Vulture Aesthetics by Hoffman here
Jordan Cronk, Off the Grid (on Hoffman’s vulture) Cinemascope 2020, MDFF Selects, TIFF Bell Light Box: …Nature plays a different but equally ominous role in vulture, an unassuming yet sublime featurette by veteran Canadian filmmaker Philip Hoffman. Assembled by the director over a period of two years, the film comprises 16mm footage shot on Hoffman’s farm in Mount Forest, Ontario that the filmmaker then photochemically processed with natural plant and flower pigments, resulting in a roughhewn, multivalent display of richly tinted and textured celluloid. To hear Hoffman tell it, his analog approach to cinema is part and parcel of a universal cycle of survival and sustainability; like a vulture, his film feasts on the very elements of its production, finding aesthetic nutrients in its every ingredient.
Following a brief shot of Homer Watson’s turn-of-the-20th-century landscape painting The Flood Gate, the film commences with a procession of slow, Wavelength-esque zooms towards a variety of animal life (pigs, horses, cows, goats, chickens) before shifting focus to take in the larger ecosystem surrounding the farm fauna: overhead, birds of prey patiently circle, while in the distance, tractors plow the land and farmers work the fields. The film’s landscape imagery occasionally recalls Nicolas Rey’s autrement, la Molussie (2012) or the work of the late Peter Hutton, though the quietly swelling audio frequencies—the sound is credited to Luca Santilli and Clint Enns, with a mix by experimental filmmaker Isiah Medina (88:88)—portend something far less comforting. Like Wilcox, vulture forgoes direct sound; instead, the distant din of fluttering distortion echoes across the stereo field like helicopter blades on the horizon, with the occasional sample of a young boy’s voice emerging from the void as if summoned from another dimension. Before long, those unassuming establishing shots (which appear mostly untouched by any post-production techniques) give way to a series of colour montages that cut together heavily treated images of plant, animal, and human life from around the farm—an idyllic vision disrupted by the subliminal threat of violence and industrialization. Rather than let the threat loom, Hoffman reworks a selection of this same material for a bracing coda in which the previously placid imagery is subjected to a caustic combination of rapid edits and atonal musical flourishes. (Unsurprisingly, both the sound and edit for this section is credited to Medina.) “Vultures live together, and they don’t fight, they help each other,” the boy says at one point—a perfectly succinct bit of childlike wisdom for a world in which pleasure and peril often go hand in hand.
“for its beauty, the perfection of the relationship between sound and image, its radical concept of cinematographic time, the sophistication of the montage, but above all, for its non-negotiable commitment to the essence of cinema – the image in time – and the didactic and community context that it generates around its work” Fugas International Jury Award from Haden Guest, director of the Harvard Film Archive, Dora García, artist and filmmaker, and Raúl Camargo, director of the Valdivia International Film Festival (Chile)
`vulture’ website Here
Hoffman’s film `vulture’ was awarded the Best Film Award (over 45 min) by the Fugas International Competition Jury at Documenta Madrid 2020. Thanks to Isiah Medina (Editing & Sound Mix), Luca Santilli (Sound) and his band Kennedy (Music), Dagie Brundert, Ricardo Leite,, Franci Duran, Clint Enns, Dennis Day, Zac Goldkind, Janine Marchessault and The Ontario Arts Council.
