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MY WINNIPEG (ARSENAL EDITION) Guy Maddin, Kanada 2007, 79 min

A multilayered journey through the hometown in his head, Guy Maddin’s MY WINNIPEG is a vigorous caprice of fact and fiction.

'My Winnipeg' winds its way though the birthplace of personal mythologies, attempting to understand the nature of memory. Equal parts mystical rumination and personal history, city chronicle and deranged post-Freudian proletarian fantasy, My Winnipeg blends local myth with childhood trauma. All narrated by Maddin's usual entertaining and inspired energy. Commissioned by Michael Burns whose command was 'enchant me with your treatment' this was Maddin's cue to set about exploring the spell of his home town. By mixing animation, archive and re-enactments he has created an extraordinary visual homage in true individual Guy Maddin style.

The mysterious connection with the past - Director’s statement

In 1888, William Cornelius Van Horne, the great railway man who, against long odds, built the Canadian Pacific Railroad across our vast nation, established a tradition in Winnipeg that survives to this day. On the first day of winter of that year, Van Horne held a city-wide scavenger hunt. Every one of the young town’s residents was given a treasure map and invited to participate. First prize was a one-way ticket on the next train out of town. The secret hope behind this contest was that after a long day spent combing through the city’s nooks and crannies, Winnipeg- gers would discover that the real treasure was here all along, that it was Winnipeg itself. And for the longest time, Horne’s trick worked – especially on me.

As a filmmaker who has spent his entire 50 years in Winnipeg, I’ve been enchanted, intoxicated and benighted by the city of my birth – it’s been my muse since long before I ever picked up a camera. I’ve fallen in love with the place, not only for what it was while I loved it, but for what it used to be and for what it could be again! Like a heedless, irrational suitor I have invested all my hopes for the future in it, only to be left heartbroken by the cold-bloodedly “progressive” course it insists on taking as it navigates itself inexorably away from the enchantment I once knew into the bland oblivion and mediocrity it craves for itself. With my hopes mutinied I have grown bitterly disillusioned with my home town.

But before I flee, I must review for my own nostalgic delectation all that has so sweetly mattered to me about this once-beguiling wonderland, for no more curious a place exists in all of North America, or anywhere else!
I will revisit for one last time the streets of Winni- peg – my Winnipeg – and locate for the viewer the magic spots that I cherish, where one can merely point a finger and the past will come springing up like so much artesian well water. There’s something strange, something dreamy going on here, where pedestrians would rather use back lanes than front streets; where our homeless hide en masse on the rooftops of abandoned skyscrapers; and where a strange civic law requires you to admit for a night any former owner or resident of your current home.

By wending my way though the very birthplaces of my personal mythologies, by attempting to understand the very nature of memory even while it fabricates what turns out to be an illusory Winnipeg for itself, and by facing down, in a series of singular domestic experiments, the possessive power of my own family, perhaps I can unlock the mysterious forces that occultly bind many a human heart to the past. Perhaps I can finally define for myself the true meaning of “home” and make the shackles that bind me here simply fall away.
(Guy Maddin)

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