon and father darkness. Suburban car wrecks and the long walk home.

Artist's Note: a friend recently suggested that the key biographical moment captured in this piece (witnessing my father’s temporary sense of freedom after transgressing the social contract of white, middle class, 1970’s, British Columbia) may have been when I decided to become an artist.

Music by Christine Fellows.




An homage to Sesame Street made with a brief loop of Super 8 footage shot across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Just 14 miles from Victoria to the Washington State coast and Bangor (the world’s largest nuclear submarine base and a primary Cold War target).

This hilltop view was many things to us while growing up: a place to peer out at the dark with a date, tongue-tied – a place to see the first flash of a long expected nuclear strike - a place to almost hear the bombs dropping on far-off Pacific villages – and up in the sky, F’s dancing.

Note: in theatres the rhythmic looping employed in this work produces a pronounced flashing or strobing effect, somewhat like an atomic detonation on the horizon. Although the filmmaker would never set out to antagonize his audience, it's still moving to see – from above in the projectionist's booth – some audience members reach to protect their eyes, their raised arms silhouetted in the pulsating room.

Music by Christine Fellows.

Bombs dropped by U.S. Air Force, Vietnam.


Love in the White City 


Made with a camera the size of a deck of cards carried in the artist’s pants pocket for a year, the White City beckons, repulses and quakes with portent.

The original poem was commissioned by CBC Radio in 2002 on the theme, ‘Love in Winnipeg’ – it began at 3 am in mid-February at 30 below, on a drive home in an empty, wind-swept, snowbound town.

Music by Christine Fellows.


Nanaimo Station  


A looping collage of family archive narrow gauge footage embracing/refuting the ideas of nostalgia and lost innocence, the commingling in our minds of the romantic past and easy irony – we can’t go back, the home we search for is gone, the kinder, gentler, magazine we wish we could live in, never existed at all. We are lost. Hurrah.

The 8mm footage, including the film-maker’s first steps, was filmed by his namesake, Clive Brown, a friend of the family and a west coast fisherman.

Nanaimo, British Columbia, is where Clive's family first attempted to set up a home in Canada after arriving from Dublin. They moved, for work reasons, to Victoria two years later. As a result, Nanaimo took on a useful mythical status for the Holden family, becoming the place before complication and sadness.

Music by Christine Fellows.


Burning Down the Suburbs  

On the side of a country highway, a nuclear family watches its four wheel drive burn to the ground. What were we thinking? they seem to ask themselves. An attempted update of a Dylan Thomas masterpiece, but read at a Jack in the Box picketed by P.E.T.A.

Figures (modeling compound, gouache) by Shary Boyle.

Music by Christine Fellows.


Saigon Apartments  

The artist watching the weak doing the poor. The filmmaker’s eye as voyeur’s lens. The camera as gun. If violence is the new sex, then TV news is the new pornography. Romance language yoked to the class struggle. Bulls eye.

This one’s about one-way interfaces, and their role in class and power dynamics. It’s common in our culture for artists to live in low rent neighbourhoods and therefore to witness the daily misery of the poor. But this witnessing is generally done from an outsider’s perspective. A majority of artists, at least in Western countries, are either from the middle classes or have effectively become middle class through education – but despite this, they often have very low incomes. This complex of watching, hearing, and often recording, can be seen as a mild kind of violence.

Music by Christine Fellows.


Bus North to Thompson With Les at the Wheel

Les Brandt drives for Grey Goose Coach Lines due north from Winnipeg to Thompson, Manitoba, as well as on long distance charters all over North America. He was recently awarded the ‘Million Safe Miles Award’, as well as ‘Driver of the Year’.

Artist's Note: I drove Greyhound bus for many years – it was an exceptionally good seasonal artist’s job, that I still miss. When speaking with Les, I’m reminded in particular of the summer of 1987 when I drove a route from northern British Columbia to the Yukon Territories. Over the years I’ve come to admire people who do their jobs well, and, like Les, seem to fit what they’re doing like a well-tailored suit of clothes.

Les is also a part-time painter, his specialty an ongoing series of kinetic cow paintings (available through the Winnipeg Art Gallery).

Music by Jason Tait.



Buildings modeled on mausoleums, filled with retirees. What can we make of this? The word ‘condo’ has become charged with meaning in our culture.

The question of where to live has recently reached a fever pitch for many people in the richer Western industrialized nations. People are moving with greater and greater frequency, as if desperate to find the perfect ‘resting place’. At the end of the road is a gilded question mark. Is this what we worked so hard for?

Music by Jason Tait.


Neighbours Walk Softly  

'Neighbours Walk Softly' is an anti-war protest poem, a test of the idea of neighbourhood, and a highlighting of the dividing lines we're only too willing to fight to defend in the inevitable times of crisis.

The Super 8 and video footage was collected in an upscale Vancouver neighbourhood over the period of one year, the act of looking through a lens causing the artist to realize what wasn't there to be seen – that even though there weren't any physical walls to keep out the poor and the less beautiful, somehow they were missing from the footage he collected.

The familiar middle class images are seen through a moving screen of near black & white textures, in the hope that the conscious effort required to see them increases perception.

Music by Jason Tait.


Unbreakable Bones  

A celebration of the film-maker’s love for his aging parents and their bravery in the face of death.

Footage shot from the windows of planes high above the Rocky Mountains, on trips between Winnipeg and the west coast. Broad metal wings equalling the heights of material invention, the dreamlike hush of air travel, human endeavour through blue ether.

Music by Jason Tait.


Active Pass

The footage and audio for 'Active Pass' were filmed and recorded while the filmmaker worked on the B.C. Ferries – Active Pass is a narrow space between two islands, the halfway point of a good ride, a tourist’s blurred iconic dreamscape, and the simple question: What is on the other side?

Music by Jason Tait.