This month my film, Borderland Memories, is being screened at the Spotlight on Academics film festival, online from January 21-28, 2022. The festival films are peer-reviewed by a panel of filmmakers and academics, and are mostly documentaries, “independent films that have a solid academic foundation and that are produced with high production values”.
Borderland Memories is a 1-hour documentary merging the filmmaker’s family history in the post-WW2 forced migrations in Eastern Europe with contemporary discourses around immigration, kinship, and belonging.
I’ve always wanted to participate in the Ethnografilm Festival, which is usually held in Paris in April, and this year my film Borderland Memorieswas accepted. But due to the pandemic the festival decided to postpone until 2022 rather than go online at this time, so that it can once again be held at the Théâtre Lepic in Montmartre. How possible will this be in another year? Overseas travel seems like a dream now and my loved ones there speak with uncertainty of our future reunions.
At the end of this tumultuous year I finally completed my film, Borderland Memories, in progress since I first visited the ancestral village of my father’s family, formerly Ludwigsdorf, Germany, now called Ludwikowice, Poland. Over several journeys to various locations in Poland and Germany, I filmed places, visited archives, and met with scholars, artists, and cultural workers in Europe and North America. My research in 2018 and post-production in 2020 was funded by the Canada Council for the Arts. The result is a one-hour documentary essay film, distributed by Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre (CFMDC).
In the spring of this year as the pandemic forced us inside, filmmaker Midi Onodera invited me to participate in this participatory arts project, based on the Surrealist game The Exquisite Corpse. Each video has 4 participating artists, one each for text, image, editing and sound design. I decided to work on all 4 parts, and these and more than 60 other short films, produced by over 100 artists, can be seen on this website: https://exc-19.com/
Just days into the Covid-19 lockdown, I learned that I was fortunate to receive Canada Council for the Arts funding to support the post-production phase of my digital film project, Borderland Memories, a work in progress since 2015. I began working with my sound and picture editing collaborators via Zoom and other online platforms, and the process of editing and audio production became a slow meditation in the restructured perception of time generated by social distancing. Online work time is both more compacted and more fragmented, producing a continual reassessment of the themes I am expressing for the future screen. What will the stories I’ve been exploring in this film for the past five years mean in the larger post-pandemic histories to come? Two years ago, I was in Berlin at this time, doing archival research at the German Historical Museum, filming in the city and in places along the German/Polish border, meeting with colleagues in the Silesian countryside and in the city of Wroclaw. Although I had gathered enough material to construct my film when travel options ended, I was hoping to return to Europe this spring for some final research and image production. Now I wonder what film festivals and screenings will be like in times ahead, and what are the ethics of future travel – for work, for time with loved ones abroad, to reach into a wider world.
Views From Home: Facing North (2019) records changing views from the filmmaker’s Toronto home over two decades and multiple seasons, moving from analogue film photographic studies to digital media practices as years of construction and redevelopment of the visible landscapes unfold. Key historical moments are cited to sound effects and ambient music. A part of this work was previously shown at Gallery 44 Members Space, Toronto. Below is the trailer. The short film is distributed by Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre (CFMDC).
Since 2015 I have travelled three times to Lower Silesia, Poland, where my father’s family lived for centuries under Bohemian, Prussian, and German rule. Their homes were in regional villages south of Wroclaw, a thousand-year old city. The earliest Silesians were migratory tribes. Traces of Stone Age habitation were found on the city’s riverbanks and Celtic populations passed through and moved on. Silesia was claimed by the kingdom of Poland shortly before the year 1000, followed by various competing rulerships and kingdoms as the land was bought, sold, seized in battles and traded in marriages between revolving political, social, and religious controls, becoming finally a province of the Republic of Germany until it was annexed to Poland after WW2. My relations, along with most ethnic Germans, were expelled to the west, leaving their homes behind. While in Silesia I filmed sites, visited archives, and recorded interviews for my media project, Borderland Memories. I was a visiting researcher on a team from Adam Mickiewicz University, Poland, and my project research and creation was funded by the Canada Council for the Arts.
Here is a link to a new visual essay, Among the Ruins, published in the online journal The Goose (2018). An early version of this work was presented at the 2011 Green Words/Green Worlds conference in Toronto. The images were shown as part of the 2013 exhibition, Abject Transformations, at Arcadia Art Gallery, Toronto.