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Film / My Winnipeg

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My Winnipeg is a 2007 film written and directed by Guy Maddin.

Guy Maddin, an avant-garde filmmaker well-known for Le Film Artistique, was commissioned by the Documentary Channel of Canada to make a documentary about his hometown, the city of Winnipeg, capital of Manitoba. Maddin instead turned in something much weirder.

The film as it is features a fictional "Guy Maddin" who longs to escape his boring, dreary hometown, a gray and cold city that sits on the flat prarie of central North America. Maddin—actually "Maddin", played by an actor named Darcy Fehr, although the real Guy Maddin narrates—muses about how Winnipeg is sleepy and boring but no one ever manages to leave. He reels off facts about the town that are mostly nonsense, like how horses stampeded into the Red River one winter and died, or the supposedly ancient tradition in which the people of Winnipeg had an annual treasure hunt, the prize of which was a one-way train ticket out of town. Sprinkled in among the nonsense are some actual historical facts, like the 1919 Winnipeg general strike and a simulated Nazi invasion of the town in 1942.

Meanwhile, "Guy Maddin" rents out his old childhood home and hires actors to play his mother and siblings. Together they act out his (fake) childhood memories. (His mother is played by Ann Savage, B-movie queen of films like Detour, in her final role.) Maddin wonders if he will ever manage to leave Winnipeg.


  • Amusement Park: The film briefly mentions Happyland Park, a Winnipeg amusement park that ran for only a few years in the early 20th century. The ghostly clips of people riding in an amusement park look thoroughly creepy.
  • Art Shift: Occasional bits of animation to demonstrate stuff like the 1919 general strike or the bison stampede of 1922.
  • Author Avatar: A fictional "Guy Maddin" considers the long, weird history of his town while struggling to find a way out.
  • Black Comedy: His father having been dead for decades by this time, Maddin simulates his participation in the fake family reunion by pretending to bury a body under the living room rug.
  • Canadian Equals Hockey Fan: Maddin rants angrily about the new hockey arena, the MTS Center ("a zombie in a cheap suit"), and documents the destruction of the old Winnipeg Arena. He claims to have actually been born at the arena during a hockey game. This is followed by an extended reverie where Maddin talks about his love of hockey, and then he recounts a (fake) reunion of elderly Winnipeg hockey heroes, forming a team called the Black Thursdays.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: In black and white as are all of Maddin's films, here evoking the gray boredom of a fictional Winnipeg.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Lampshaded and discussed, when "the Forks"—the confluence of the Red River and the Assiniboine River, where Winnipeg is located—is repeatedly matched to a photo of a woman's crotch.
  • Fanservice Extra: The naked ladies lounging around, representing old-timey Winnipeg prostitutes.
  • Fun with Subtitles: Maddin uses old-fashioned silent movie title cards throughout the film. For example, when he is coaching his "mother" through an acting rehearsal, he comes to believe she is deliberately botching her lines. Title cards reading "Sabotage!" and "Passive-aggressive!" pop up.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Deliberately invoked when one of Maddin's nearly subliminal titles proclaims Winnipeg "Queer to smell."
  • The Ken Burns Effect: Occasional zoom-ins and zoom-outs with still photos.
  • Melodrama: The ridiculously over-the-top scene where Maddin's sister comes home after hitting a deer on the highway, and her mother accuses her of Auto Erotica (and apparently she's right).
  • Mockumentary: As noted above, most of what's in this "documentary" of the city of Winnipeg is made up, like the horses that drowned in the Red River, the yearly treasure hunt, the hordes of sleepwalkers, the fictional television drama LedgeMan, a bison stampede, and a make-believe old-timers' hockey team, the "Black Tuesdays". But the general strike and the simulated Nazi invasion were real, and Maddin documents the real-life demolition of the Eaton's building and the Winnipeg Arena (once home to Winnipeg's actual hockey team, the Jets).
  • Narrator: Maddin (the real one) narrates the film, recounting Winnipeg's fictional history and his own desire to escape.
  • Small Town Boredom: In Maddin's version Winnipeg is so boring that sleepwalkers continuously wander the city. There's a municipal ordinance requiring homeowners to allow entry to sleepwalkers who wander to "old dreamy addresses". Maddin calls the town "always sleepy".
  • Spooky Séance: The seances supposedly held in City Hall, with leading citizens of Winnipeg in attendance.
  • Stylistic Suck: As with most of Maddin's oeuvre the film is shot in black-and-white, with shots that are often intentionally left scratched or unfocused.
  • Suicide as Comedy: Supposedly the only TV show ever produced in Winnipeg is LedgeMan, about a guy who climbs out on a ledge every week and threatens to jump. His mother, played by Maddin's mother, then talks him off the ledge. The joke is particularly dark here, as in Real Life Maddin's brother Cameron committed suicide in 1963 at the age of sixteen. (The film only says that he died, without mentioning how.)