Founded in 1994 by filmmaker and teacher Phil Hoffman, the Independent Imaging Retreat has provided over 260 participants (two-thirds of which are women) with guidance and training in hand-processing film.* Known collectively as the "Film Farm", over the past 25 years the week-long retreat has fostered experimental hand-processed cinema practices at the local, national, and international level. With the widespread demise of photochemical labs and the subsequent rise of digital filmmaking, the Film Farm can be situated as a forerunner in the emerging movement of artists and collectives committed to the aesthetic and the ethic of the personal handmade film — "artisanal filmmaking" — which has blossomed despite the corresponding disappearance of analogue filmmaking on an industrial scale.
Featured works include 50 films handmade at the Film Farm (1994–2019), video diaries shot during the retreat (1994–2018), and a 35mm projection of a photogram film. The exhibition is anchored by Hoffman's new film, vulture (2019), which was hand-processed using the juices of flowers and a salt bath to fix the image. vulture locates the films and processes in the physical environment of the Film Farm and highlights a sustainable, "green" DIY practice that further distances hand-processing from professional labs.
The recent resurgence of handmade and hand-processed film can be understood as a DIY solution to the shuttering of professional film processing labs, and as a materialist response to digital advances in motion-picture technology that counters the primacy of high-definition images by creating physical works that incorporate chance and grit. The burgeoning call in popular culture to embrace difference and authenticity, and to interrogate dominant narratives and subjectivity, provides a timely frame for an exhibition of handmade works shaped by improvisation, collaboration, and personal expression. Handmade films retain the tactile markings and imperfections of their creation, such as dirt, flowers, fingerprints, water bubbles, and scratches. They enable a personal film practice. This exhibition celebrates and documents the impact of the Film Farm on the artisanal filmmaking landscape in Canada.
Curated by Michelle Lovegrove Thomson
Exhibition organized by TIFF
* A handmade or hand-processed film is typically, but not exclusively, shot on a small-gauge camera (Super 8mm or 16mm). The filmmaker develops the film in a darkroom using photochemical or "green" processes, and may edit the film by splicing the elements (physically cutting and taping pieces of film) or by digitizing the developed film and editing the digital file using software.
This exhibition accompanies the following Wavelengths screenings, programmed by Chris Kennedy: Film Farm: 25 Years of the Mount Forest Independent Imaging Retreat Programme 1 and Film Farm: 25 Years of the Mount Forest Independent Imaging Retreat Programme 2