Kanye West and the Winnipeg Jets: Filmmaker Guy Maddin reflects on hometown
It has been 10 years since the highly acclaimed 'My Winnipeg' premiered. Our local celebrity dishes on his memorable moments at home.
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Ten years since the premiere of his feature My Winnipeg, filmmaker Guy Maddin still has civic spirit on his mind. While Winnipeg explored Maddin’s deeply personal mythologizing of Winnipeg, his newest project is an experimental portrait of San Francisco.
“I’m working with Evan and Galen Johnson, my partners from 2015’s The Forbidden Room,” Maddin says of The Green Fog, a featurette commissioned for the San Francisco International Film Festival. “It’s a city symphony created using repurposed footage from Hollywood movies shot in San Francisco. We decided to remake Vertigo, without using any shots from Vertigo.”
My Winnipeg was also a commissioned project, in this case by the Documentary Channel. It premiered at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival to rapturous praise. Roger Ebert later named it among the 10 best films of the decade.
The film explores Winnipeg through a bleak lens. However, Maddin says the film’s release and the subsequent decade have brightened his view of the city.
“It was a documentary about my feelings of the city,” Maddin explains. “Afterwards, I was astonished how many different Winnipegs there were. You can go down Route 90 to Linden Woods. There’s a giant Keg with 1,000 seats. Everyone is happy to be there. I’ve felt obliged to chasten myself since. There was an inherent snobbiness and self-pity in the movie. I just lamented my parts of the city that are gone.”
One of those mourned places was the demolished Winnipeg Arena. The film refers to the then-new MTS Centre as “the Empty Centre”. Maddin has now reconciled his feelings towards the current arena.
“I saw Kanye West there. It was the best I’ve felt at a concert,” Maddin says. “Arena concerts used to be so ugly and mean-spirited. People would throw firecrackers in your ear. The return of the Jets is such a happy story. I was chilly and distant at first, like if my dad had returned after 16 years, but I’ve become a pretty rabid fan.”
Maddin says there are still local stories that inspire him, pointing to Faron Hall, the homeless Winnipegger who saved two people from drowning before himself drowning in 2014.
“(Faron’s story) could’ve been written by Euripides or Homer,” Maddin says. “I hope his legend someday crystallizes, maybe like Christ’s did. I’d be ashamed were he forgotten.”
Following The Green Fog and multiple semesters teaching at Harvard, Maddin says he thinks My Winnipeg’s specificity is key to its success.
“Cities have their own personalities,” Maddin says. “They’re as different as people, yet they’re the same. The more specific I got with San Francisco, the more like Winnipeg it became. They’ve got the Golden Gate Bridge. But the Arlington Street Bridge, that ain’t nothing.”