Kim Knowles on “vulture”:
“Hoffman’s vulture” a beautiful and contemplative study of interspecies co-existence, where farm animals roam freely and the camera patiently observes their various interactions. Shot on 16mm film and processed with plants and flowers, it’s also an exercise in eco-sensitivity on so many levels.” Edinburgh International Film Festival, Blackbox
“The marks and blemishes on the surface of the film that result from hand- processing draw attention to both the mediating presence of the material and the hand of the artist in crafting a visual record of the place. Sections of the film were processed and tinted with a variety of flowers, fruits and plants from around the farm – magnolia, hyachinth, hydrangea, daffodil, rhododendron, pond algae, lilac, oregano, comfrey, rose, mint, goldenrod, hosta buds, wild garlic seeds, tansy, aster, echinacea, sunflower, and walnut. From this perspective vulture is more than just a visual appreciation of the land; it is a complex material engagement with an eco-system that draws out the expressive possibilities of living things beyond conventional forms of representation. Over a shot of a flying bird, we hear a child relating fragments of information about vultures and their hunting habits. `Vultures live together, and they don’t fight, they help each other’, says the child. `I didn’t know that’, replies Hoffman. Behind this simple exchange lie multiple layers of signification that testify to the intellectual and spiritual depth of the film, and, at the same time, point towards a philosophy of collective nurturing that quietly runs under the surface of the Independent Imaging Retreat (Film Farm).” Excerpt from “From Chapter 4, From Film Lab to Film Farm by Kim Knowles from her book Experimental Film and Photo Chemical Practices
In Conversation: Philip Hoffman & Charlie Egleston at Forest City Film Festival Here
Read Review by Andrew Robertson, Edinburgh International Film Festival Here
Read review by Mónica Delgado Desisit Film Here
Deep 1 (14:30, 2023)
Filmed over 2 years (2020-2022), at home and away, Deep 1 is a diaristic meditation, flower/plant processed and decayed with hyacinth and lichen extract. Winged and four legged animals, both wild and domestic, traverse the frame marked by a hand-made practice. Filmed in Mount Forest, Ontario and Dawson City, Yukon. *available on digital & on 35mm
Ann Arbor Film Festival 2023, USA; Jury Award Ribalta Experimental Film Festival 2023, Italy La Escuela Internacional de Cine y Televisión (EICTV) 2023, Cuba
Opening audio passage from a recording of the “Gayatri Mantra” by mentor/friend Rup Chand (Ann Arbor 1979). He told me that his mother suggested he recite the words when he was in fear.
Om Bhur bhuvah svah Tat savitur varenyam Bhargo Devasya dheemahi Dheeyo yonah prachodayaat — The Rigveda (10:16:3)
“Oh manifest and unmanifest, wave and ray of breath, red lotus of insight, transfix us from eye to navel to throat, under canopy of stars spring from soil in an unbroken arc of light that we might immerse ourselves until lit from within like the sun itself.” (translation from Sanskrit by Ravi Shankar)
About looking at things; envisioning a space “where we are not separated from other things.” – R.H. Blyth
“across the window, birds and beasts look unaware of their decay” –Ph
Still Time in Philip Hoffman’s `Deep 1’
by Lucia Ruggieri, Francesco D’Accia, Matteo Ricci (Ribalta Experimental Film Festival, Italy)
The Gāyatrī mantra of the Ṛgveda sets-up the entire short film: it is the mantra itself that creates the atmosphere of darkness, followed by the first creation: the tree, which contains the identity of darkness as if it were its visible matter. Continue reading Deep 1 (2023)
Flowers # 1 (3:18, 2022) By Philip Hoffman & Alexander Granger
This motion picture photogram was made during a 5 hour plunge into the darkroom; a procession of herbs. Séance #3 – Sentir Comme Une Plante
These motion picture photograms were initiated through a five hour plunge into the darkroom; remembering the Galician celebration of flowers on the road in Baiona, near Vigo in 2019, here too we made a floral carpet of photograms. –P.Hoffman
A Procession of herbs “emerge in all their structures, colors and epidermis. The motion picture itself becomes a plant which delicately stretches petioles and petals.” – Séance #3-Sentir Comme une Plante, Muséum National d’Histoire naturelle, Paris.
