April 14, 2016 – Toronto – National Film Board of Canada (NFB)
Starting April 14, audiences have a new way of experiencing film narrative with Seances, a groundbreaking achievement in data-driven cinematic storytelling from iconoclastic filmmaker Guy Maddin, co-creators Evan Johnson and Galen Johnson, and the National Film Board of Canada.
Launching online at nfb.ca/seances, as well as at the Tribeca Film Festival’s Storyscapes program as an installation-based experience, Seances dynamically assembles reimagined lost films in never-to-be-repeated configurations. This project was born from the mind of one of the world’s foremost outré directors, Guy Maddin, who has long been haunted by the idea that 80 percent of films from the silent era have vanished. Seances is the latest project to emerge from a cinematic storyworld that also includes the acclaimed 2015 feature film The Forbidden Room, named to TIFF’s Canada’s Top Ten list.
Seances spans a vast historical breadth, from early cinema all the way to present day, with its impressive and unique application of technology, and along the way achieves unexpected profundity and a surprising depth of emotion. It’s humorous and touching and gripping and gorgeous; a testament to ephemerality in the age of the Internet―for each time users conjure up a new Seances film for a single film experience, they also participate directly in its eternal loss.
Seances is powered by an indefatigable film-generating-and-destroying machine that deliberately creates films only to destroy them after their one and only viewing. Called “Imposium,” it’s a proprietary cloud-based video/audio compositing and compilation software from Nickel Media, which allowed Maddin and the brothers Johnson to apply algorithmic methods to their storytelling, presenting a completely new method of filmmaking.
Seances reimagines the lost works of such cinematic legends as Alice Guy‐Blaché, Alexander Dovzhenko, Jacques Feyder, Benjamin Fondane, Alfred Hitchcock and more, and was filmed at the Phi Centre in Montreal and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. It features a stellar cast of Canadian and international actors, including Mathieu Amalric, Geraldine Chaplin, Louis Negin, Ariane Labed, Jacques Nolot, Udo Kier, Adèle Haenel, Charlotte Rampling, Clara Furey, Paul Ahmarani, Caroline Dhavernas and Karine Vanasse.
From April 14 to 17, festival-goers at Tribeca can take part in this collective cinematic séance, through the interactive installation at the Tribeca Storyscapes Exhibit and Lounge at Spring Studios. This unique communal on-site experience utilizes two 55-inch touch-screen displays and features three interactive screenings every hour.
Seances is a collaboration between the NFB’s North West Studio and Digital Studio, and is produced for the NFB by Alicia Smith and Dana Dansereau, with David Christensen and Loc Dao as executive producers.
The 2015 feature The Forbidden Room was co-directed by Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson, presented by Mongrel International and Phi Films and co-produced by Buffalo Gal Pictures, Phi Films and the NFB.
“Almost every director working in the first half‐century of film history has lost at least one film to the quirks of fate. These lost works remind me of ghosts. It’s easy to equate these films long gone missing, which exist forensically only in the form of a few production stills and some old Variety reviews, as restless spirits that haunt us. The landscape of cinema history is thronged with their likes, tormenting us with their promise of a return, of their warm refulgent brilliance restored to us, as in a miracle. There will never be the kind of closure the discovery of a dead body can bring to a family. These films will never be declared dead with any certainty, they will continue to haunt us with the possibility of their return. These lost film titles are the ‘hauntings’ we hope to invoke with Seances.”
‒ Guy Maddin, co-creator
Guy Maddin is an installation and internet artist, lecturer at Harvard, and writer and filmmaker. He has directed 11 feature-length movies, including The Forbidden Room (2015), My Winnipeg (2007), and The Saddest Music in the World (2003), and innumerable shorts. He has also mounted over 70 performances of his films featuring live elements—orchestra, sound effects, singing and narration—around the world. He is a member of the Order of Canada and the Order of Manitoba.
Evan Johnson is a writer and filmmaker living in Winnipeg with his girlfriend and son. He studied film and philosophy at the University of Manitoba and worked at Winnipeg’s Rug Doctor chemical bottling plant before being discovered there by Guy Maddin. In addition to co-directing The Forbidden Room, Evan has made a number of short films, including Bring Me the Head of Tim Horton (2015), co-directed with Galen Johnson and Guy Maddin, and featured at TIFF’s 2015 Wavelengths program.
Galen Johnson is a Winnipeg-based composer and designer whose award-winning work has been exhibited around the globe. Over the years, he has collaborated with filmmaking duo Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson on a number of projects, including the documentary short Bring Me the Head of Tim Horton, which he co-directed and composed, and The Forbidden Room, for which his opening title sequence was named best title sequence of 2015 by artofthetitle.com.
NFB Digital Studio profile
The NFB Digital Studio has co-created and produced award-winning interactive works such as Seven Digital Deadly Sins, Circa 1948, Bear 71, Welcome to Pine Point, The Test Tube with David Suzuki and The Last Hunt. Its projects have won over 40 awards, including five Webby Awards, an FWA Site of the Year, several Canadian Screen Awards and Banff Rockies, and a Cannes Cyber Lion.
NFB North West Studio profile
The NFB’s North West Studio produces, co-produces, and co-creates award-winning documentary, animation and interactive works. Recent studio highlights include the animated short If I Was God, the feature documentary Hadwin’s Judgement, the award-winning short Nowhere Land, the internationally acclaimed feature film The Forbidden Room, the feature documentary Everything Will Be, the Oscar-nominated animated short film Wild Life, and the FWA Site of the Year Bear 71.
Tribeca Film Festival’s Storyscapes program
Centre Georges Pompidou
Buffalo Gal Pictures
Screening Room Online: NFB.ca