No Man Can Define Me: The Films of Winston Washington Moxam

IN PERSON: CURATOR SCOTT BIRDWISE ► Organized by the Winnipeg Film Group, this retrospective is the first to be devoted to the late Canadian filmmaker Winston Washington Moxam (1963-2011), a unique figure amongst the mavericks, eccentrics, and prairie postmodernists (Guy Maddin prominent among them) associated with the WFG and Winnipeg’s acclaimed independent film scene. Moxam is, to date, the most significant black filmmaker to emerge from Manitoba. His body of work spans almost two decades, from 1992 to 2010, and includes short fiction, documentary, and two features. All of these films address issues of race, racism, and social justice, and significantly reflect the experience of living in Winnipeg and Manitoba. "Questions of race have rarely been tackled by Winnipeg filmmakers,” writes filmmaker Matthew Rankin in his essay "From the Outside Looking In: The Films of Winston Washington Moxam.” “Through the sensationalist 1990s Moxam was the lone cinematic voice to speak for racial understanding in Manitoba. In this respect, Moxam must be seen as a pioneer. Only very recently has he been joined by a younger generation of filmmakers – notably Divya Mehra and Darryl Nepinak – who, like Moxam before them, ask provocative questions of mainstream white audiences."

The retrospective is comprised of two programs. The first showcases three of Moxam’s shorter films; the second presents Moxam’s final feature-length work, Billy (2009), a compelling historical drama based on the real-life story of Billy Bieyoal, a black settler who came to Manitoba from the U.S. in the early 20th century. Starring co-writer and co-producer Ernesto Griffith in the lead, Billy provides, in its concern with race and social justice, naturalist style, and historically-based narrative, an excellent example of Moxam’s cinema

Introduction by Scott Birdwise Scott Birdwise is a PhD student in Cinema and Media Studies at York University (Toronto) and a programming consultant at the Canadian Film Institute (Ottawa). His essay on elements of horror in Canadian avant-garde cinema will be published in the forthcoming collection Terror of the Soul: Essays on the Canadian Horror Film (University of Toronto Press, 2014). He has also written about the Canadian filmmakers Michel Brault, Denis Côté, Philip Hoffman, and Gariné Torossian.

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Short Films by Winston Washington Moxam

From the Other Side ● An insightful documentary portrait of a number of ethnically and culturally diverse homeless people in Toronto. 1992. 30 mins.
The Barbecue ● A drama about a young black woman's bizarre encounter with her white boyfriend's strange family. 1993. 48 mins.
Sand ● In this short historical drama, two African-Canadian soldiers are stranded on a deserted island during WWII with only one canteen of fresh water between them. In order to survive, they must not only heat and thirst, but also their own doubts and fears. 1999. 16 mins.

Wednesday, February 6 – 6:30pm

Canada 2010. Director: Winston Washington Moxam
Cast: Ernesto Griffith, Sarah Constible, Robert Huculak

In 1967, a young journalist arrives at a retirement home in The Pas, Manitoba, to interview Billy, a 94-year-old black man. Billy recounts for him the story of his eventful life: his migration as a young man from the U.S. to Manitoba; his struggles as a homesteader; the racism he endured; his love of a woman; and his gift of photography. Winnipeg actor Ernesto Griffith, who also co-wrote and co-produced, plays Billy. “The film is based on the true story of Billy Bieyoal, a lone African-American photographer who moved to northern Manitoba in 1907. There, Bieyoal encounters the comradeship as well as the bigoted violence the other settlers as he embarks on a passionate romance with a white woman. Shot in glorious 35mm by Claude Savard, this sensitive portrait of one man’s search for acceptance in the earliest days of Manitoba also promises to be a major contribution to our collective understanding of the African-Canadian experience” (Matthew Rankin). 85 mins.

Wednesday, February 6 – 8:30pm

Tickets for the evening (one or both screenings): $11 regular / $9 seniors & students. 
Cinematheque membership required