(16mm, 30 minutes, 1995)

by Philip Hoffman and Sami van Ingen
Sound by Randall Smith

play film

Perhaps the most effective return to the primordial documentary scene can be found in Philip Hoffman and Sami van Ingen’s Sweep (Canada-Finland, 1995). Hoffman, a Canadian experimental filmmaker and van Ingen, a Finnish one, set off to Fort George, on the shores of James Bay, where Flaherty, van Ingens great-grandfatehr, shot parts of Nanook of the North. Part experimental documentary, part road movie, Sweep, unlike many of the journeysback to Flaherty’s stomping grounds, foregrounds both the inability to return to the scene in order to capture and understand it, and the legacy that these Northern journeys have nevertheless left on the region and on documentary cinematic imaginations. The ethnographic ddilemna lies at the heart of Sweep, as does the profound tension between the awareness of the way in which documentary always falls short of capturing the real and concomitant need to use the camera as a documentary tool nonetheless. The film exists at the heart of this tension, exploring the ethical issues that surround the very practice of documentay filmmaking and the need to find new, inclusive, partial and tentative ways to document the world. (from Films on Ice: Cinemas of the Arctic MacKenzie/Westerstahl Stenport. Chp: The Creative Treatment of Alterity: Nanook as the North by Scott MacKenzie)

“Sami called and asked me to go north with him and make a film about where his great-grandfather, Robert Flaherty (Nanook of the North), had been in Fort George. I suggested we stop in Kapuskasing to see the place where my mother’s family first settled when they arrived from eastern Europe in the 1920’s. …Two men, on the road AGAIN, sifting through and drifting by past worlds where there is everywhere, dusty remnants of the ‘great white father.’ Colliding head on with the passing present we see him in us.” (Philip Hoffman)


Award of Quality, Finnish Cultural Ministry, Helsinki – 1995


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