'More like a punk show than a screening': At this Winnipeg festival, experimental film reigns

WNDX is the festival by filmmakers, for filmmakers. "Experimental art is a reminder that there are a million ways to be, and to think, and to communicate."

WNDX is the festival by filmmakers, for filmmakers — and it's shaking things up

An image from Jaz Papadopolous’ "two poems (loop)." (WNDX)

Since 2005, the WNDX Festival of Moving Image has been celebrating film as a means of artistic expression. They focus on the stuff you won't see at a big box theatre, instead giving space to innovative works of moving art from artists from around the world. WNDX bills itself as a festival that was created by filmmakers for filmmakers.

The public's sometimes narrow view of what constitutes a movie has given them a challenge from day one, and it's something that festival producer Rhayne Vermettehas to deal with when it comes to marketing the festival.

"It really is difficult to get the local press to show interest in what we are doing," she says. "We don't need to write about the new Batman movie, or the bazillionth edition of The Fast and the Furious — we are so inundated with these films, we know they exist. They are playing at every single theatre here in Winnipeg. You can't miss them."

Artist Jaz Papadopolous' video "two poems (loop)" is showing at the festival. They were drawn to the festival, and to the art form, because of the lack of constraints, and the freedom to create.

"I think that experimental film and video — and experimental art in general — is really important," Papadopolous says. "I think it's really important for unlearning normative expectations, for practicing thinking creatively and challenging our ability to understand/comprehend. Experimental art is a reminder that there are a million ways to be, and to think, and to communicate."

This year the festival placed focus on gender parity. This is something WNDX has had to actively strive for, because like so many other industries, film is male-dominated. The festival has a 50/50 parity for most of its programming — something filmmaker and artist Gwen Trutnau, who has been showing her work at the festival for the past 12 years, is, shall we say, happy about.

Experimental art is a reminder that there are a million ways to be, and to think, and to communicate.- Jaz Papadopolous, artist

"Well, my feeling is it's about fucking time," she said.

For Papadopolous, who is non-binary, the parity is a good thing — but it's really just a step towards a bigger conversation.

"In terms of gender in the festival, I think being able to say that there's parity is an important step. It also really can't be the goal. Parity does not ensure that there's a radical or anti-oppressive understanding of gender, whether it be towards women, trans folks, or non-binary folks," they said.

An image from Gwen Trutnau's "Hot Anger." (WNDX)

A favourite among both attendees and artists alike is the One Take Super 8 Event, which closes the festival. Prior to the festival, participants are given a roll of Super 8 Film. They go out, shoot their movie, return the film and it's sent away for processing. The first time the filmmakers see their finished movie is at the theatre, along with everyone else in the audience.

Trutnau has been participating in the One Take Super 8 event since the beginning and still remembers the early days.

"The One Take Super 8 Event started small. In the first few years people had to be convinced to participate," she says. "I recall the second one held at the Winnipeg Film Group studio being pretty wild — felt more like a punk show than a screening. The event has grown so much that people are having to line up to get a spot. The thing that has not changed is the overall vibe, everyone sitting in the theatre probably freaking out over what the film they made will look like. Is it in focus? Did it work? There is a crazy energy in the room."

WNDX Festival. October 4-8, Winnipeg. wndx.org/events

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