*Cover photo by C.E. Brown
Janine Marchessault & Scott MacKenzie talk about their new book Process Cinema: Handmade Film in the Digital Age, and how they dreamed up the book at Film Farm! see video
The Gāyatrī mantra of the Ṛigveda sets-up the entire short film: it is the mantra itself that creates the atmosphere of darkness, followed by the first creation: the tree, which contains the identity of darkness as if it were its visible matter…. (see below)
DEEP 1 (2023, 15 min, HDV or 35mm)
Hoffman on `Deep 1′
Flowers #3 (Kissed by the Sun) (2023, 10 min, HDV )
…more on Hoffman’s films
Martha Rosler on Hoffman’s Films
“Philip Hoffman is a precious resource, one of the few contemporary filmmakers whose work provides a bridge to the classical themes of death, diaspora, memory, and, finally, transcendence. As Landscape With Shipwreck makes clear, Hoffman explores these most Canadian of themes without grandiosity; instead they emerge from stories held close to the ground, the family, and personal experience, whether at home or in very unfamiliar places indeed. And he does so through a constant renovation of method that enriches the viewers’ ability to grasp how film form contains and conditions meaning. This is just the sort of human voice articulated through film that we desperately need amidst the thunder of corporate media in all forms.” (“Landscape with Shipwreck: 1st Person Cinema and the Films of Philip Hoffman”, Insomniac Press/Images Festival 2001)
Kim Knowles on `vulture’
“ Hoffman’s vulture” a beautiful and contemplative study of interspecies co-existence, where farm animals roam freely and the camera patiently observes their various interactions. Shot on 16mm film and processed with plants and flowers, it’s also an exercise in eco-sensitivity on so many levels.” Edinburgh International Film Festival, Blackbox
Dirk de Bruyn on `Chimera’
“The film consists of collected, diaristic images amassed through Hoffman’s travels. Uluru… Russian shoppers, a Cairo market, and day to day images from home and away… make floating appearances. These have been gathered on the run, and then reconstituted with an uncanny ephemeral floating rhythm, a dance of light, and replaying, with commendable control, the idea of visual music, visual jazz. Though the method of collection may have had an air of arbitrariness about it, the meticulous construction and focus on rhythm in the finished piece suggest an artist who has learnt to master technique so as to let it speak for him about ‘other’ things.”
KOKORO IS FOR HEART (1999)
Liz Czach on `Kokoro is for Heart’
“Communication takes a poetic turn in Kokora is for Heart. Originating as a performance piece, the director, Phil Hoffman, screened segments of this film in a random order selected by the audience (Opening Series 3). Accompanying this was the sound poetry of Gerry Shikatani. From this process the film has found its organic and final structure.” (TIFF Program, 1999)
ALL FALL DOWN (2009)
Adrian Kahgee & Debbie Ebanks Schlums on `All Fall Down’
Released a decade before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Hoffman subtly questions how guests on Indigenous land, himself included, have come here to live. The film’s political-historical observations should feel like an anarchronism today…The lack of political progress regarding the Calls to Action, the effects and affects of migration, the struggles with the legal system, the impact of all of this on mental health and on future generations, are some of the pressing contemporary issues resonating today in All Fall Down.
Stan Brakhage on `passing through/torn formations’
“passing through/torn formations accomplishes a multi-faceted experience for the viewer—it is a poetic document of Family, for instance—but Philip Hoffman’s editing throughout is true to thought process, tracks visual theme as the mind tracks shape, makes melody of noise and words as the mind recalls sound.”
PASSING THROUGH/TORN FORMATIONS (1988)
Mike Hoolboom on `passing through/torn formations’
Hoffman’s sixth film in ten years, passing through/torn formations is a generational saga laid over three picture rolls that rejoins in its symphonic montage the broken remnants of a family separated by war, disease, madness and migration. Begun in darkness with an extract from Christopher Dewdney’s Predators of the Adoration, the poet narrates the story of ‘you,’ a child who explores an abandoned limestone quarry….The film’s theme of reconciliation begins with death’s media/tion—and moves its broken signifiers together in the film’s central image, ‘the corner mirror,’ two mirrored rectangles stacked at right angles. This looking glass offers a ‘true reflection,’ not the reversed image of the usual mirror but the objectified stare of the Other. When Rimbaud announces ‘I am another’ he does so in a gesture that unites traveller and teller, confirming his status within the story while continuing to tell it. It is the absence of this distance, this doubling that leads the Czech side of the family to fatality.