Category Archives: Books

Rivers of Time, The Films of Philip Hoffman

(Edited by Tom McSorley)

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Published by the Canadian Film Institute, 2008. All rights reserved.


The lake is calm, like a great sheet of ice.

In the middle, between the beach and the far shore,
has surfaced a large finely textured brick,
its sharp edges shaped by the rising sun.

Beneath the scene, a voice:

I like wrecked bricks, the points pierce my eyes, sending me hurling in space.

I revisited this curious post-adolescent site in 1989 after the completion of an initial cycle of excavations. Formal experiments on super-8 using the single-frame-zoom, which splayed the surround of the filmed subjects, squeezing out their ghosts. After seven years of collect, reflect, revise this form found its place in the film `Chimera’, and the power of its pull lead me into dark gardens of loss. In Mark Doty’s words:

What these ashes wanted, I felt sure,
Was not containment but participation.
Not an enclosure of memory,
But the world.’

These films are a circle of stones. Embedded in each is the world, reaching deeply into the past, rolling on..

— Philip Hoffman, Circling Stones, Spring 2008



On Philip Hoffman

Thawing Phil Hoffman’s Freeze-up (1979)

Tales of Hoffman (Expected Time of Arrival)

I know you are, so what am I?: 25 passing through/torn formations

Kitchener-Berlin as Aesthetic Allegory


Time Sweeping Space

Experiments in Disorientation: Chimera

Travelling Companions

Philip Hoffman Filmmography 1978-2008


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Landscape With Shipwreck, First person cinema and the films of Philip Hoffman

*Free Copies of Landscape With Shipwreck

edited by Karyn Sandlos and Mike Hoolboom

book_cover_landscapePhilip Hoffman has been making personal documentary films for over twenty years. He has devoted his life to examining the narrow aperture each of us uses to bring our own experience into focus. As many of the writers in this volume will attest, telling personal stories is dangerous work.

Landscape with Shipwreck is an untidy stew of gravediggers and critics, architects and builders. In their conversion of pictures into words, each has used the history of their own naming as compass and guide. These photographs and scripts speak alongside the written word, not to fill in the gaps but to deepen them, not to make the strange seem more familiar, but to turn towards the secret task of this volume: to write what cannot be written. To write what must never be written. To uncover a kind of writing that is beside itself, and without regret.

“Philip Hoffman’s work is an encouragement to those who want to use autobiography as subject matter, personal vision as a trademark, and show how small resources can be a positive virtue.”

— Peter Greenaway

“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 Shipwreckmakes 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.”

— Martha Rosler, Artist and Professor of Media and Critical Studies at Rutgers University

“Philip Hoffman’s films are a revelation for those lucky enough to see them. At once literary document and visual archive, Landscapes With Shipwreckadvances contemporary thinking about Hoffman’s films and the autobiographical documentary tradition in Canadian cinema.”

— Piers Handling, Director, Toronto International Film Festival

Free Copies of Landscape With Shipwreck