Canadian filmmaker featured in Halifax festival

A retrospective of Canadian filmmaker Brenda Longfellow’s work was held at Carbon Arc Cinema on Barrington Street Thursday as part of the Halifax Independent Filmmakers’ Festival.

It marks the first time her film Tina in Mexico has been screened in Halifax.

Longfellow creates films and documentaries that attempt to “interrupt the linearity of narrative.”

By Natasha Hunt

Outside of the retrospective at the Khyber. (Natasha Hunt Photo).

A retrospective of Canadian filmmaker Brenda Longfellow’s work was held at Carbon Arc Cinema on Barrington Street Thursday as part of the Halifax Independent Filmmakers’ Festival.

It marks the first time her film Tina in Mexico has been screened in Halifax.

Longfellow creates films and documentaries that attempt to “interrupt the linearity of narrative.” Unlike a traditional movie that has an easy-to-follow beginning, middle and end, Longfellow’s work disrupts that structure and forces viewers to pay closer attention to what they are experiencing. Her films center on diverse themes such as women and the arts, political engagement and the environment.

“I make films about feminism, politics, history,” she says, “I have a passion for social justice…that’s what I think about.”

With Tina in Mexico, Longfellow examines the life, art and political engagement of Tina Modotti, a film star, photographer and political activist who lived in Mexico during the 1920s.

In Our Marilyn, Longfellow juxtaposes Canadian athlete Marilyn Bell with American actress Marilyn Monroe. She also inserts herself into the film, which allows Longfellow to reflect on her own identity in relation to those women.

“With Our Marilyn, I was thinking about women’s bodies, comparing a highly sexualized body (Monroe’s) with an active, athletic body (Bell’s),” says Longfellow.

For film buffs such as Shannon Brownlee, the Halifax Independent Filmmakers’ Festival  is an exciting opportunity.

“(The festival)  is really important to my working life,” says Brownlee. “It provides access to non commercial work. When I moved to Halifax, I was really missing the more experimental (side of film).” She calls the new Halifax festival “mindblowing.”

For five years, the festival has been a noncompetitive event that highlights and focuses on Canadian short films. The films screened are more experimental than the average blockbuster, and are normally not shown in major movie theaters.

External links
Brenda Longfellow at York University
Brenda Longfellow at The NFB Film Collection
Tina in Mexico
Halifax Independent Filmmakers’ Film Festival Website

Brownlee is on the curatorial board for the Atlantic Filmmaker’s Cooperative. She oversees what gets shown at the festival and tracks down films that are “hard to get a hold of.”

“I proposed the screening (of Longfellow’s work) a year ago…partially because I love her feminist work, that interweaving of women’s intellect, emotion and lives, and was interested in seeing them back to back.”

Brownlee first became aware of Longfellow when she saw Our Marilyn in a university class. She then saw Tina in Mexico at the Toronto documentary festival, Hot Docs. Brownlee believes having these retrospectives is important because they allow people to see films that are not readily available in a digital format.

“As stuff is moving online, and as people get used to downloading and having so much film, it becomes harder to find,” Brownlee says.

Longfellow agrees: “(The festival) is a fantastic venue for things that are (alternative to the mainstream), such as non linear narrative films, experimental films and documentaries,” says Longfellow.

For Longfellow, having films such as Our Marilyn and Tina in Mexico shown at festivals allows filmmakers and viewers to create communities. This is important because not only does it increase viewership, but it allows people to learn about things that they wouldn’t normally be exposed to.

“It’s about fostering community and educating,” Longfellow says. “(Film) is not just what you see in multiplexes.”