“To be clear, you will not see Hollywood-style dramas here,” warns Cecilia Araneda, president and co-founder of WNDX, Winnipeg’s Festival of Film and Video Art.
The disclaimer is almost a given—it’s a festival of independent experimental films and moving art, after all—but still a necessary reminder. The festival doesn’t host the type of indie films that one watches just for the sake of referencing their obscurity. They celebrate honest, artistic works of expression that would not typically be lauded in the mainstream.
Myself being one of many who feels vulnerable to meeting the expectations of the dominant culture, viewing some of these works provided some uncommon insight. In order to embrace the festival experience, there are some key things you’ll need to remember:
Keep an open mind
You’ll get the most out of your experience if you come into it with few expectations. Talking from my experience, I went into Thompson by Mike Maryniuk thinking there would be panoramic views of an open road moving towards the northern Manitoba landscape – perhaps a mainstream assumption. Instead, I was surprised to find myself being lulled into a trance while looking out of a car window at endless rows of trees, blurring and merging together. It was as if Maryniuk were the driver and I, merely his passenger.
It was an unexpected, but welcome experience. Another thing to keep in mind is that most of these films are non-linear; they typically have no set plot, no clear beginning or end. These aren’t full-length feature films catered to the public interest – these are snippets of various artists’ perspectives of their world being shared with the public.
Don’t be afraid
And for that matter, don’t worry if it makes you feel uncomfortable. The creation of art is an intimate process that requires great passion and honest—things that are rarely found in prominent blockbusters—so the occasional feeling of discomfort just comes with the territory. The works showcased in WNDX diverge from the cinematic comfort zone.
For instance, Dan Browne’s memento mori reflects on the concept of death through a series of flashing, fleeting images of the world—images of childhood, families, people, natural as well as man-made surroundings, and religious icons—occasionally accompanied by rhythmic drumming and a sound bite of a narrator discussing death in front of an audience. The images seem to mimic the lack of clarity we have about the concept.
Death is commonly viewed as an unsettling subject that everyone faces at some point, and having to meditate on its reality is not easy. This is just one of the many films in the festival that encourage the viewer to expose themselves to the unfamiliar.
Don’t expect to “get it”
At least not right away – or in my case, ever. I’m no cinematography expert, nor do I claim to be a film critic. I can’t confidently declare one film as being better than another; but perhaps I don’t need to.
WNDX is a celebration of independent thinkers who breach the cultural norms of cinema. The festival encourages the audience to immerse themselves in these pictures and take some pieces home with them. These films aren’t seeking for approval or understanding, but merely appreciation.
WNDX runs from September 26 to 30. For more information, visit www.wndx.org