A unique but overlooked confluence in Canadian film history, the “Escarpment School” outlines a loosely knit band of Ontario-based filmmakers that came of age in the late-1970s. Its affiliates include the celebrated experimental filmmakers Philip Hoffman, Mike Hoolboom, Richard Kerr, Carl Brown, Gary Popovich, and Steve Sanguedolce, who all studied together at Sheridan College — several kilometres from the Niagara Escarpment — under the tutelage of Rick Hancox and Jeffrey Paull. Over the past 30 years, the Escarpment School cineastes have helped to inaugurate Canada’s first-person cinema, reinvented documentary as a mode for self-expression and formal exploration, extended and deepened the rich landscape tradition in Canadian art, and inspired the next generation of filmmakers through their work and their teaching.
Although varied in tone and texture, the films in this program share numerous qualities, including an attention to geography, a drive to record reality, the filtering of documentary material through individual experience, the looming presence of America, and a process-based, formalist approach to nonfiction. These characteristics in turn reflect the twin impact of the New American Cinema and its conterminous postwar movements, especially Beat literature, as well as the Canadian social documentary tradition — schools and practices that were often viewed side-by-side in the “Escarpment School” classroom.
Landscape | George Semsel/USA 1977. 16mm, 3 mins.
Trains of Thought | Lorne Marin/Canada 1983. 16mm, 10 mins.
Beach Events | Richard Hancox/Canada 1984. 16mm, 8 mins.
The Road Ended at the Beach | Philip Hoffman/Canada 1983. 16mm, 30 mins.
His Romantic Movement | Richard Kerr/Canada 1984. 16mm, 15 mins.
Somewhere Between Jalostotitlan and Encarnacion | Philip Hoffman/Canada 1983. 16mm, 6 mins.
Mexico | Mike Hoolboom and Steve Sanguedolce/Canada 1992. 16mm, 35 mins.